What’s SWOP Denver up to?

Looking to get involved?

We hold monthly general meetings the first Sunday of every month, and current and former sex worker-only potlucks quarterly.  Our next meeting will be October 5th.  Please contact us at swopdenver@gmail.com for details.

What if I’m a current or former sex worker who feels that I don’t agree with you?

We aim to welcome diverse opinions and participation is not dependent on holding any particular beliefs.  We also have access to mediators through our national network (swopusa.org).  We believe very strongly in solidarity among current and former sex workers.

How do you define sex worker?

Stripping, camming, escorting, working in a brothel or on the street, survival sex work (for a place to stay, or in exchange for other survival needs), performing in porn, or otherwise selling sexual/ized services.  Some of us are or were employed in the legal sex industry.  Academics, sex educators, social workers, clients, and employers are not sex workers unless they also sell their own sexual/ized services, but are free to attend non-sex-worker-only meetings as allies.  Members of the press or law enforcement may not attend meetings in their capacity as press/LE, and we have press guidelines for events.

Do we need help?

Yes, absolutely!  We are the roots of the grassroots, and are currently a volunteer organization with a micro-budget.  Building membership is always difficult, and all of our members are busy people.  But even if you’re just looking for peer support and solidarity, and don’t know how much time or effort you can commit, please don’t hesitate.  We don’t have any kind of minimum contribution to our projects, or even attendance at our meetings, and we are very flexible.  Additionally, we hold potlucks that are current and former sex worker-only.  We generally have a scheduled discussion topic for these.

Can allies be involved?

Yes.  Allies can attend our general meetings and are particularly encouraged to donate their time, money, and efforts toward our current and ongoing projects.

What are our current projects?

SWOP Denver, as part of the SWOP USA national network (founded in 2003), marks four important dates yearly.  On March 3rd (International Sex Workers Rights Day) and December 17th (International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers), we hold independent events and memorials.  We also have presences at Pride and TDOR, as sex workers have a large overlap with the LGBT community, which is reflected in our membership and that of our larger network.  We also try to have presences at other events through the year – notably, we had a very well-received presence at Slutwalk Denver 2013, at which we had a booth and some brave members even spoke about their experiences of violence and other reprehensible behavior – and we aim to expand these efforts as much as possible.  We’ve attended the MLK Marade in the past and have other events on our radars as well.

We also administer a Bad Date Line (http://swopdenver.com/bdl/, and we have related ideas), hold the aforementioned monthly meetings and potlucks, and we are in the process of creating a Denver PROS Network, based on the PROS Network created by SWOP-Chicago and the NYC-based network.  This will be a list of service providers of various sorts – therapists, other mental health professionals, social services, homeless services, needle exchange, anti-violence services including sexual assault and DV services, STI/testing services, attorneys, accountants, etc. – who have agreed to be trained by us and to adhere to minimum standards in their treatment of sex worker clients.  This project is large and involved and is our current project-oriented focus as a group.

We’ve been active politically (in line with the legal nonprofit status of our parent network), though it is difficult; notably, in our outspoken opposition to SB 85 in  2011.

Many sex workers (current and former) are just looking for community, and that is an important thing we provide in addition to the above.

Please feel free to contact us at swopdenver@gmail.com for any reason.

SWOP Denver Supports the Memorial and Remembrance of Slain Transgender People in 2013

For Immediate Release

11/18/13

SWOP Denver Supports the Memorial and Remembrance of Slain Transgender People in 2013

Denver, CO

The Gender Identity Center of Colorado will hold a celebration of life for the transgender women and men who died at the hands of others during this past year at the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden at 7pm. SWOP Denver recognizes and values the transgender members of our communities and all transgender people everywhere. Transgender people, particularly transgender women, are overrepresented in our community due to the many difficulties society places in the paths and lives of transgender people.

In particular, we would like to remember and honor Dora Oezer, a female transgender sex worker who was murdered by a customer in her home in Turkey on July 2nd. Dora Oezer will be memorialized this year during both the Transgender Day of Remembrance and at SWOP Denver’s December 17th memorial for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

On July 12th, the Turkish sex workers rights organization Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association held a protest and read a press release in Ankara about Dora’s murder and transphobic and whorephobic murders in general. On July 19th, Dora’s murder and the murder of Swedish sex worker and sex workers rights activist Petite Jasmine inspired an international wave of protests against violence against sex workers in thirty six cities across the globe outside of Turkish and Swedish embassies.

Event Details

Host: Gender Identity Center of Colorado
What: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Where: Jefferson Unitarian Church,
14350 W 32nd Ave,Golden CO
When: 7pm November 20th

Event Details

Host: SWOP Denver
What: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Where: The Bakery, 2132 Market Street, Denver CO

When: 6pm December 17th

About SWOP Denver: SWOP Denver is the Denver chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. We are a grassroots organization that provides peer support and advocates for the human and labor rights of sex workers and people who trade sex. We have monthly member meetings, educational and memorial events, and social get togethers. We also collaborate on weekly street outreach and coordinate a bad date line.

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SWOP Denver’s Bad Date Line is now up and running!

Bad date lines are crucial for helping sex workers identify dangerous and violent clients so that they can reduce their risk of being harmed.

You can make a report to our bad date line at 720-441-3134 (call or text), or you can email us at DenverBDL@gmail.com.

You can click here to read more about what to include in a report.

We will be handing out our bad date list during our weekly street outreach. You can also email us to request a copy.

Thanks so much for helping to keep other workers safe!

Denver Speech for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Hi, I’m Robin,

And I’m Angelika

And we’re with the Sex Workers Outreach Project – Denver.

Robin:  This is the 8th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and the 2nd Annual Denver event.  Today, we remember those we have lost to violence, oppression, and hatred.  Whether perpetrated by clients, opportunistic serial killers, partners, pimps or traffickers, the police, or the state, we must stand against the cycle of violence experienced by sex workers around the world.

Angie:  This day was founded in 2003 to memorialize and honor the sex workers who were murdered by Oregon serial killer Gary Ridgway who said, “I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed.  I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing.  I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without being caught.”  The song Deep Red Bells by Neko Case, which we played during our slideshow, was created to memorialize Ridgway’s victims as well.

Robin:  And that quote by Gary Ridgway really illustrates a lot of what we’re up against.  We’re seen as easy victims, particularly vulnerable.  Gary Ridgway, also called the Green River Killer, took advantage of the stigma around sex work, the fact that so many sex workers can’t be out to their loved ones, and the fact that we are seen as disposable, almost as refuse (garbage).  Stigma is a really powerful thing.

Angie:  There’s some good news, though.  This past spring, the U.S. approved recommendation number 86 made by Uruguay during the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review to “pay particular attention to the rights and vulnerabilities of sex workers.”  This was the first time the U.S. was subject to this review, and they gave the following response:  “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution, as this recommendation suggests.”  In response, sex workers rights activists organized a number of “86 the violence” events around the country, and we’re going to show you a video of the Denver event.

[show the video of the Denver event]

Robin:  This U.N. recommendation marks the first time that the U.S. has specifically denounced violence and discrimination against persons within the sex industry as distinct from the issue of human trafficking.  Sex workers who are not trafficking victims also face huge issues in their lives, including the effects of violence and criminalization, especially the varied effects of prostitution arrests or convictions on housing, custody, immigration, and future job applications.  If a person with prostitution convictions is hired the convictions can lead to discrimination and harassment on the job.  Sex workers are often the victims of police violence, including forcible rape and offers to not arrest sex workers in exchange for sexual services, which is also highly coercive.  Sex workers also often face discrimination in accessing services such as health services.  While sex workers can be or become victims of pimps and/or traffickers (I personally identify both as a former sex worker and as a former victim of violence and coercion in the sex trade by a third party), sex workers who are not victims of pimps or traffickers face huge issues as well.  “The U.S. has finally acknowledged that sex workers face issues separate from those of human trafficking victims,” said Natalie Brewster Nguyen, an artist and member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Tucson. “We were long overdue for the United States to take the needs of sex workers seriously, particularly the need to stem violence and discrimination,” says attorney Sienna Baskin, Co-Director of Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

Angie:  We are now going to show you a video of the 2008 March on Washington.  This march took place on December 17th.

[show video of March on Washington]

Angie:  We hold out hope for a better world.  One where sex workers are free from violence and are not criminalized or looked down on.  A world where people may exchange sexual labor for money if they wish to, and have appropriate and non-coercive services available to them if they do not.  A world where violence against sex workers is taken as seriously as violence against anyone else, where that violence is not excused as part of the job but is seen as unacceptable.  A world with labor rights and human rights for sex workers.  As they say, “only rights can stop the wrongs.’

Robin:  We also don’t want our customers to be criminalized even when they are not violent.  There’s a big push in the U.S. for “End Demand” legislation which increases penalties on johns and creates “john schools.”  Advertising venues are also being targeted.  You have to keep in mind that when you decrease demand, sex workers have to compete for scarcer and scarcer customers.  This gives the customers more power to demand unsafe sex practices, and those who are left tend to be more violent.  Sex workers also have to meet customers in more remote locations to avoid the police, which also increases their vulnerability to violence.  This legislation also, obviously, makes it more difficult for sex workers to meet their survival needs.  The sex workers who are most affected by this are survival sex workers and street sex workers.

Angie:  While possibly well-intentioned, these policies cause a lot of harm.  The people pushing this legislation claim to want to see sex work decriminalized for the sex worker, but the legislation they push through doesn’t do this.  Prostitution is still illegal in Colorado, and being an HIV+ sex worker is still a felony.  Felony convictions make it even more difficult to leave sex work, and most HIV+ sex workers are survival sex workers.  They also may not be exposing anyone to HIV, as there are a number of low-risk and zero-risk activities that still violate Colorado’s prostitution laws.

Robin:  I just want to bring this back around to our memorial for sex workers who have been victims and survivors of violence.  This is a very somber day and I want everyone to just take a moment to reflect on and honor victims and survivors.  [pause]  And now, we will have the reading of the names of those we have lost.  I especially want to honor Shelly Jay Resnick, who was one of our own, a dedicated sex workers rights activist.  Shelly took her own life in an Oregon correctional facility.  And now, the names.

[reading of the names]

Robin:  And now we’re going to have a speakout.  If anyone has any poems, writings, or anything you would like to say, please come up.  I would like to start it off with a poem that was written for December 17th, in response to the murders by Gary Ridgway:

Green River Cry  By Daisy Anarchy

Robin:  If anyone else would like to share, please come up now.

[speakout]

Angie:  Thank you.  To wrap up our event for the evening and to end on a slightly lighter note, we will show the video Every Ho I Know Says So.  This video was created as a resource for lovers and partners of sex workers.  This especially goes out to those of you who have had sex workers in your lives who you’ve loved.

[show Every Ho I Know Says So].

Highlights and speeches from the first National March for Sex Worker Rights in Washington DC held on December 17, 2008.

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Let us remember and honor those we have lost in this past year.

December 17th: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Join the Denver chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project to remember sex workers who have been survivors and victims of violence. We ask that you join us in solidarity to fight the criminalization, oppression, assault, rape, and murder of sex workers and people perceived as sex workers.

When:  Saturday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m.
Where:  Please contact SWOP Denver for location and directions
phone: 720-262-7401 email (preferred): swopdenver@gmail.com
Who:  Current & former sex workers, our allies, friends, families, and communities. This event is free and open to the public.

On the 8th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers we remember those we have lost to violence, oppression, and hatred. Whether perpetrated by clients, opportunistic serial killers, partners, pimps or traffickers, the police, or the state, we must stand against the cycle of violence experienced by sex workers around the world.

 
This day was founded to memorialize and honor the sex workers who were murdered by Oregon serial killer Gary Ridgeway who said, “I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3245301.stm)

 
Evening schedule

Introduction to the service by our M.C.
Vigil/reading of the names of sex workers who we have lost this past year
Speak out: Bring poetry, writings, or just speak your truth.
The red umbrella has become an important symbol for Sex Workers Rights and it is increasingly being used on December 17. First adopted by Venetian sex workers for an anti-violence march in 2002, red umbrellas have come to symbolize resistance against discrimination for sex workers worldwide.

We must come together to show the world that the lives of marginalized peoples, including sex workers, are valuable.