New protections for sex workers just went into effect in Washington State (so let’s monitor compliance)

On July 28th, 2019, many laws passed by the Washington State legislature earlier this year went into effect, including two laws our community supported: HB 1382 (emergency access) and HB 1756 (dancer safety). Here are what you need to know about these new laws and a request for our dancer friends:

HB 1382 provides immunity for prosecution for prostitution and prostitution loitering charges when we are victims or witnesses of certain violent crimes and seek emergency assistance (medical and police). It is intended to make it easier for sex workers and people in the sex trade to report crimes and seek support, but there are some limitations. They are:

  • It only applies to violent crimes. In other words, it does not offer any protection when someone is reporting medical emergencies unrelated to violent crimes. What constitutes a “violent crime” is described in the law, but nobody can be expected to remember that list.
  • The law provides immunity from prosecution, but not from arrest.
  • It does not protect someone from other charges, including promoting prostitution in the second degree (which sometimes is applied to sex workers working in a pair or friends and family members who provide transportation and other support).

The survey we conducted last year showed deep mistrust of the law enforcement among sex workers and people in the sex trade, so we feel that HB 1382 is not sufficient to make many of us feel safe to report crimes or seek emergency assistance when we experience emergencies. Please keep telling us about what it would take to make this law more effective.

HB 1756 does many things, all of which are geared toward empowering dancers who work in strip clubs to protect their safety. These include:

  • The State Department of Labor and Industry will develop a training for adult entertainers (dancers), which will be required before entertainer license can be issued. The training will include rights and responsibilities of workers, reporting of workplace injuries, sexual abuse and harassment, financial management, risk of human trafficking, and resources for assistance. (This portion will go into effect in July 2020.)
  • Clubs are required to provide panic button in private (VIP) booths and anywhere else where a dancer would be alone with a customer.
  • Clubs must record worker complaints about assault and harassment committed by customers. If an accusation is made under the penalty of perjury or is supported by other evidences, the club must refuse the customer for three years after the incident. Other clubs owned by the same owner must also exclude the customer for three years.
  • The Department of Labor and Industry will form an advisory committee to assist with the implementation of the new law, including developing the training. At least half of the committee members must be former or current entertainers who held license for at least five years, and at least one will be an industry representative (the boss). The committee can consider and recommend further legislations to improve dancer safety. (The advisory committee has yet to be formed as of now.)

Many of these provisions are hard to monitor for compliance, but there is at least one that can be easily verified: the panic button. If you work at a strip club, please go and find out if the management has installed a panic button in each area where dancers may be alone with a customer. If it’s possible, ask someone what happens when the button is pressed: Does it actually work? Who will be alerted and will respond to the scene? Please let us know what you find out–we just want to see the level of compliance with the new requirement, and we will not report it to the State or anyone else unless you ask us to. Thank you for your help!

If you are interested in future legislative advocacy, please contact us! Our monthly meetings are open to anyone who support safety and rights for sex workers and people in the sex trade.

Rescue Hurts: real-life consequences of SPD’s raids on massage parlors & how to actually support migrant women workers

Rescue Hurts: real-life consequences of SPD’s raids on massage parlors
& how to actually support migrant women workers

DATE: August 8th, 2019
TIME: 6-8pm
LOCATION: Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave.)

In February 2019, Seattle Police Department raided eleven so-called “Asian” massage parlors in the City’s Chinatown/International District and Beacon Hill, “rescuing” 26 Chinese-speaking women from the scourge of sex trafficking, according to media reports.

But the reality of such large-scale raid is that of displacement, loss of income, housing, community, and personal belongings (including identity documents and cash savings), trauma, and abandonment. Almost none of the women qualify for trafficking-specific services or visa relief because their individual circumstances are more complicated than Hollywood image of “modern day slavery.”

In this grass-roots community event, we bring to you international expert Elene Lam of Butterfly, a Toronto-based support and advocacy group led by and for Asian and migrant sex workers, as well as local advocates from API Chaya and other organizations outreaching to and supporting refugee and migrant women who work at massage parlors.

Come learn about real-life consequences of SPD’s “rescue” missions on massage parlors and find out how to actually support migrant women workers.

Sponsored by API Chaya, CID Coalition, Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, Seattle LGBTQ Commission, and SWOP-Seattle.

Questions? Contact us!

Ms. Lam is also giving a training on supporting migrant massage parlor workers earlier on the same day. If you are a service provider or community leader (Asian American, sex worker, or other communities) and interested in attending the training, please see our EventBrite page.

Download PDF flier here

Support Aileen’s, our new community organizing and hospitality space for women working along the Pac Hwy

Aileen’s is a new peer-centered organizing and hospitality space for women working along the Pac Hwy. This is the area south of Seattle stretching from around SEATAC airport to the south end of King County that is home to many women who trade sex and where Gary Ridgeway, a.k.a. Green River Killer, sought his victims.

We are fed up with the lack of services and resources for empowerment in south King County. Pressing concerns include homelessness, legal issues, CPS involvement, substance use problems, domestic violence, police harassment and brutality, sexual assault and harassment, racism, transphobia, among others.

Women along the Pac Hwy need a safe place to get off the street, even for temporarily, a place to get and give support without being hated or judged, a place to share safety information like the bad date line and receive life saving harm reduction tools.

We are currently forming a steering committee of peers to guide Aileen’s as we envision and create our space. Initial plans include a kitchenette with hot drinks and snacks, a dressing room and clothes closet, lounge area, computer and phone access, and an office space offering peer counseling, harm reduction and overdose prevention services, and community resources and referrals.

Aileen’s is by and for women in the sex trade, women who are homeless or unstably housed, women doing survival sex, coming out of prison, having their kids taken by CPS, struggling to make ends meet, as well as women with former lived experience, and sex workers from all walks of life. We welcome volunteers/allies willing to complete our training.
Please support the work of Aileen’s by making a generous donation online at www.gofundme.com/aileens or to: Church of Harm Reduction, PO Box 3484, Federal Way, WA 98063. Aileen’s is a joint project of community groups including Church of Harm Reduction and Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade.

Also: Join Aileen’s Open House on May 7th at 6-9pm. Please visit www.aileens.org or email info@aileens.org for location.

Participate in the Community Survey about Policy Changes

Note: Survey has already ended. You can still use the form to share your experiences with us, but we no longer have gift cards for compensation.


(note: Washington State only)

At last Tuesday’s Community Emergency Gathering for Trans and Gender-Diverse People in the Sex Trade we launched the Community Survey on Policy Changes to Protect Rights & Safety.

Funded in part by Third Wave Fund’s Mobilize Power grant, the survey is intended to collect stories of people in the sex trade in Seattle/King County/Washington State and to amplify their voices in the policy conversations from which people most impacted by them are routinely excluded from consideration.

We are not outside academic researchers building careers for ourselves. About half of us are current and former sex workers or people with histories in the sex trade, and the rest are our friends and allies in various community groups.

If you are interested in being part of the survey or learning about more about it, please read our Survey invitation. Participants have an option to receive a $50 VISA or MasterCard gift card after completing the survey.

April 24: Emergency Community Gathering for Trans & Gender-Diverse People in the Sex Trade

Emergency Gathering for Trans & Gender-Diverse People in the Sex Trade

Earn $150 on April 24 @ 3-6pm
Call: 206-538-0423 for location & to RSVP

Since the passage of the law targeting websites people in the sex trade use to connect with their clients and the sudden closure of such websites, many people in our trans and gender-diverse communities are struggling for our survival.

If you have been trading sexual services to make ends meet and are looking for support and resources to get through these difficult times, please join our Community Emergency Gathering for Trans & Gender-Diverse People in the Sex Trade.

We will have coffee/tea and hot food, and provide a $50 gift card from Gender Justice League as a thank you for your participation. In addition, Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade will be conducting a survey for those who wish to take part in it, which will come with a compensation of a $100 gift card.

Please call (206) 538-0423 to find out the location and to RSVP! And please share this info with your friends who engage in sex trade!

SESTA=DEATH

Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law FOSTA/SESTA, a law that targets online platforms that people in the sex trade use to connect with their potential clients. Even before the law went into effect, many such online platforms have either shut down or changed rules to push out people who have previously depended on them for their livelihood.

Almost immediately, we began hearing from members of our community who are facing extremely difficult choices as a major portion of their livelihood vanished overnight. Some are fearing that they might become homeless soon because they cannot pay next month’s rent, while others are thinking about going back to working the street. Others, especially those who have experienced horrible abuses while living or working on the street in the past are contemplating suicide out of pure desperation. An influx of individuals who have previously worked online onto the street will undoubtedly also impact those who have been on the street already with additional competition and increased police attention.

(continue reading…)

Report Issued for the Coalition’s First Six Months

Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade issued a semiannual report on its activities since the founding in March 2017. In this six months, the Coalition grew from a figment of imagination into a network of 14 community groups concerned about the safety and rights of people in the sex trade and began working on a variety of policy change projects. Click here to read the report!