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Nearly 15 Percent Of Homeless Women On Skid Row Were Sexually Assaulted Last Year, Report Finds

A woman on Skid Row (Photo by Sterling Davis via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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A new report reveals a rather alarming figure that 14.5 percent of Skid Row's homeless women they surveyed were sexually assaulted last year.

The Downtown Women's Action Coalition which had 324 women answer questionnaires in 2013, also found that 31.5 percent said that they felt they had to perform sexual acts for food, protection, and to get housing.

The group conducts surveys regularly to get into the deep-rooted issues that may have led to the women living on the streets and to figure out their needs. The survey found that more than two-thirds were victims of child abuse, domestic violence or sexual assault in their lives. They cite a statistic from the World Health Organization that says that "victims of sexual assault are 6 times more likely to suffer from PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs."

Lydia Trejo, a woman who lived on Skid Row talked to Neon Tommy about her safety concerns being a woman there: "You have to appear that you’re not afraid of anything or anyone because they will take advantage of you."

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The report also found another problem within the 50-block neighborhood downtown: there's a growing older generation of homeless women living on the streets there—with more than half of them in 2013 being over 51.

And 28.1 percent of those women have been homeless for five or more years. This shows a serious need for programs that are directed toward health and job placement for older women, Downtown Women's Action Coalition said.

"There are women in this aging population who have been homeless for a long time, between five and 10 years," Molly Moen, chief operating officer of the Downtown Women's Action Coalition, told KPCC. "But we also see a significant number of women in this aging population who are in their first year of homelessness, and our sense from them is that they have recently become homeless because of the death of a spouse or the loss of a job or that sort of thing."

However, the study also brings to light the need for more female-geared programs since they make up 32 percent of Skid Row residents. Since there are more males on Skid Row neighborhood, the report says programs tend to focus on men.

But Downtown Women's Action Coalition is pushing for changes in Skid Row that would address women's needs. They recommend that the city fund and give access to 24-hour showers and bathrooms, something that the majority of women said they didn't have access to. They also suggest providing more single-sex housing for women who've suffered from abuse, better health services as well as programs teaching women how to support and take care of themselves.

In addition, they mentioned that ticketing homeless women for small infractions like jaywalking and littering "had disastrous effects on homeless women who became disqualified for housing programs."

The organization has been surveying women in the area every three years since 2001 to figure out the greatest needs for the female population in Skid Row.