Originally written by Robin Dunn for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Sex work is an umbrella term that includes escorting, acting in porn, stripping, webcamming, trading sex for survival needs, working on the street, and much more. Violence against sex workers is a reality; unfortunately, many sex workers distrust service providers, often with good reason. Any person or institution providing services such as sexual assault recovery, exams, prevention, etc. should consider that their clients may include sex workers and take steps to make sure that those clients are comfortable and respected. Sex workers may or may not disclose our involvement in the sex trade; if we do disclose, it is important to be welcoming and nonjudgmental, as well as prepared to offer resources. Note: while these resources could include exit services, not all sex workers will wish to stop working.
Please also consider that sex workers may have different concerns or priorities than other clients; for instance, particularly if we do work that is criminalized, we may be less likely than other clients to want to report crimes against ourselves to the police. When sex workers do report crimes against us, we are often ignored or even arrested or threatened with arrest. Even sex workers who have not had these experiences may have had traumatizing interactions with the police, as police brutality, including rape, against sex workers (particularly sex workers who work on the street) is unfortunately common. For these reasons, it is even more important than it is with other clients not to pressure sex workers to report crimes against us, but instead to support the survivor in making decisions about how to proceed. Also, slut-shaming and victim-blaming impact sex workers in specific ways. Stigma against sex workers is a powerful reality, to the point where some people believe that sex workers cannot be raped (one judge, for instance, called the rape of sex workers “theft of services”). Please try not to add to this shaming in your interactions with sex workers. Reassure us that you do not judge.
The following are a few resources that may be of interest to sex workers. SWOP Denver is a support group that provides community for sex workers in Colorado, and we also offer opportunities to organize for social change, which can be very empowering for sex workers such as myself who are survivors. We can be contacted at 720-262-7401 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Youth who trade sex and survivors of sex trafficking are welcome at SWOP Denver but can also be referred to Prax(us), particularly if they need services such as harm reduction services or case management. Prax(us) can be contacted at (720) 317-7009, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.