Forced prostitution

Why do women end up in forced prostitution?

The reasons behind exploitation in prostitution are as varied as the victims’ countries of origin.
The predicament can vary greatly depending on whether a victim comes from Germany or abroad.

Overview of contents

Economic crisis in their home countries

A key factor for the majority of forced prostitution in Western European countries is poverty in Eastern Europe and on other continents. Destitution and a lack of hope drive many young women to take any available work to feed their families.

Young women from Eastern Europe are often underage mothers themselves and desperately need work to provide for their children. The children are then looked after by the grandmother while the mother goes to Germany to work in prostitution. The poverty is so severe that prostitution is not seen as one option among many, but as the only means of family survival.

I witnessed my two siblings die from hunger and poverty. I swore to myself I would do everything I could to prevent any others from dying.

Lured under false pretences

“Come to Germany and work as a model/dancer/in a bar…” Many agencies in Eastern Europe advertise jobs like these in the West. Young women sign employment contracts, e.g. for a restaurant in London. The agency organises the travel and the young woman is taken by plane or bus to their new place of work. However, instead of finding themselves in London, they wind up in a brothel in a small German town for example. Without identity documents, knowledge of the area and the language, it is extremely difficult for the women to orientate themselves and get help. They are then exposed to violence, threats and blackmail. Locked away and monitored, there is little chance of escape. The women are raped and precisely instructed on what they can say and how they should act in prostitution.

Lured through romantic relationships

An increasing number of young German women enter the red-light district through romantic relationships. They are contacted online, lured into a romantic relationship and brought to the pimp. -> see also loverboy method

Some pimps openly expect their girlfriend to prostitute themselves, yet young women go along with it because they are in love with the pimp.

If their own family situation is unstable or young girls grow up in homes or assisted living accommodation, there is a high chance that they will form friendships with men who have connections in the red-light district. Friendships with men in biker groups can pave the way to a certain lifestyle of partying, drugs, expensive cars and prostitution.

Sexual abuse during childhood

Girls who experience (frequent) sexual abuse during childhood typically battle with the after-effects such as shame, the feeling of being dirty and worthless, issues with their own sexuality and a sexualisation of relationships. Prostitution can be one of the long-term consequences of this. Multiple studies have shown that many women in prostitution have a history of childhood abuse. Melissa Farley interviewed 854 prostitutes in nine countries as part of a survey with the following results:

  • 70 – 95% experienced physical abuse during childhood
  • 65 – 95% experienced sexual abuse during childhood


Experiencing sexual abuse during childhood is closely linked with drug use. Some begin taking drugs during adolescence to block out the violence experienced during childhood. The need for drugs soon leads to crime or drug-related prostitution. The image of drug-dependent women on German streets is widespread. They take drugs to block out the pain inside. This pain often stems from a violent childhood.

At 18, I wanted to get away from my father’s house as quickly as possible. I experienced nothing but abuse there. But where could I go? So, I went to the brothel. At least I received money for being raped there.

Sold by family

Some women are even forced into prostitution by their own families. Sometimes they are sold to human traffickers, other times they are openly expected to sacrifice themselves for the family.

In some cultures, the oldest daughter is held primarily responsible for the family’s income. In Thai cultures or even the Sinti and Roma cultures, we often see the oldest daughter being sent to the red-light district in other towns and countries to support the family financially. They are expected to help the family through their work. These individuals are placed under great pressure from their families and a fear of shame and dishonour if they do not support their families.

However, women in Germany are also forced into prostitution by their families. One individual reports:

I was introduced to the scene by my mother. She sold me for drugs, leading me into a world of forced prostitution. I worked on the streets with her. I just stood on the street beside my mother and when a client came along, my mother would book a hotel room and I would go there with the man. This was just how it was for me, I didn’t know who my parents were for years. I was raised in a children’s home and, at the age of 17, wanted to meet my mother and got attached to her as I didn’t have any other family. I didn’t realise that she would sell me.

Child prostitution leads to adult prostitution

The extent of child pornography and child prostitution in Germany is becoming ever clearer. It is important to note that this involves filmed violence and abuse towards children. Children who experience regular abuse during childhood develop a mindset in which they believe that it is normal to experience such behaviour and be exploited by others.

  • According to figures by the child protection organisation Innocence in Danger based on the UN Human Rights Council, 750,000 paedophiles are online every second (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography)
  • 728,000 adults in Germany have sexual online contacts with children. (Figures by von Innocence in Danger)

These high figures reveal the huge paedophile market surrounding child sexual abuse. Women who were sexually exploited as children often remain affected by exploitation in adulthood as this feels normal to them. 

More on this topic:
In our ritual violence topic area.