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A study has found that underage sex workers take methamphetamine and work all night on the streets of Auckland - then attend school the next morning. A University of Auckland masters student has interviewed underage Auckland sex workers, revealing the unsafe and extreme lives they lead. As part of her Masters of Social Work MSW , Natalie Thorburn spoke with 10 teenage sex workers, aged between 12 and 16 over a two year period ending in Many were the victims of sexual abuse.
None of these young sex workers are protected by the Prostitution Law Reform Act and often work in unsafe circumstances. As a result, Ms Thornburn was contacted by nine girls and one boy, who were selling sex on the streets.
She found that many of these participants continued to attend school. There were even a couple of children whose families knew they were involved in sex work, but hadn't intervened. However, she said it was not always possible for parents and family to fix these issues themselves, as many were also battling mental health and drug issues. Severe economic deprivation was also common and she said some of the children she interviewed had parents that had been suicidal or mentally ill.
And the communities were turning a blind eye, so the schools didn't notice. Some of the participants told Ms Thorburn they had been abused by organisations set up to assist them, with claims of sexual exploitation and sexual assault. This resulted in them returning to the streets and shunning any further assistance. Unfortunately there was no way for Ms Thorburn to maintain contact with the children she interviewed, due to the ethics agreement with the University.
She had no way of knowing whether their circumstances had improved. Ms Thorburn was motivated to study the lives of young sex workers due to her own experiences. After leaving home and being expelled from school at 16, she lived in with friends and in youth hostels while stripping to make ends meet. She was involved with drugs, before turning her life around and attending university. She now works as an ACC registered social worker for sexual abuse cases and also works with the Ecpat Child Alert organisation.