A DISTURBING report into the sex trade in Teesside, has revealed that prostitutes are gripped in a cycle of drugs and abuse.

The majority of women in started selling sex before they turned 16, revealed a 73-page document, and many had suffered sexual abuse and rape.

It found evidence of 489 women and 142 men as well as nine transgendered people (male to female) involved in prostitution, across Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Hartlepool.

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Heroin was the drug of choice in the older (30 plus) age group it reported, whereas Mcat, cocaine, alcohol and crack is used by those under 30.

Themes detected across the area included pressure by partners or family members to become prostitutes, addiction and violence.

Researchers also picked up on instances of women with learning difficulties being sexually exploited.

“There were numerous reports of women involved in prostitution experiencing severe and current violence and sex abuse including serious assault, attempted murder, rape, torture and kidnap,” it said.

One anecdote read: “We had a girl with a history of sex work, suffered serious assault from a punter who beat her and began to bury her, she woke in the shallow grave and managed to escape after the punter panicked. He got a suspended sentence."

The report, commissioned by Northern Rock Foundation under its Safety and Justice Programme between 2012/13, found that women went to extraordinary lengths to get hold of opiates.

It said: “The police reported one woman of 35-years-old, the girlfriend of a 68-year-old. He was in hospital, critically ill, she tried to get the morphine from his drip, got caught pulling the wires and tubes out of him and was charged with attempted murder.”

A particular problem known as ‘double bubble’ hit addicts when drug repayments were doubled by dealers leading to a downward spiral.

Of the women involved in survival sex in exchange for essential resources (as opposed to commercial sex in a brothel or on the internet) over half (61) were known to be mothers, of whom 60 were not looking after their children.

The report praised several ongoing schemes helping affected women including Barnardo’s Recovery Project in Middlesbrough, A Way Out charity and Rock Solid, a voluntary sector housing provider both in Stockton.

“Sex Trade Markets in Teesside” called for more Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and deduced that the strongest service need for women involved in prostitution was suitable accommodation followed by drug treatment, counselling and unemployment.