Interview with Maia Strufve from KAST ( eng. Purchasers of Sexual Services)

offences in Gothenburg, RealStars has interviewed various players who, in different ways, work to reduce and stop prostitution.

During 2011, in Gothenburg alone, 225 men were convicted under the Sex Purchase Act. Many of those who committed crimes were arrested around Rosenlund where the women who are now standing as witnesses against their former traffickers sold their sexual services.

KAST is a local government initiative that has operated in Gothenburg since 1997. KAST is a service for people who have purchased or are still purchasing sexual services. The social workers at KAST offer dialogue, therapy and counseling. Despite the Sex Purchase Act 1999, the social workers are not required to report anyone for having a committed a crime under the Act.  KAST’s clients come from a variety of backgrounds and from all levels of society.

RealStars has interviewed KAST social worker, Maia Strufve.

What types of people come to you?

Police recommend that buyers come to us after they have carried out one of their periodic raids. Few of those convicted come to us (10%). Those that do come to us are a well-motivated group that wants to stop buying sexual services.

Do you discuss with those that use your service the possibility that they bought sex from someone who is a victim of trafficking?

Yes, we always discuss that possibility. But most of the buyers that come to us are certain that they did not buy sex from a victim of trafficking. And they understand also that they are kidding themselves that it isn’t the case and that she is doing this of her own free will and is not dependent on a pimp.

How do the buyers feel about what they are doing or have done?

Often they feel shame and guilt and the purchasing of sex is an act that is associated with those feelings. But as I said, it is a well-motivated group that comes to us and they want to stop their behavior so they have these feelings.  A colleague of mine, a case manager who is a social worker, took issue with a client and sent him here to KAST. After two visits he went straight out the door, he did not want to be helped.

As there are only fines in Sweden, can fear be used, through tougher penalties, to stop men purchasing sex?

You cannot argue whether the penalties in Sweden are too low, but in these cases it is about social intervention and that we must all take responsibility to reduce prostitution and demand. Given we are a law abiding people, the impact of the law that came into effect thirteen years ago has been, as many buyers and sellers have said to me, is that it has stopped them buying and helped take them out of prostitution.

Considering the trial that is underway in Gothenburg now, how can we prevent such occurrences here?

We need to work with all sides of prostitution. My colleagues at the Prostitution Group work with one part and I work on demand to reduce the impact. With issues such as this we all must take social action. On the demand side, it is in no way a homogenous group and we at KAST only reach a small proportion (10%). But I am pleased that we do! 95-98% of all the sex purchasers who have been through KAST do not go back and buy sexual services. During my fifteen years here I feel that we have been very successful.

Matilda for RealStars