DSW Testifies on Important Legislation in MA, ME, & RI

May 1, 2023

As sex work related reforms gain momentum around the country, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) staff members are busier than ever. Within the span of just a few weeks, staff members testified in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to advocate for laws that would decrease trafficking and increase public health and safety. Ensuring that legislators have the most compelling, accurate evidence in support of decriminalization and understand the realities of the Entrapment Model has never been more important.

Massachusetts

DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary testified in front of the Joint Judiciary Committee during a hearing that lasted nearly five hours. She advocated for passage of H1757, “An Act to promote the health and safety of people in the sex trade” and H1758/S1046, “An Act to prevent human trafficking and improve the health and safety of sex workers” and shared DSW’s strong opposition to H1597/S983, “An Act to strengthen justice and support for sex trade survivors.”

Two of these bills, H1757 and H1597/S983, seem similar on their face; in fact, they reflect two opposing approaches to the criminalization of sex work and two different philosophical understandings of sexual labor. H1757, “An Act to promote the health and safety of people in the sex trade” would fully decriminalize consensual adult sex work, repealing laws criminalizing both the consensual sellers and buyers of sexual services. H1597/S983, “An Act to strengthen justice and support for sex trade survivors” removes laws prohibiting the sale of sexual services but continues to criminalize buyers — in fact, significantly increasing penalties for the purchase of sexual services. This policy, known as the Entrapment Model, Nordic Model, or the Equality Model, among other names, has unambiguously failed to protect the health and safety of sex workers. The third bill, H1758/S1046, “An Act to prevent human trafficking and improve the health and safety of sex workers” creates a series of incremental policy measures to protect the human rights of sex workers and trafficking survivors. The measures include repealing the law that bans loitering for the purposes of prostitution, enacting a study commission that would research the criminalization of sex work and provide recommendations, and creating an immunity law for sex workers.

Immunity protections create an important tool for law enforcement in their efforts to identify and prosecute perpetrators of violence and trafficking. Sex workers and trafficking survivors are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation — but frequently don’t report crimes perpetrated against them due to fear of arrest. When those abusers aren’t discovered by law enforcement, they are able to continue violence and exploitation with impunity. Additionally, sex workers and buyers of sex are in unique positions to witness trafficking and exploitation of minors, but due to criminalization they cannot safely report these crimes. Thus, immunity policies serve a dual purpose: they allow victims and witnesses of crime to safely seek the services they need without fear of arrest, and they also provide invaluable tools for law enforcement investigating crimes including human trafficking, assault, and even murder. Alaska, California, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington have existing immunity laws, and similar bills were introduced in Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee this year. Individuals and organizations with a breadth of priorities and experiences have openly supported these policies across the country, including trafficking survivors, advocates, sex workers, prosecutors, and police departments.

Maine

Staff testified in opposition to LD1435, “An Act to Reduce Commercial Sexual Exploitation” which would remove penalties for the sale of sex while leaving statutes criminalizing the purchase of sex intact, an Entrapment model policy. Staff also educated legislators on the dangers of the conflation of sex work and trafficking that underpins Entrapment model policies. Insisting that all sex work is exploitative strips people of bodily autonomy and does nothing to increase safety for either sex workers or individuals being trafficked.

Rhode Island

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo testified in support of H5428, “An Act relating to health and safety – licensing of healthcare facilities.” It would mandate that patients be afforded respectful, considerate care and would not be discriminated against on any basis including age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or income source or profession.

Healthcare access is critical for the rights and safety of all. This is especially true when it comes to sex workers, who face increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual assault, and physical assault as a result of the criminalization of their work. Many sex workers do not seek critical healthcare because they have faced discrimination or reporting to law enforcement by medical professionals. Protection against discrimination in seeking care is not only life-saving, it’s an important step in protecting against the spread of STIs and increasing resource access for some of our most underserved community members.

Further, healthcare providers serve a critical role in identifying and helping to report (with the patient’s permission) instances of human trafficking. Unfortunately, because of the criminalization of commercial sex, individuals trafficked for the purpose of selling sex are afraid to seek services. This is not only a violation of human rights, it is a public health and safety concern. We must make safe, confidential, and appropriate healthcare resources available to all individuals.

Staff Attorney Becca Cleary testifies in front of the Joint Judiciary Committee in Massachusetts.

Staff Attorney Becca Cleary testifies in front of the Joint Judiciary Committee in Massachusetts.

DSW Newsletter #47

DSW Attends Top Adult Content Industry Conference

April 15, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) attended XBIZ Miami in South Beach, Miami, earlier this May. XBIZ, the adult industry’s leading publisher of business news and information, hosts five annual...
Read More
DSW Attends Top Adult Content Industry Conference

RI Study Commission Concludes

May 23, 2023 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo and Community Engagement Consultant Henri Bynx were at the Rhode Island State House in April and May, as the study commission on which...
Read More
RI Study Commission Concludes

DSW Hosts NY Lobby Day of Action Against Gender-Based Violence

April 25, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered elected officials, advocates, and survivors of trafficking to urge the New York State Legislature to pass S1966 (Sepulveda), an act to amend the...
Read More
DSW Hosts NY Lobby Day of Action Against Gender-Based Violence

DSW Testifies on Important Legislation in MA, ME, & RI

May 1, 2023 As sex work related reforms gain momentum around the country, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) staff members are busier than ever. Within the span of just a few weeks,...
Read More
DSW Testifies on Important Legislation in MA, ME, & RI

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW Hosts NY Lobby Day of Action Against Gender-Based Violence

April 25, 2023

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered elected officials, advocates, and survivors of trafficking to urge the New York State Legislature to pass S1966 (Sepulveda), an act to amend the penal law in relation to individuals engaged in prostitution who are victims of or witnesses to a crime, and S4266A (Webb)/A5288A (Reyes), an act to establish a task force on missing women and girls who are Black, indigenous and people of color. Both bills seek to address how the policing of marginalized women and girls often reinforces structural inequities and stereotypes that contribute to their particular vulnerability to violence.

S1966 is common-sense legislation that would encourage sex workers and trafficking survivors who are crime victims and witnesses to report their experience to law enforcement, receive medical care, and seek help. People involved in commercial sexual activity, whether by choice or because they are being trafficked, are often targeted by predators who know they are unlikely to report victimization or seek medical attention for fear of their own arrest. When abusers are not reported to law enforcement, they are able to continue their acts of violence and exploitation with impunity. Similar legislation has recently passed in a number of states around the country.

S4266A/A5288A highlights how women and girls of color who are victims of crime have been failed by institutions that reinforce structural violence. Their stories and names are obscured by race, socioeconomic class, lack of urgency, gendered racism, and invisibility. The task force will develop policy changes to address the lack of care and concern for missing and murdered BIPOC women and girls; educate and train communities on the prevention, protection and protocols relating to missing women and girls; develop research strategies; recommend preventive programming; identify major traffic places that have high abduction rates; and create an awareness campaign.

Advocates and impacted individuals held meetings with over twenty state legislators to discuss the importance of both bills and were pleased with how receptive the lawmakers were. It is not clear whether either bill will become law this legislative session but the day was a success nonetheless as advocates were able to educate lawmakers and lay the groundwork for future action.

In addition to meeting with legislators, advocates, impacted individuals, and the bills’ sponsors, DSW held a press conference. Below are a handful of the most impactful statements made:

As a proud co-sponsor of both bills, I believe that we must act in unison to enact both into law this year. In doing so, we will empower and elevate survivors, raise awareness, and finally focus our time and resources on those who need and deserve it the most.”

— Senator Cordell Cleare (D-Harlem)

Sex workers and trafficking survivors who are crime victims and witnesses often remain silent for fear of retribution. With S1966, we are seeking to provide them with the necessary protection to report their experiences, receive medical care, and seek help. S4266A/A5288A, on the other hand, highlights the institutional failures that lead to the invisibility and vulnerability of missing and murdered women and girls of color. Passing both bills is essential in our efforts to address structural inequities and ensure justice for marginalized communities.”

— Senator Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx)

We have an epidemic of missing BIPOC Women and Girls in the U.S. and in New York State, the numbers keep rising. Missing Women and Girls of Color do not receive the same care and concern when they go missing as their white counterparts. Their cases are covered by fewer news stories, and they are too often mischaracterized as runaways, leaving families to resort to hiring bounty hunters to find their daughters. My legislation will establish a task force to address this gap in care and concern for BIPOC victims of abduction and human trafficking, educate communities to prevent disappearances, and identify the major hubs in New York where abductions occur.”

— Senator Lea Webb (D-Binghamton)

Women and girls of color are discarded by systemic racism in the reporting and search for missing persons. I am the proud sponsor of A5088-A with Senator Webb to tackle that inequity by establishing a task force of government agencies to analyze, reform, and prevent the conditions that allow both the media and law enforcement to treat these cases differently. This vital legislation will chart the path forward to making New York State a safer and affirming state for women and girls of color and their families, especially in missing persons cases.”

— Assembly Member Karines Reyes, R.N. (D-Bronx)

Immunity legislation is gaining popularity across the country with bipartisan support and collaborative efforts between activists, survivors, legislators, and law enforcement, who are all in agreement that these policies are crucial in advancing public health and safety. Ensuring that perpetrators of violence cannot repeatedly exploit their victims’ vulnerability and allowing survivors of violence to seek help is common sense public policy, which is why immunity laws are increasingly common in other states.”

— DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary

For too long, missing women and girls of color have largely been ignored. By creating a task force to focus attention on this issue, New York can follow the lead of other states who have made women and girls of color a priority.”

— Dawn Rowe, Executive Director of Girl Vow

Immunity laws directly protect victims and witnesses of violence, and they ultimately benefit all communities by allowing law enforcement to better detect criminal activity. I have had to accompany many clients who were raped or assaulted to the police to ensure they themselves would not be seen as the criminals, which just should not be the case.”

— DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, longtime advocate and attorney for sex workers and trafficking survivors

Staff Attorney Becca Cleary speaks during the press conference.

Staff Attorney Becca Cleary speaks during the press conference.

DSW and Girl Vow Inc. staff and volunteers pose in between meetings with legislators.

DSW and Girl Vow Inc. staff and volunteers pose in between meetings with legislators.

DSW Newsletter #47

DSW Attends Top Adult Content Industry Conference

April 15, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) attended XBIZ Miami in South Beach, Miami, earlier this May. XBIZ, the adult industry’s leading publisher of business news and information, hosts five annual...
Read More
DSW Attends Top Adult Content Industry Conference

RI Study Commission Concludes

May 23, 2023 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo and Community Engagement Consultant Henri Bynx were at the Rhode Island State House in April and May, as the study commission on which...
Read More
RI Study Commission Concludes

DSW Hosts NY Lobby Day of Action Against Gender-Based Violence

April 25, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered elected officials, advocates, and survivors of trafficking to urge the New York State Legislature to pass S1966 (Sepulveda), an act to amend the...
Read More
DSW Hosts NY Lobby Day of Action Against Gender-Based Violence

DSW Testifies on Important Legislation in MA, ME, & RI

May 1, 2023 As sex work related reforms gain momentum around the country, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) staff members are busier than ever. Within the span of just a few weeks,...
Read More
DSW Testifies on Important Legislation in MA, ME, & RI

DSW Newsletter Archive

Coffee With a Sex Worker

February 5, 2023

On February 5, members of The Ishtar Collective (TIC) launched Coffee With a Sex Worker with their first event at Muddy Waters Cafe in Burlington, Vermont. Henri Bynx, community engagement consultant at Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) and co-founder/co-director of TIC, was a host at the event.

Coffee With a Sex Worker is an ongoing series of events during which TIC will meet with community members to talk about sex work and their mission to advocate for sex worker rights, support survivors of human trafficking, and provide mutual aid for members of their community.

The aim of the events is to demystify sex workers in Vermont by providing a safe point of outreach to sex workers, as well as to compassionately invite dialogue around community concerns and sex work.

TIC member Elle R., who was involved in organizing the event, said the following.

“Sex workers are so stigmatized and dehumanized by society that for us to come out and meet folks for open conversations and dialog around consensual sex work is so important. We become relatable people with rich and diverse lives who deserve rights, respect, and safety in our work. Coffee with a sex worker was such a great event that allowed us to come together, engage with the public and give them a real perspective on what we do and how they can help support us.”

The next Coffee With a Sex Worker event will be held on March 3 at Muddy Waters Cafe in Burlington from 1:00-3:00 PM. All are welcome to attend.

Emma R., Skylar Axel, Christine R., and Henri Bynx pose for a photo at Muddy Waters Cafe in Burlington, Vermont.

Emma R., Skylar Axel, Christine R., and Henri Bynx pose for a photo at Muddy Waters Cafe in Burlington, Vermont.

Coffee With a Sex Worker

DSW Newsletter #45 (February 2023)

Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act Reintroduced in New York

February 1, 2023 Senator Julia Salazar has introduced Senate Bill S4396, or the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in New York. The bill would decriminalize consensual adult prostitution...
Read More
Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act Reintroduced in New York

Research Finds No Correlation Between Super Bowl and Human Trafficking

February 23, 2023 Fears that large sporting events fuel spikes in rates of human trafficking are unfounded. Every February, the rumor that the Super Bowl is a giant human trafficking hub...
Read More
Research Finds No Correlation Between Super Bowl and Human Trafficking

San Francisco Supervisor Issues Statement Calling for Legalization of Sex Work

February 14, 2023 San Francisco officials have installed barricades along Capp Street in the city’s Mission District in an effort to suppress street-based sex work. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the...
Read More
San Francisco Supervisor Issues Statement Calling for Legalization of Sex Work

Coffee With a Sex Worker

February 5, 2023 On February 5, members of The Ishtar Collective (TIC) launched Coffee With a Sex Worker with their first event at Muddy Waters Cafe in Burlington, Vermont. Henri Bynx,...
Read More
Coffee With a Sex Worker

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW and Allies Celebrate START Act Anniversary

January 20, 2023

On January 20, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered with allies from the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together Act (START) in New York. DSW’s Crystal DeBoise is a founding member of NYATN and helped organize the event, which was attended by anti-trafficking advocates, criminal defense lawyers, and activists.

The START Act allows New York State courts to vacate a range of criminal convictions stemming from a person’s experience as a victim of human trafficking, permitting survivors to petition for record relief relating to any crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. It went into effect in January 2022.

New York’s old vacatur law left the vast majority of trafficking survivors unprotected from criminal penalties for involvement in crimes they were forced to commit. DSW’s Melissa Broudo and Crystal DeBoise were key members of the START coalition, which ultimately pushed New York to expand its vacatur law, along with fellow attorneys, advocates, and service providers.

The coalition spent years advocating for the expansion of New York’s vacatur law, eventually gaining support from district attorneys’ offices, service providers, and impacted community members from around the state. Sixty brave survivors shared their stories with New York lawmakers to shed light on the impact the START act could have on their lives and communities.

Expanding criminal record relief is an essential lifeline for many trafficking victims, especially as they try to reclaim their lives. The collateral consequences of an arrest can be devastating, preventing survivors from accessing resources like housing and healthcare.

The passage of the START Act was monumental in securing the human rights of trafficking survivors throughout the state of New York. This party was a well-deserved celebration for those who were so closely involved in this victory.

Members of the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) celebrate the anniversary of the START Act. From L to R: Anita Teekah of Latino Justice, Melissa Broudo of Decriminalize Sex Work, Mary Caparas of Womankind, Kate Mogulescu of Brookly Law School, and Ryan Wall of Legal Aid Exploitation Intervention Project.

Members of the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) celebrate the anniversary of the START Act. From L to R: Anita Teekah of Latino Justice, Melissa Broudo of Decriminalize Sex Work, Mary Caparas of Womankind, Kate Mogulescu of Brookly Law School, and Ryan Wall of Legal Aid Exploitation Intervention Project.

DSW Newsletter #44 (January 2023)

DSW Attends Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas

January 7, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) attended the annual Adult Video News (AVN) Awards in Las Vegas earlier this month. The event recognizes achievements in various aspects of the creation...
Read More
DSW Attends Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas

California Repeals Anti-Prostitution Loitering Law

January 1, 2023 SB 357, otherwise known as the Safer Streets for All Act, has officially gone into effect in California. The bill repealed California Penal Code § 653.22, which criminalized the...
Read More
California Repeals Anti-Prostitution Loitering Law

United States Appeals Court Hears Arguments Against SESTA/FOSTA

January 11, 2023 The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) have harmed victims of trafficking, the very individuals they were meant to protect, along...
Read More
United States Appeals Court Hears Arguments Against SESTA/FOSTA

DSW and Allies Celebrate START Act Anniversary

January 20, 2023 On January 20, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered with allies from the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Survivors of Trafficking...
Read More
DSW and Allies Celebrate START Act Anniversary

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW Attends Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas

January 7, 2023

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) attended the annual Adult Video News (AVN) Awards in Las Vegas earlier this month. The event recognizes achievements in various aspects of the creation and marketing of adult films and provides a space for members and fans of the adult entertainment industry to showcase their latest work and newest products and talk about business initiatives.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, Development Manager Esmé Bengtson, and Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary attended. They networked with allies and spent time discussing the differences between legalization and decriminalization, the importance of immunity laws, and how labor regulations affect sex workers.

Nevada is the only state in the country where prostitution is legal, though only under incredibly restrictive circumstances. Here, prostitution is permitted only in strictly licensed and regulated brothels in sparsely populated counties of the state. Meanwhile, brothels remain illegal in the major cities of Las Vegas and Reno and their suburbs.

At the AVN Expo, DSW met with Nevada brothel workers to discuss their labor rights under the state’s current prostitution laws, which allow for very few individuals to work legally in brothels. Decriminalization would ensure the health and safety of all sex workers and allow them to choose their working environments.

The connection between labor rights for both legal and criminalized sex workers is critical. Mainstream society has long demonized the porn industry, and the government imposes repressive labor policies that pose barriers to the rights, safety, and fair wages of adult performers. Financial institutions like banks and credit card companies have a history of discriminating against those who work in the sex industry, making it difficult for them to earn fair revenue for their labor.

The outstanding display of solidarity and support shown by the AVN community this month exists as proof that despite these circumstances, human rights advocates will always stand together to celebrate everyone’s freedom to express their sexuality.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak to us at the expo, and to our newest newsletter subscribers: Welcome!

DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary, Development Manager Esmé Bengston, and Legal Director Melissa Broudo advocate for decriminalization at the AVN awards in Las Vegas.

DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary, Development Manager Esmé Bengston, and Legal Director Melissa Broudo advocate for decriminalization at the AVN awards in Las Vegas.

DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary and Development Manager Esmé Bengston.

DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary and Development Manager Esmé Bengston.

DSW Development Manager Esmé Bengston poses with DSW supporters Kerry Walsh and John Stagliano.

DSW Development Manager Esmé Bengston poses with DSW supporters Kerry Walsh and John Stagliano.

DSW Newsletter #44 (January 2023)

DSW Attends Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas

January 7, 2023 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) attended the annual Adult Video News (AVN) Awards in Las Vegas earlier this month. The event recognizes achievements in various aspects of the creation...
Read More
DSW Attends Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas

California Repeals Anti-Prostitution Loitering Law

January 1, 2023 SB 357, otherwise known as the Safer Streets for All Act, has officially gone into effect in California. The bill repealed California Penal Code § 653.22, which criminalized the...
Read More
California Repeals Anti-Prostitution Loitering Law

United States Appeals Court Hears Arguments Against SESTA/FOSTA

January 11, 2023 The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) have harmed victims of trafficking, the very individuals they were meant to protect, along...
Read More
United States Appeals Court Hears Arguments Against SESTA/FOSTA

DSW and Allies Celebrate START Act Anniversary

January 20, 2023 On January 20, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) gathered with allies from the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Survivors of Trafficking...
Read More
DSW and Allies Celebrate START Act Anniversary

DSW Newsletter Archive

International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 14, 2022

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (D17) is a day of remembrance and solidarity observed on December 17 by sex workers and their allies, families, and communities. It originated as a vigil for the dozens of victims of a notorious serial killer who targeted sex workers in the Pacific Northwest.

Sex work is not inherently exploitative or dangerous. In fact, many sex workers love their jobs, but criminalization makes the profession unsafe.

The criminalization of consensual adult sex work creates hostility between sex workers and law enforcement, leaving them without a means to report abuse for fear of being arrested. Since their profession is illegal, sex workers don’t have the same labor rights as the rest of the population. Instead, they‌’re forced to work in secret, where they face dangerous situations that they can’t report.

Without access to safe working conditions or police protection, sex workers are left vulnerable. This creates the perfect environment for law enforcement to target them. There are countless instances of police misconduct against sex workers in the United States.

It’s these circumstances that make D17 so important.

Every year, human rights advocates come together in a powerful display of solidarity to promote the rights of sex workers, defend the safety of trafficking victims, mourn the lives of those lost to violence, and celebrate the liveliness and diversity of sex worker communities worldwide.

Throughout the month of December, organizations of all sizes hold fundraisers, marches, vigils, and more to support the health and safety of sex workers.

This D17, UCLA’s Global Lab for Research in Action, in collaboration with Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), New Moon Fund, Old Pros, and Woodhull Freedom Foundation, has launched the Red Umbrella Campaign (RUC), which will address the structural barriers faced by sex workers and advocate for a world with safe sex work through decriminalization. RUC worked with dozens of real sex workers to share their stories of the violence and stigma they face under criminalization.

Each of these stories will be shared anonymously, along with meticulously researched infographics highlighting the systemic failures that affect the safety of sex workers. By providing authentic insight into the real lives of real sex workers, RUC will raise awareness about why the decriminalization of sex work is so necessary.

Follow UCLA’s Global Lab for Research in Action on Instagram for updates on the Red Umbrella Campaign.

More D17 events:

♦ Ceyenne Doroshow, founder of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (G.L.I.T.S) and community engagement consultant at DSW, will host a fundraiser along with Qween Jean in London.

♦ The Minneapolis and Los Angeles chapters of the Sex Worker Outreach Project will host virtual events.

The Philadelphia chapter of the Red Umbrella Alliance will host an event focusing on the struggles of disabled and disposessed sex workers.

♦ St. James Infirmary will host a community panel and celebration in San Francisco.

♦ Veronica Vera will host a gathering at Judson Memorial Church in New York City honoring the beloved Carol Leigh, who passed away last November.

♦ Maggies Toronto will host a Memorial and Sex Worker Celebration.

♦ The Erotic Laborers Solidarity Alliance of El Paso will host a vigil and altar-building event.

Regardless of how activists and organizations observe D17, we all have the same mission at heart: To guarantee the health, safety, and freedom of all sex workers.

As one of the most marginalized groups in society, sex workers face targeted discrimination and violence at alarming rates. The only way to ensure their safety is to decriminalize consensual adult sex work.

DSW stands in solidarity with all sex workers and supports their right to work without fear of criminalization, cruelty, and violence.

International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

If you endorse the health and well-being of sex workers, we encourage you to keep up with the following organizations:

The Cupcake Girls

Sex Workers Outreach Project

Sex Workers and Allies Network

SWAID Vegas

Red Canary Song

Sex Workers Project

Global Network of Sex Work Projects

 

DSW Newsletter #43 (December 2022)

New England Sex Work Summit

December 5, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) was proud to participate in the inaugural New England Sex Work Summit (NESWS) in Manchester, NH. It was hosted by New England sex work...
Read More
New England Sex Work Summit

International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 14, 2022 International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (D17) is a day of remembrance and solidarity observed on December 17 by sex workers and their allies, families, and...
Read More
International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

South Africa Takes Monumental Step Towards Decriminalizing Sex Work

December 10, 2022 Earlier this month, the Cabinet of South Africa approved the publication of a decriminalization bill for public comment. The new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment...
Read More
South Africa Takes Monumental Step Towards Decriminalizing Sex Work

Police Raids Are Problematic: Yang Song’s Story

December 1, 2022 On November 25, 2017, New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers raided a Flushing, Queens massage parlor as part of a sting operation against consensual adult sex work....
Read More
Police Raids Are Problematic: Yang Song’s Story

DSW Newsletter Archive

Sex Workers’ Freedom Impacts Us All

June 24, 2022

DSW organized “To Brothel or Not To Brothel? Why the Freedom of Sex Workers Impacts Us All” at this year’s FreedomFest in Las Vegas. DSW’s communications director, Ariela Moscowitz, was joined by a senior editor at Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who regularly writes on the intersections of sex, speech, tech, crime, politics, panic, and civil liberties, and Savannah Sly, a long-time sex worker rights activist, for this critical discussion. Avens O’Brien, a writer, advocate, and entrepreneur, moderated the panel discussion.

The speakers first touched on the four legal models used to govern prostitution around the world: legalization, criminalization, the Entrapment/Nordic/Equality model, and decriminalization. Prostitution is criminalized across the U.S. except for several rural counties in Nevada, where it has been legalized. Under this model, sex workers are subject to the stringent guidelines set forth by the state and the managers of the brothels they can exclusively work at. Legalization creates a two-tier system, whereby individuals who either could not or would not comply with the regulations remain criminalized and therefore in danger. Nevada has the highest arrest rate per capita of any state for prostitution-related offenses, despite having legalized prostitution in those several rural counties. Legalization places power in the hands of the government and third parties or managers, while criminalization and the Entrapment model give all of the power to clients and the government. Decriminalization is the only model that centers power with the worker, allows for the attainment of their full human rights, and also improves public health and safety.

The reasons to decriminalize consensual adult sex work are numerous and compelling. They are based in evidence, in reason, and in the principles that those of us who value liberty, freedom, bodily autonomy, privacy, and choice hold dear. Proponents of the criminalization of consensual adult sex work perpetuate the harms that laws based in ideology, racism, and misogyny have caused sex workers. These ideologists stoke moral panic with their conflation of consensual adult sex work and human trafficking. Setting aside the principles that make criminalizing consensual adult sex work preposterous and irreconcilable in a society that values freedom and dignity, prohibition — whether it be of drugs, alcohol, or sex — invites brutality to thrive. Sex work is not inherently dangerous or exploitative. It is the criminalization of prostitution that forces sex work “underground” and makes sex workers vulnerable to violence. Criminalization denies sex workers the ability to access justice and adequate medical care, and it traps them in a vicious cycle of arrest and incarceration.

Because of criminalization, sex workers have long been subjected to the censorship and surveillance many Americans are just beginning to become aware of and fear. It is naive to think the surveillance, censorship, discrimination, danger, and denial of bodily autonomy sex workers face under U.S. laws does not affect others. Broad government overreach, framed as efforts to combat trafficking, has led to laws such as 2018’s SESTA/FOSTA which undercut the most crucial statute protecting freedom of speech on the internet. It does nothing to help victims of trafficking, as concluded by a recent government study, and actually endangers the safety, health, and human rights of consensual sex workers and trafficking victims. Legislators continue to introduce similar bills, such as the EARN It Act, again under the guise of combating trafficking, which gained a fair amount of traction in 2022. If passed, it could effectively end freedom of expression and encrypted and open communication on the internet as we know it.

Just last week, the ACLU revealed records showing that the Department of Homeland Security has been purchasing massive quantities of cell phone location data, skirting the Fourth Amendment, which protects against warrantless government searches and seizures. This is a blatant violation against this right. The Supreme Court has ruled that because cell phone data reveals so much of a person’s private life, it deserves full Fourth Amendment protections. The government has bought the ability to access billions of location points from millions of phones that can be used to identify and track individuals, revealing all of their activities and associations. Sex workers have long been aware that their search history, text messages, and location data could all be used against them and have guarded against this while also advocating for policies that protect free speech and digital privacy.

With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, many have become concerned that the digital footprints of people seeking abortion services, along with advocates and providers, can be used against them. Digital surveillance has already been used against pregnant people when they experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, and as abortion becomes increasingly criminalized and digital privacy is increasingly eroded, this will happen more often. Sex workers have long been aware of the dangers of digital surveillance and have been sounding the alarm bell with too few heeding their warnings. Perhaps now that others will be impacted, sex workers’ experience, expertise, and advocacy will be acknowledged and utilized to defend against the government’s encroachment on fundamental rights.

Avens O’Brien, Savannah Sly, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and Ariela Moscowitz speaking at FreedomFest.

Avens O’Brien, Savannah Sly, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and Ariela Moscowitz speaking at FreedomFest.

DSW Newsletter #38 (July 2022)

Former Sex Worker Prevails in Discrimination Lawsuit

July 9, 2022 Nicole Gilliland was awarded $1.7 million in damages after a jury found that she had in fact been discriminated against by Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) because of her past work in pornographic films....
Read More
Former Sex Worker Prevails in Discrimination Lawsuit

Sex Workers’ Freedom Impacts Us All

June 24, 2022 DSW organized “To Brothel or Not To Brothel? Why the Freedom of Sex Workers Impacts Us All” at this year’s FreedomFest in Las Vegas. DSW’s communications director, Ariela Moscowitz, was joined by a senior...
Read More
Sex Workers’ Freedom Impacts Us All

Disability Pride Month

July 26, 2022 Although not yet officially recognized by the U.S., cities across the country and countries around the world celebrate Disability Pride in July. July was chosen because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on...
Read More
Disability Pride Month

LinkedIn Profile Goes Viral After Woman Lists Sex Work as Professional Experience

July 14, 2022 Arielle Egozi, a branding and creative consultant, added her experience as a sex worker to her resume on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking site. This addition did not go unnoticed and sparked debates...
Read More
LinkedIn Profile Goes Viral After Woman Lists Sex Work as Professional Experience

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW Research and Project Manager Testifies at Legislative Study Commission

June 13, 2022

DSW Research and Project Manager J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly presented on the intersection of LGBTQIA individuals and sex workers’ rights at the June 13 meeting of a legislative study commission in Rhode Island. Oshiro-Brantly co-presented with Henri June Bynx, who is also a sex worker and activist.

Their presentation highlighted the parallels in the criminalization and stigmatization of sex work, gender identity, and sexual orientation. It delved into the inextricable links between the deleterious effects of marginalization both for sex workers and LGBTQIA individuals and their converging fights for equal freedoms and treatment under law. Oshiro-Brantly and Bynx grounded their presentation in data from Rhode Island and beyond demonstrating that LGBTQIA individuals and particularly those who engage in sex work are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice sytem. They face harassment, profiling, and discrimination — and, once saddled with a criminal record because of this, they face extraordinary barriers to housing, employment, and other critical resources necessary to sustain life.

Their presentation concluded with the below recommendations for Rhode Island, though these recommendations are widely applicable to all states and municipalities:

1. Pass a law that grants immunity from prosecution to people engaged in commercial sexual activity if they report to law enforcement that they are victims of or witnesses to a crime. (Read more about Immunity/Good Samaritan laws as they relate to sex work here.)

2. Fully decriminalize consensual adult sex work.

3. Repeal “Loitering for Prostitution” and “Loitering for Indecent Purposes” which have become known as “Walking While Trans Bans” as law enforcement uses these statutes to profile, harass, and arrest transgender women.

4. Repeal Section a. In the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Law (§ 11-34.1-12), which stipulates that: (a) Any person convicted of a violation of any provisions of chapter 34 shall be required to be tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). No consent for the testing shall be required.

5. Pass House Bill 5464 — patients will not be denied appropriate healthcare on the basis of their sex work history.

6. Pass Senate Bill 249/ House Bill 6049 — which would create a new criminal offense of “custodial sexual assault,” which occurs when a peace officer perpetrates a sexual assault while a victim is in their custody.

The RI study commission was formed last year following the unanimous passage of House Resolution 5250, which proposed a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals. The bill, as passed, delineated who should sit on the commission, which includes 13 members, including individuals with lived experience. Other members of the commission include two legislators, a member of COYOTE RI, a representative from Amnesty International, two representatives of organizations serving populations disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of commercial sex, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, an attorney from the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office, the Rhode Island attorney general, or designee, a representative from the Brown University Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and the president of the Rhode Island Police Chief’s Association, or their designee.

DSW advocates for the creation of study commissions focused on evaluating prostitution laws, addressing trafficking concerns, and identifying better ways to create support systems for both sex workers and trafficked people. A study commission should examine and provide recommendations on the health and safety impacts of revising laws related to commercial sexual activity; identify the methods of human trafficking and exploitation to develop strategies to reduce these activities; and ensure accountability in the treatment of marginalized and targeted communities by police. Prostitution laws are often applied in a way that creates an environment in which exploitation thrives. Those laws often disproportionately harm already marginalized communities. They also fail to meaningfully address the issue of human trafficking. There is a need to comprehensively research and then reform legal and support systems around sex work and trafficking in order to keep people safe and ensure access to resources.

Read our fact sheet on study commissions to review existing laws and address trafficking and exploitation here.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly, Henri June Bynx, and Alison Kolins stand in front of the Rhode Island State House.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly, Henri June Bynx, and Alison Kolins stand in front of the Rhode Island State House.

DSW Newsletter #37 (June 2022)

Burlington’s Vote To Strike Language on Sex Work From City Charter Becomes Law

June 8, 2022 Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed H.746, An act relating to an amendment to the charter of the City of Burlington, striking harmful language from the city’s charter. In March, 69% of Burlington residents voted...
Read More
Burlington’s Vote To Strike Language on Sex Work From City Charter Becomes Law

DSW Research and Project Manager Testifies at Legislative Study Commission

June 13, 2022 DSW Research and Project Manager J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly presented on the intersection of LGBTQIA individuals and sex workers’ rights at the June 13 meeting of a legislative study commission in Rhode Island. Oshiro-Brantly co-presented with...
Read More
DSW Research and Project Manager Testifies at Legislative Study Commission

A Long Overdue Bill Repealing the “Walking While Trans Ban” Heads to Gov. Newsom’s Desk

June 20, 2022 Nine months after passing the legislature, a bill that would repeal a provision of California law that prohibits “loitering in public for the purpose of engaging in prostitution” is in Governor Newsom’s hands. He...
Read More
A Long Overdue Bill Repealing the “Walking While Trans Ban” Heads to Gov. Newsom’s Desk

DSW Staff Commemorates Pride

June 26, 2022 DSW staff and allies took to the streets to show their support for LGBTQIA rights. They joined NYC’s Queer Liberation March for Trans and BIPOC Freedom, Reproductive Justice, and bodily autonomy. DSW Newsletter #37...
Read More
DSW Staff Commemorates Pride

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW, Allies, and Elected Officials Urge NY Legislature To Offer Immunity to Sex Workers & Survivors of Trafficking

May 10, 2022

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) — as part of ImmunityNY, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing harm and increasing safety by passing S.2233-A (Sepulveda)/A.255-A (Gottfried) — organized and participated in a day of meetings with press and legislators in Albany to encourage passage of this common sense legislation. It is good public health and criminal justice policy to allow consensual adult sex workers and survivors of human trafficking who are victims or witnesses of crime to report their experiences to law enforcement and healthcare providers without fear of prosecution for prostitution. Immunity laws benefit all communities by allowing law enforcement to better detect criminal activity.

This vital legislation would encourage sex workers and trafficking survivors who are crime victims and witnesses to report their experiences to law enforcement, receive medical care, and seek help. People involved in commercial sexual activity, whether by choice or because they are being trafficked, are often targeted by predators who know they are unlikely to report victimization or seek medical attention for fear of their own arrest. When abusers are not reported to law enforcement, they are able to continue their acts of violence and exploitation with impunity. “Because of the legal jeopardy they would be placed in, sex workers often do not report crimes when they are targeted for violence. This bill protects a victim or witness to a crime from prosecution for prostitution when seeking help, health care, or assisting in any investigation regardless if it results in a conviction. Similar to the ‘Good Samaritan’ laws of 2011, this bill protects people seeking assistance or seeking to simply do what’s right,” said Senate bill sponsor Senator Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx).

States across the country are increasingly adopting laws that grant some form of criminal legal immunity from prosecution for prostitution to people who report crimes – including California, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Utah, and Washington, where an immunity bill was signed into law by the governor in early May 2022. “Immunity legislation is gaining popularity across the country with bipartisan support and collaborative efforts between activists, survivors, legislators, and law enforcement, who are all in agreement that these policies are crucial in advancing public health and safety. Ensuring that perpetrators of violence cannot repeatedly exploit their victims’ vulnerability and allowing survivors of violence to seek help is common sense public policy, which is why immunity laws are increasingly common in other states,” said Rebecca Cleary, DSW staff attorney.

“The immunity bill is necessary to implement a framework of protection for sex workers who are victims of horrific crimes. Passing the immunity bill means freeing sex workers from institutional harm and the negative consequences created to enslave sex workers by traffickers who have become masterminds of the criminal justice system. Only a failed system won’t allow victims to tell their stories,” said Dawn Rowe, president and CEO of Girl Vow.

“Too often sex workers are afraid to report violent crimes committed against themselves or others, or even to seek health care for their injuries, because contact with police means likelihood of arrest,” said Assembly bill sponsor Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan). “Our laws create an inherently criminalized environment in which sex workers are targeted for violence. This would be an important step toward changing the dynamic between police and sex workers. It is similar to the ‘Good Samaritan’ law which protects people who seek help when someone suffers a drug overdose. All New Yorkers deserve safety from violence, and I hope we can advance this important bill.” Laura Mullen, who is a survivor and the co-founder of the Survivor Advisory Board and an anti-trafficking service advocate at ECLI-VIBES, shared, “Where I come from, criminals are criminals if you commit a crime, no matter the circumstances behind it. If only one person would have understood that I knew this and was scared of being arrested on my own or even alongside the person trafficking me, I would have used my voice to report him and other crimes that actual criminals committed. You see, they had a choice and I didn’t.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., released a statement in conjunction with the press conference and legislative meetings. “New York is safer when survivors and witnesses feel comfortable reporting crimes. But individuals involved in the commercial sex trade often feel reluctant to report crimes because they are afraid they will be prosecuted themselves for prostitution offenses.” He implored the legislature to pass the bill. “Silencing these individuals does not protect us, it only protects the perpetrators of the crimes these survivors and witnesses are too afraid to report,” Bragg added.

New York residents can send a letter in support of this critical legislation here.

Learn more about immunity/good samaritan/safe reporting laws for sex workers and survivors of trafficking around the country here.

Melissa Broudo speaks during the press conference.

Melissa Broudo speaks during the press conference.

DSW Newsletter #36 (May 2022)

Vermont Legislature Ratifies Burlington’s Vote To Strike Archaic and Discriminatory Language from City Charter

May 10, 2022 The Vermont Senate voted to pass Burlington’s charter change, striking harmful language from the city charter. In March, 69% of Burlington residents voted to support equity, safety, and dignity by opting to remove the...
Read More
Vermont Legislature Ratifies Burlington’s Vote To Strike Archaic and Discriminatory Language from City Charter

DSW, Allies, and Elected Officials Urge NY Legislature To Offer Immunity to Sex Workers & Survivors of Trafficking

May 10, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) — as part of ImmunityNY, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing harm and increasing safety by passing S.2233-A (Sepulveda)/A.255-A (Gottfried) — organized and participated in a day of meetings...
Read More
DSW, Allies, and Elected Officials Urge NY Legislature To Offer Immunity to Sex Workers & Survivors of Trafficking

DSW Legal Director Testifies During Legislative Study Commission

April 25, 2022 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo presented on the differences and distinctions between human trafficking and consensual adult sex work at the April 25 meeting of a legislative study commission in Rhode Island. She co-presented...
Read More
DSW Legal Director Testifies During Legislative Study Commission

DSW Staff Share Their Expertise

May 2, 2022 Throughout the month of May, DSW staff participated in a number of panels and discussions highlighting the harms of criminalization, pending legislation on sex work, and reminding sex workers of their rights! DSW Legal...
Read More
DSW Staff Share Their Expertise

DSW Newsletter Archive

DSW Staff Share Their Expertise

May 2, 2022

Throughout the month of May, DSW staff participated in a number of panels and discussions highlighting the harms of criminalization, pending legislation on sex work, and reminding sex workers of their rights!

———

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo joined the New York County Lawyers Association for their May 2 webinar, “Pending Legislation on Sex Work Decriminalization.”

The New York County Lawyers Association provided this description of the program: The criminal justice system’s approach to sex work has changed in recent years as some area district attorneys’ offices have pledged to stop prosecuting some sex work related offenses, while some continue to prosecute those accused of patronizing and third parties.

Still, the continued criminalization of sex work disproportionately affects the LGBTQ community, communities of color and immigrant communities where, for many, sex work remains a means of survival in the face of economic insecurity.

Pending legislation in Albany (the “Stop the Violence in the Sex Trades Act” S3075/A849) aims to decriminalize sex work between consenting adults and allow workers a safe and secure environment, without the stigma and fear of judgment, arrest, and incarceration. Meanwhile, the “Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act” proposes asymmetrical criminalization [or client criminalization], eliminating penalties for some sex work related offenses, while levying fines against customers, roommates, drivers, and others. Both bills would continue to criminalize sex trafficking, exploitation, and coercion.

———

DSW was proud to sponsor and participate in Equality New York’s 2022 advocacy day. The day was filled with compelling and educational panels, discussions, and legislator meetings. DSW Research and Project Manager J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly, volunteer attorney Alison Kolins and Legal Director Melissa Broudo traveled to Albany to take part in the event. Melissa Broudo moderated “The Criminalization of Sexuality: From Banned Books to Prison Walls,” during which panelists “explored the linkage from repressive/no sexual health education (banned books/banned teachings) to criminalization of people for gender expression and sexual acts (i.e. prostitution). The continuum of stigmatization and marginalization across these divergent — but connected — issues is central to understanding the continued backlash queer and trans folks receive when there are cultural and legal shifts. Silencing, shaming, stigmatizing, and ultimately criminalizing people for who they are or what they do with their bodies is a continuum that must be examined and fought.”

———

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly hosted the 2022 Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary, and Intersex (TGNCNBI) Advocacy Day, spearheaded by New York Transgender Advocacy Group and the New York State Gender Diversity Coalition. The full day of programming included “Sex Work Issues and Legislation,” during which DSW Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary and Ceyenne Doroshow discussed the fight to decriminalize sex work and lift up sex workers, the 2021 repeal of the “Walking While Trans Ban,” the pending immunity bill, and Supreme Court Justice Alito’s leaked draft opinion on abortion rights and its connection to sex work.

———

Melissa Broudo and J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly traveled to DomCon in Los Angeles where they shared information about the critical need to decriminalize consensual adult sex work throughout the conference and also presented “Sex Work, Fetish Work, and the Law.” Their presentation explained the different legal and regulatory bodies that affect people involved in all forms of sex work, including fetish work — even in ways that one may not expect. They also discussed how to navigate legal digital spaces post-SESTA/FOSTA.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly and Melissa Broudo pose at DomCon.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly and Melissa Broudo pose at DomCon.

Melissa Broudo moderates “The Criminalization of Sexuality: From Banned Books to Prison Walls” during Equality NY’s Advocacy Day.

Melissa Broudo moderates “The Criminalization of Sexuality: From Banned Books to Prison Walls” during Equality NY’s Advocacy Day.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly and Melissa Broudo join other advocates for a press conference during Equality New York’s Advocacy Day.

J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly and Melissa Broudo join other advocates for a press conference during Equality New York’s Advocacy Day.

DSW Newsletter #36 (May 2022)

Vermont Legislature Ratifies Burlington’s Vote To Strike Archaic and Discriminatory Language from City Charter

May 10, 2022 The Vermont Senate voted to pass Burlington’s charter change, striking harmful language from the city charter. In March, 69% of Burlington residents voted to support equity, safety, and dignity by opting to remove the...
Read More
Vermont Legislature Ratifies Burlington’s Vote To Strike Archaic and Discriminatory Language from City Charter

DSW, Allies, and Elected Officials Urge NY Legislature To Offer Immunity to Sex Workers & Survivors of Trafficking

May 10, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) — as part of ImmunityNY, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reducing harm and increasing safety by passing S.2233-A (Sepulveda)/A.255-A (Gottfried) — organized and participated in a day of meetings...
Read More
DSW, Allies, and Elected Officials Urge NY Legislature To Offer Immunity to Sex Workers & Survivors of Trafficking

DSW Legal Director Testifies During Legislative Study Commission

April 25, 2022 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo presented on the differences and distinctions between human trafficking and consensual adult sex work at the April 25 meeting of a legislative study commission in Rhode Island. She co-presented...
Read More
DSW Legal Director Testifies During Legislative Study Commission

DSW Staff Share Their Expertise

May 2, 2022 Throughout the month of May, DSW staff participated in a number of panels and discussions highlighting the harms of criminalization, pending legislation on sex work, and reminding sex workers of their rights! DSW Legal...
Read More
DSW Staff Share Their Expertise

DSW Newsletter Archive