Semiannual Report, March-August 2017

Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade
Semiannual Report, March-August 2017

August 31, 2017

Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade was formed in March 2017 to enhance rights and safety for sex workers and people in the sex trade through building a broad coalition to amplify the voices of sex workers and people in the sex trade in public policy conversations.

Accomplishments

  • Brought together a number of community groups to become members of the Coalition
  • Created and adapted the Coalition mission statement and the values/principles statement
  • Cultivated relationships with other organizations outside the Coalition, including those that have not been allies of sex workers traditionally, to collaborate on specific policy recommendations
  • Ongoing relationship building with organizations that are connected to sex workers not often represented by sex worker organizations, such as trans women of color and immigrants
  • Met with legislative aides of Seattle City Commissioners Lorena González and Mike O’Brien as well as several city administrators
  • Met with State Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, a former King County prosecutor and co-founder of the bipartisan Human Trafficking Caucus as well as state administrators from Washington State Department of Health and Office of Crime Victim Advocacy
  • Produced a detailed analysis of our proposed legislation to protect sex workers who are victims of violent crimes or are experiencing other emergencies from being arrested or prosecuted for prostitution
  • Was invited to and presented in Open Society Foundations’ daylong summit on sex work criminal justice reforms in Washington D.C.
  • Networked with sex worker activists in California, Texas, Washington DC, Boston, Denver, Alaska and other areas to share strategies and information
  • Provided support to women’s rights legal advocacy organization Legal Voice to adopt a statement of principles that includes a call to decriminalize buying and selling of sex between consenting adults
  • Began fundraising to support ongoing Coalition work

Policy Areas Currently Working On

  • The “Safe Access” Project is designed to protect sex workers who are victims of violent crimes or are experiencing other emergencies from being arrested or prosecuted for prostitution. We are working with our members and anti-trafficking community to get the legislation introduced and passed in the 2018 legislative session.
  • The Coalition is working with the Office of Crime Victim Advocacy on policy guidelines to ensure that sex workers are not excluded from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
  • The Coalition is currently analyzing legislation from other states (Hawai’i, Michigan, Alaska, etc.) as well as community-police agreements (Vancouver, San Francisco, etc.) to craft our own proposal around police violence and inappropriate sexual conduct. We are also planning to partner with SWOP Seattle and other Coalition members to conduct a community survey to document experiences of diverse groups of sex workers.
  • The Coalition is participating in the Washington State Department of Health’s ongoing conversations on the proposed changes to HIV exposure and transmission laws.
  • The City of Seattle is using the presence of “sex trafficking” (i.e. any sex trade involving a minor regardless of whether or not it involves force, fraud, or coercion) as a rationale for conducting homeless encampment sweeps. The Coalition is working with community groups to oppose the eviction and displacement of encampment residents and to promote alternative means to protect youth, women, and trans people who are often overlooked by homeless service agencies and outreach workers.

Policy Areas that will require more data or preparation before proceeding

  • Many sex worker community members want to see full decriminalization of sex work happen, but many Coalition members feel that it is not immediately feasible under the current political climate. We believe that we can reduce harms caused by criminalization by changing specific policies that diminish rights and safety for people in the sex trade, which is the current focus of the Coalition’s efforts.
  • Online advertising venues and discussion boards enable sex workers to work in safer environments, screen potential clients, and work independently from exploiters. Policies targeting such venues do not reduce prostitution or sex trafficking, but instead displace the market and make sex workers and people in the sex trade less safe. That said, this logic is not immediately obvious to anti-trafficking activists who only see harms caused by traffickers taking advantage of the advertising venues. We are in the process of collecting sex workers’ stories about the disruptions and financial instability caused by the crackdowns of advertising venues. This will help demonstrate harms this approach is causing.
  • Seattle and Washington are pushing for “end demand” policies that target clients of sex workers. Similar to above, it is not obvious to some people that targeting of clients harm sex workers by reducing sex workers’ income and bargaining power or by making it more difficult for sex workers to screen potential clients who are afraid of being caught. Again, we need to document how this approach negatively impacts sex workers and people in the sex trade.

Overview of the next six months and beyond

  • Continue to expand the Coalition, involving both more mainstream organizations as well as those serving specific marginalized communities
  • Work with other organizations and state representatives to prepare our “Safe Access” legislation
  • Engage with City of Seattle officials about policies to prevent violence and inappropriate sexual conduct by members of the law enforcement
  • Continue working with Department of Health, Office of Crime Victim Advocacy, and other offices to ensure sex workers have a voice in policy conversations
  • Work with Coalition members to design and conduct a community survey to collect stories for future policy projects
  • Establish a fundraising infrastructure to ensure Coalition’s sustainability
  • Build a (better) web and social media presence