A recent Canadian article details how street prostitution caused post-traumatic stress disorder in prostitutes.
I feel a large part of the stress and trauma the sex workers feel come from their legal status. In the US, many sex workers are constantly stressed from the fear of arrest and many become quite paranoid (I had my paranoid moments as well). Lifting the threat of arrest and giving sex workers the power to pursue legal action against harmful clients might go a very long way in reducing PSTD.
Another major factor contributing to PSTD seems to have been childhood abuse. While I certainly don’t believe that all sex workers were abused as children, it seems (according to this article) that those who were abused as children are pre-disposed to PSTD. In this case, while their job — and its legal status — may be causing stress, the root cause is from those who harmed them years before.
I don’t believe prostitution itself causes PSTD. I do believe that everything surrounding the job can contribute to PSTD: fear of arrest, fear of violence without legal recourse, social stigmatization, self-medication with drugs or alcohol (in an effort to deal with the stress), inability to easily find other work, lack of social resources and support, lack of understanding or support from the social services that are available.
Changing the legal status of prostitution would be a very big step in easing the mental stress of sex workers. It certainly couldn’t hurt. The current system doesn’t seem to be helping. Why not try a different approach?