Police-Related Correlates of Client-Perpetrated Violence Among Female Sex Workers in Baltimore City, Maryland

Authors: Footer KHA, Park JN, Allen ST, Decker MR, Silberzahn BE, Huettner S, Galai N, Sherman SG.

Police-Related Correlates of Client-Perpetrated Violence Among Female Sex Workers in Baltimore City, Maryland.

Am J Public Health. 2019 Feb;109(2):289-295. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304809. Epub 2018 Dec 20. PMID: 30571295; PMCID: PMC6336048.


Objectives. To characterize interactions that female sex workers (FSWs) have with the police and explore associations with client-perpetrated violence.

Methods. Baseline data were collected April 2016 to January 2017 from 250 FSWs from the Sex Workers and Police Promoting Health in Risky Environments (SAPPHIRE) study based in Baltimore, Maryland. Interviewer-administered questionnaires captured different patrol or enforcement and abusive police encounters, experiences of client-perpetrated violence, and other risk factors, including drug use. We conducted bivariate and multivariable analysis in Stata/SE version 14.2 (StataCorp LP, College Station, TX).

Results. Of participants, 78% reported lifetime abusive police encounters, 41% reported daily or weekly encounters of any type. In the previous 3 months, 22% experienced client-perpetrated violence. Heroin users (70% of participants) reported more abusive encounters (2.5 vs 1.6; P < .001) and more client-perpetrated violence (26% vs 12%; P = .02) than others. In multivariable analysis, each additional type of abusive interaction was associated with 1.3 times (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.1, 1.5) increased odds of client-perpetrated violence. For patrol or enforcement encounters, this value was 1.3 (95% CI = 1.0, 1.7).

Conclusions. Frequent exposures to abusive police practices appear to contribute to an environment where client-perpetrated violence is regularly experienced. For FSWs who inject drugs, police exposure and client-perpetrated violence appear amplified.

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