Sex Workers Host News Conference in Florida

April 22, 2019

All eyes are on Florida because of the high-profile stings on massage parlors. DSW teamed up with sex workers and allies in Florida to draw attention to what criminalizing sex work actually looks like: vulnerable women in handcuffs. DSW and SWOP Behind Borders staged a news conference in Orlando to push the messages of LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS; JUST STOP THE ARRESTS; and HELP, NOT HANDCUFFS.

SWOP Behind Bars, SWOP Orlando, SWOP Tampa, the Sex Worker Solidarity Network, and FL NOW stood together to stand up for sex worker rights and the women of Florida. They spoke about the devastating impact of arrests and the bad bills being pushed through the Florida legislature that would create a prostitution registry and increase police surveillance of sex workers.

Lawmakers want to help victims of human trafficking, but they can't do that if they refuse to listen to sex workers.

The media is starting to take note of what’s happening in Florida:

A Government Database for People Who Pay for Sex Is a Terrible, Dangerous Idea (Vice; May 10, 2019)

Florida Is Creating a New Sex Offender Registry Just for Prostitution Customers (Reason, May 9, 2019)

Read our press release here.

Sex Workers and Allies To Hold News Conference in Orlando, FL

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org  (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
April 18, 2019

Sex Workers and Allies to Hold News Conference in Orlando, FL

Responding to the escalation of police stings targeting minority-owned massage parlors, sex workers and their allies will be holding a news conference on April 22 in Orlando.  To illustrate that this is a statewide problem, the news conference is being held in the center of the state during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

WHO: Kaytlin Bailey, a former sex worker from Decriminalize Sex Work; Kim Porteous, Vice President of Greater Orlando NOW; Maya Moreno, an undocumented immigrant and sex worker from Honduras; and advocated for harm reduction and victims rights will join SWOP Behind Bars, SWOP Orlando, and SWOP Tampa Bay.  (“SWOP” stands for “Sex Workers Outreach Project”.)

WHAT: Holding handcuffs and standing in front of the courthouse, holding signs protesting the arrest and incarceration of people in the sex industry.

WHEN: 12:00 to 12:45 on Monday, April 22, 2019

WHERE: Front of City Hall at 400 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32703

WHY: Laws targeting sex workers are a war on women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and immigrants. The vulnerable communities impacted by overzealous policing are demanding to be heard in Florida.

Those speaking at the protest will highlight that people who are charged with prostitution are not being “rescued” when they’re arrested, detained, imprisoned, and given lifelong criminal records. This stigma then follows them for the rest of their lives, often making it harder to find jobs, obtain housing, or report abusive situations to the police.

“Sex work should be decriminalized, because our government has no right to police our bodies,” said Kaytlin Bailey, the communications director for a new national organization called Decriminalize Sex Work. “Arresting sex workers isn’t a way of protecting them.  It’s a way of protecting societal patriarchy.”

If you are unable to attend the press conference, a live stream will be available here: livefeed.decriminalizesex.work

–end–

Sex Workers Are Organizing Against Proposed Prostitution Registry in Florida

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org  (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NY
March 26, 2019

Sex Workers Are Organizing Against Proposed Prostitution Registry in Florida

Half a dozen sex worker rights activists traveled from all over Florida to fight a proposed law that will target them and their clients. They are building a coalition of organizations to fight efforts to increase surveillance and policing of the oldest profession, including a new prostitution registry which would permanently and publicly list anyone arrested for prostitution-related offenses.

Florida Senate Bill 540 and House Bill 851 falsely claim to be trying to help victims of human trafficking, but sex workers know that these laws will only make violence and exploitation within the sex industry worse. Alex Andrews from SWOP Behind Bars has been fighting for people incarcerated for prostitution for 11 years, she’s seen up close the devastating effects of criminalization.

Andrews said, “These lawmakers think they’re helping but they won’t listen to us. We know how to stop trafficking, we can start by stopping the arrests for prostitution.”

Grace Taylor, who traveled from Tampa, told legislators that “They need to listen to sex workers. I’ve been a sex worker for over 15 years, I’m in my 50’s. Listen to me.”

Christine Hanavan traveled from Orlando to  explain to her elected officials that policing prostitution doesn’t help anyone, least of all victims of trafficking. Hanavan  said, “Our concerns are for survivors and current victims of human trafficking in the sex industry, adult consensual sex workers, and people who don’t fit neatly into one category. All of us share the goal of ending human trafficking. All of us want better services for victims and survivors.”

Six brave women are speaking to their elected representatives in Florida today. Let’s see if their legislators can hear them. They are joined by Florida National Organization for Women (NOW,) the National Center for Transgender Equality, Positive Women’s Network-USA, Restorative Justice Coalition, Sex Worker Solidarity Network, Sex Worker Outreach Program (SWOP) Behind Bars, SWOP Tampa & SWOP Orlando.

-end-

Eight Women Charged With Prostitution After “Rescue Operation”

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work

Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org   (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NY
March 7, 2019

Eight Women Charged With Prostitution After “Rescue Operation”

Only one woman arrested during the much acclaimed “rescue operation” in South Florida last week is willing to cooperate with police. So instead of being rescued, eight women are now being charged with prostitution and related crimes.

The police have spent the last week bragging about their role in breaking up a “multi billion dollar international sex trafficking ring.” They had a splashy press conference and they named and shamed a lot of men who paid for hand jobs over the course of their investigation.

After months of surveillance, there is no evidence of trafficking and no one is being charged with those crimes. Instead, eight women were handcuffed and humiliated; their assets have been seized; and they have all been charged with prostitution. Decriminalize Sex Work Director of Communications Kaytlin Bailey says, “The police have the audacity to call these bullying tactics a rescue operation.”

Multiple agencies in South Florida have spent the better part of a year investigating three massage parlors and determined that on average, once every three days a licensed, legally working masseur helps her client achieve ejaculation. Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars went toward this discovery.

There were no complaints from the spa’s neighbors or passersby. The only complaint seemed to be that there weren’t enough hand jobs happening on the premises. More than half of the Yelp reviews expressed disappointment that they had wanted sexual contact but did not receive it.  Some clients did receive sexual contact. And some of that contact was with undercover police officers who felt it necessary to have their balls touched before arresting these “sex slaves.”

On November 26, 2017, the NYPD tried to “rescue” Yang Song in Flushing, Queens. She threw herself out of a third story window and fell to her death. She landed at the foot of the undercover police officer who moments before was trying to entrap her. Bailey continues, “These officers are not heroes, they’re bullies. They literally kill the women they claim to be rescuing.”

-end-

Ohio Vice Cop Forces Women To Choose Between Arrest and Rape

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org  (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
March 5, 2019

Ohio Vice Cop Forces Women to Choose Between Arrest and Rape

The criminalization of sex workers makes them more vulnerable to predators who want to rape or kill them. Andrew Mitchell, the Ohio police officer who murdered single mother and sex worker Donna Dalton after trapping her in his unmarked vehicle last August, has been arrested by the FBI for kidnapping and raping multiple women. The Columbus, Ohio, vice cop is accused of trapping women “under the guise of an arrest,” transporting them to another location, and offering his victims freedom in exchange for oral, vaginal and anal sex.

Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for Decriminalize Sex Work, says, “The criminalization of sex work perverts the power of police officers, and enables predators like Mitchell to prey on women instead of protecting them.”

Crystal DeBoise, an anti-trafficking expert and advocate, says “Although U.S. police departments don’t release information about their officers having sexual contact with sex workers, in my 10 years of providing direct social services to sex workers, I can tell you that at least 40% have been forced or coerced into sexual contact with a police officer.”

There is also no national data on how many police officers have abused sex workers, or suspected sex workers. In many states it is legal for law enforcement officers to make sexual contact with those suspected of prostitution and then use that sexual contact to make an arrest. In any other context we would call this what it is, rape. Bailey says, “Police officers are already literally hunting prostitutes.”

Bailey concludes, “The difference between what Mitchell did and what police departments are asked to do all over the country is how much paperwork was involved.”

–end–

What Robert Kraft Did Should Not Be Illegal

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org  (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NY
February 22, 2019

What Robert Kraft Did Should Not Be Illegal

In response to the high-profile arrest of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, for getting a “happy ending” massage from a spa in south Florida that’s well known for providing such services, we believe it is time to reevaluate the way we police prostitution. The Juniper police are trying to convince the press, and the public, that Mr. Kraft and the 200 other people being charged in relation to this sting operation are human traffickers, but law enforcement has provided no evidence that any minors — or victims of force, fraud, or coercion — were involved.

Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications for Decriminalize Sex Work, said, “If no minors or coercion were involved, no one should have been arrested, including Mr. Kraft.” Far from bullying or coercing an unwilling massage therapist into committing sex acts against their will, Mr. Kraft and the other patrons limited their “solicitations” to a well known “rub and tug” establishment.

In addition to facing up to 60 days in jail, Mr. Kraft and the other men arrested will be forced to attend and pay for classes colloquially called “John Schools,” many of which are religiously affiliated and conflate all forms of adult consensual sex work with the rare and terrible crime of human trafficking.

The police in Palm Beach, Florida spent months and thousands of taxpayer dollars surveilling this spa. They staged a bomb threat to evacuate the building in order to install hidden cameras, and they spent hundreds of police hours spying on unwitting people. Currently, Palm Beach has over 8,500 unsolved rape cases. Bailey continued, “Instead of arresting men who pay women money for sex acts, police should be investigating the men who think they can just take it.”

Alex Andrews, cofounder of SWOP Behind Bars, which is based in Florida, said, “All of the so-called victims in this case were taken away in handcuffs. If the police were serious about combating human trafficking, they’d be investigating hotels, restaurants, and the agricultural industry. Arresting adults for consensual sex helps no one.”

– end –

Florida Senate Considers Creating Prostitution Registry

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work

Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org (919) 649-7725 (cell)

NEW YORK, NY
February 21, 2019

Florida Senate Considers Creating Prostitution Registry

Florida Senate Bill 540 with the Orwellian title “Human Trafficking” would create a registry for people found guilty of the loosely defined crime of “soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring” another to commit “prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.” Such people, once prosecuted, would be added to a registry entitled “Soliciting for Prostitution Registry.” Registries have long been a dystopian nightmare for sex workers, as stigma against the profession all but guarantees a host of predictable and preventable problems — from future employment discrimination, to ugly custody battles and domestic violence.

This bill, if it becomes a law, would also require any public lodging establishment to train its employees in the dubious skill of spotting “human trafficking.” These notorious trainings are conducted by a tapestry of organizations that profit from the conflation of sex work between consenting adults with trafficking, which is legally defined only when a minor is involved or there is force, fraud, or coercion.

Alex Andrews — co-founder of Sex Worker Outreach Program Behind Bars, a national social justice organization dedicated to the rights of people who face discrimination in the criminal justice system due to the stigma associated with the sex trade — says, “A prostitution registry is yet another legislative knee jerk reaction to a community based problem that will cause far more harm to marginalized members of our community.” Andrews points out that “women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population” and that “policies like this will just make it harder for people to escape a punitive criminal justice system that offers no solutions for people in poverty.”

“This bill is part of a national trend cracking down on the freedom of movement for women, trans people and other overly policed minorities,” said Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications for Decriminalize Sex Work. “Historically, efforts to police the oldest profession have resulted in policies that trap the very people these laws are ostensibly supposed to help.” The mission of Decriminalize Sex Work, a new national organization, is “to end the prohibition of prostitution in the United States.”  

Alex Andrews says, “Surely we have evolved from a culture that punishes a human being with a scarlet letter that they can’t escape. Let’s create better and more accessible services for victims and survivors, not force them to sign up for a lifetime of discrimination.” Her organization hopes to see efforts to prevent trafficking redirected to services that might help people escape cycles of poverty instead of punishing them. Kaytlin Bailey adds that “if hotels, airlines, restaurants, and state governments want to crack down on labor trafficking and exploitation I suggest they allow unions to advocate for better working conditions, not sic the police on the most vulnerable.”

Both organizations are a part of the growing sex-workers rights movement. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published research showing that sex workers suffering under repressive policing are three times more likely to experience violence as those who live in countries like New Zealand, where prostitution is no longer a crime. This study bolsters the recommendations and official policies of the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, and the ACLU, all of which support ending criminalization.  

You can contact Alex Andrews for comment at alex@swopusa.org or (407)310-0879.

– end –

Prostitution Advocacy Group Launches National Campaign To Decriminalize Sex Work

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work

Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org (919) 649-7725 (cell)
NEW YORK, NY
***EMBARGOED UNTIL 5:00 p.m. ET on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3***

Prostitution Advocacy Group Launches National Campaign to Decriminalize Sex Work

In response to the new federal law that resulted in widespread censorship of websites that include sexual content, a new national organization has formed to repeal this law and decriminalize sex work nationwide.

The mission of Decriminalize Sex Work — a new national organization with offices in Austin, New York City, and Washington, D.C. — is “to end the prohibition of prostitution in the United States.” The organization’s national strategy is to inform the public about the harms caused by prohibition, with a focus on lobbying state governments to remove penalties for adult prostitution and all other forms of consensual sex work if conducted in private.

The organization’s ideal state legislation removes all penalties for consensual, adult sex work if conducted in private residences, hotel rooms, or licensed business locations known as brothels. Nevada, which is the only state to allow any form of legal prostitution, permits paid sex to occur only in brothels that are located in rural counties — not Las Vegas or Reno hotel rooms — which is why Nevada has the highest arrest rate among the 50 states.

“Dozens of allied organizations are already doing great work advocating for decriminalization,” said Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for Decriminalize Sex Work. “What makes our organization different is that Donald Trump’s new law inspired a California philanthropist to donate sufficient seed money to pay for a full-time staff and lobbying firms even before our organization’s public launch today.”

The objectionable federal law is known as SESTA-FOSTA. On the Senate side, the bill’s name was “Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act,” and on the House side the bill was called “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.” The two bills were combined into one and enacted into law by Congress and President Trump on April 11, 2018.

“Since the federal government banned adult matchmaking on the web, many sex workers have left their homes and hit the streets as a way of advertising their services,” said Bailey. “BackPage and other transparent websites often cooperated with law enforcement to find minors and other trafficking victims, in addition to providing a mutual review system to protect people from predators who pose as clients and escorts.”

DSW’s team includes a criminal-defense lawyer who has advocated for and defended sex workers and survivors of trafficking for 12 years; a social worker who has worked with humantrafficking victims for 20 years; a former sex worker (Kaytlin Bailey); three activists who come from the marijuana-legalization movement; and a pair of bipartisan lobbying firms in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

“The new federal prohibition brought together a critical mass of money and activists that is now snowballing and will soon cause an avalanche of legal reforms across the country,” said Bailey.

DSW cited numerous reasons for how society would benefit from making adult, consensual prostitution legal instead of criminal:

   * The vast majority of paid sexual activities involve consenting adults. Removing these adults from the criminal system will free up law enforcement to focus on the minority of sex crimes that involve minors, force, and fraud, which includes human trafficking.

   * By allowing sex workers to advertise their adult services discreetly on the web and elsewhere, sex workers will no longer need to “advertise” themselves on street corners, which will be a boon to community groups that complain about public activity but are unconcerned about private sex.

* If prostitution is no longer a crime, sex workers and their colleagues will be liberated to report human traffickers and other predators to police without fear of themselves being arrested.

“Back in the 1920s, it was the prohibition of alcohol — not the use of alcohol — that created public violence that threatened the safety of alcohol users and the community at large,” said Bailey. “Today, the prohibition of sex work — not the simple act of paid sex — actually increases the power of human traffickers, causes harm to minors, creates arrest records for prostitutes and survivors of trafficking who are otherwise law-abiding adults, and threatens the community’s health at large.”

The sex-workers rights movement benefits from the expansive, international research on this topic. Just last month, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published research showing that sex workers suffering under repressive policing are three times more likely to experience violence as those who live in countries like New Zealand, where prostitution is no longer a crime. This study bolsters the recommendations and official policies of the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, and the ACLU, all of which support ending criminalization.

– end –