Advocacy is change. Everyone has a role to play.
People in the sex trades access a range of social and health services and often face unique barriers and obstacles to care. While advocacy is often described as sweeping policy change and big wins in court, everyone has a role to play. Many service providers, from front line staff to executive directors, understand that the role of offering affirming, thoughtful care to sex workers is an important role to play in change, but may not know where to go for support. Below are some options for improving the experience of sex workers who are often already coming through your doors, and for contributing to larger social and political change. Pulled from “Can Anti-Trafficking Be Rescued?”.
Stigma is fed with silence. Being vocal about the needs and representation of sex workers in spaces where allies have access is an important first step. Learning about the diverse experiences of people in the sex trade, recognizing resilience and investing in sex workers’ safety and community is invaluable work. The next step is to carry that ethic into the spaces where sex workers may not be present or have the social capital to be heard.
Offer Affirming Care.
Sex workers access health, legal, harm reduction, anti-violence, shelter and other support services. Many choose not to disclose their experience because of stigma, previous negative experiences, fear of disclosure to other staff or law enforcement, or simply not thinking it’s relevant. Service organizations can partner with local sex worker-led organizations to develop relationships and improve services, train staff on the unique needs and barriers of sex workers, and engage in anti-stigma work and increased representation.
Be intentional about relationships with law enforcement.
Criminalized populations are constantly navigating their relationship and safety when it comes to law enforcement. When services have dependent relationships on law enforcement, they present questions of safety to sex workers. Be transparent about the vulnerabilities someone who is engaged in commercial sex will face by accessing your space, including with child welfare or parole officers. Be intentional about what it means to partner with law enforcement for grants. Tell grant managers the implications of having to sign MOUs with law enforcement to access funding. Invest in relationships with community, not cops.