“They are not new areas, they are new clubs, which are everywhere, they are like mushrooms that grow anywhere, in all neighborhoods and streets.” The person who expresses this is Patricia Ortiz, coordinator of the comprehensive program La Casita for attention to women in situations of prostitution, which is managed by the Oblates of the Most Holy Redeemer nuns, and whose headquarters are located in Santa Cruz, on Monteverde street. Ortiz’s statement refers to prostitution in Santa Cruz, but also anywhere on the Island. Prostituted women have seen how their situation has changed, going from working on the street to doing it in clubs, private apartments, places which, as Ortiz acknowledges, “access to them makes it much more difficult for us.”
With regard to clubs, although an important part of this proliferation has to do with the fact that customers prefer to consume where they cannot be identified, but also because of them, “who want to be less visible. That is one of the big problems when we talk about irregular women, for example, or to avoid it being known that they practice prostitution, it is one of their big concerns”, explains the coordinator of La Casita.
“70% of the women we serve are foreigners, few identify themselves, but we consider that there are many more who are trafficked, brought to be sexually exploited,” Ortiz points out. And it is that “before they came with a super economic debt, now it is less, but the bond remains the same, and it is possible that this dependency is already brought from the original country. And those who come have significant pressure to send money and in the conditions in which they are, it is almost impossible for them to free themselves from someone who is always controlling and dominating”.
And it is that the La Casita program, which during the pandemic also became economic and subsistence aid for women trapped in the circle of prostitution, with the return to normality is redefined to give women psychological support and accompaniment, while for economic aid they refer them to municipal resources. The City Council collaborates with the project through an agreement with the IMAS that allows it to contribute almost 35,000 euros per year.
“In our project, in confinement and COVID, they received a lot of support with financial aid in the face of the difficult situation they were going through. After the return to normality, what used to be financial support has been reduced, and this has generated the need to redefine the project because this is not a UTS, we act as shuttles to refer community resources of all kinds, while that, for just over a year, a coordinator and a psychologist have been set up to achieve greater specialization ”, they detail from La Casita.
The reasons why women come to prostitution are multiple. “There is a tremendous lack of knowledge about the conditions by which women come to this as well as in which they exercise”, points out Ortiz, who adds that “in general, these women start from previous situations experienced with families, couples, consumption of toxins, of emotional dependence, and of course, there is trafficking”.
La Casita’s job is to help them become more aware of the situation they are experiencing. “They have many difficulties to realize that they are being subjected, in addition to countless circumstances that make them get trapped,” they point out.
For this reason, knowing how many of the women they have cared for have abandoned prostitution is very complicated. “We talk more about a daily or real or punctual development. Many of the women who take that step do so because, due to age, they begin to be aware of the dissociation they have, to identify that it is a practice they do not like, or they are older and have fewer clients. Faced with this precarious situation, they begin to want to do something else. In general, giving up is very complicated. They usually leave the subject, but if on some occasion they have an economic need they return in a timely manner, for this reason we cannot speak of total abandonment of prostitution”.
Ortiz admits that with the arrival of the pandemic and the precariousness that it entailed for many of these women, it helped in some way to allow other things to be considered.
In the 2021 report of the La Casita comprehensive program, the number of women assisted in the different projects managed by the Oblatas, which was 1,051, including training actions and visits to educational centers, is collected.
In direct attention, La Casita has two programs, one is the Information, Assessment and Orientation Service (SIVO), which attended 244 women and carried out 87 individualized social insertion itineraries; while the other, the Alongándose a la calle project, focused on visits to prostitution environments, attended 207 people.
With the SIVO project, 1,022 accompaniments were carried out and 1,863 procedures carried out, in addition to 40 active job search itineraries, and psychological support was given to 49 women. 73.36% of those attended are foreigners and the average age range is between 36 and 45 years. The new women in the project are 70, the majority with children and unemployed.
With the Longándose a la calle project, 100 weekly outings (both day and night) were made to the streets, clubs, flats and brothels, located in Santa Cruz, La Laguna, El Rosario, and also to Puerto del Rosario and Corralejo in Fuerteventura . They went to 105 apartments where prostitution is practiced, being able to access only 18 in Tenerife and 13 in Fuerteventura.
In addition to 9 clubs and a brothel in Tenerife. In these spaces, 205 women and two men in prostitution were attended. Of the total, 116 were new users.
And it is that much of the work that is done consists of visiting these prostitution environments to make these women aware of the possibility of receiving help to get out of the situation in which they find themselves. The coordinator explains that, for example, with the prohibition of publishing contacts in the newspapers, “we have lost a way of contacting them. We took the numbers and called to find out how they were doing”.
By age, the majority age range is between 36 and 45 years, with 75 users. Between 18 and 25 years old, 13 women were identified and nine women over 65.
As far as the street is concerned, “there are still areas that we all know as the Vuelta de los Pájaros or Bravo Murillo, but the tendency to be there is less, and more in the clubs,” concludes Ortiz.
Almost fifty women possible victims of trafficking
Regarding trafficking, of the women assisted by SIVO, four had been identified by the State Security Forces and Bodies as victims of sexual exploitation. Another 42 were detected as possible cases of trafficking.
However, it reflects the memory of La Casita for 2021 that there is a high percentage of women who report having been treated for sexual exploitation, identified one or more of the phases (recruitment, transfer, reception, reception, exploitation) from the moment they who “decide” to make the trip from their country of origin until they find themselves in the exercise of prostitution.
That women decide to participate in an identification process is complex, it is pointed out, which is why many women who could be formally identified decide not to start it.
Thus, regarding the origin of prostituted women, in 2021, 73% of the women attended were foreigners, women from Latin America, Africa and other EU countries and Asia. Data could not be obtained from the rest of the users precisely because they were attended to during visits to prostitution contexts.