DSW Hosts Unity Reception in NYC

May 2, 2019

DSW hosted a delightful evening that was both a celebration and a rallying cry at the Cornell Club in NYC. With exquisite performances by Essence Revealed and sweet jams by DJ Mikey Palms, speakers included Dame Catherine Healy (from New Zealand), Ceyenne Doroshow, and DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey. Activists, donors, and reporters came together to celebrate and commit to the long road ahead fighting for a future where we listen to sex workers and offer help — not handcuffs.

Our guest of honor, Dame Catherine Healy, is a former sex worker and lifelong activist who was bestowed the title “Dame” by Queen Elizabeth II for her successful campaign to decriminalize sex work in New Zealand. She has worked toward better working conditions for sex workers for over 20 years. She treated those gathered to some incredible insight and inspiring words. We will all look back on that night in the difficult years to come.

She came to the United States to meet with us and other activists to strategize and discuss her methods for achieving her legislative victories. In addition to joining us in New York, she also offered compelling testimony in Rhode Island and met with activists in San Francisco, Seattle, and Honolulu.

Essence Revealed wows the crowd of supporters May 2 at the Cornell Club.

Dame Catherine Healy wows the crowd with words of wisdom May 2 at the Cornell Club.

Kaytlin Bailey, Kat Timf, Ceyenne Doroshow and Lee Quan stand in solidarity for sex worker rights.

Essence Revealed strikes a pose with Ceyenne Doroshow at the Cornell Club on May 2.

DSW’s Kaytlin Bailey lets those gathered know who we are and what we’re trying to do on May 2 at the Cornell Club.

J Leigh Brantly, Melissa Broudo, Kaytlin Bailey, Crystal DeBoise, Avery Mauel, and Dame Catherine Healy on May 2 at the Cornell Club.

Experts Urge RI Legislators to Study Decriminalization

April 30, 2019

After months of planning and inviting an all-star cast of witnesses, DSW had its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island Legislature. State Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) presented bill H5354, which would create a temporary commission to study the effects of laws prohibiting commercial sexual activity. Approximately 15 witnesses, invited by DSW and COYOTE Rhode Island, testified in favor of the bill, with no witnesses opposed. The potential study commission would be a crucial first step to legislative acceptance of decriminalizing sex work, as the commission is expected to provide accurate data and thoughtful recommendations to state officials in early 2020.

We had more than 35 letters of support from individuals and organizations all over the country including Amnesty International, St. James’ Infirmary, Dame Catherine Healy, SWOP Behind Bars, and many more.

This lobby process and bill could not have been possible without the incredible work and partnership with COYOTE Rhode Island and students, faculty, and staff at Brown University.

Read the bill text here and watch the testimony here.

From UpriseRI: Rhode Island House considers creating a study commission to examine laws on sex work

Kate Mogulescu, Esq., lead attorney for the ABA Survivor Reentry Project; Jillian Modzeleski, Esq., senior trial attorney for Human Trafficking Intervention Court; Dame Catherine Healy; Jill McCracken, PhD; Scott Cunningham, PhD; and Melissa Broudo, Esq. (L to R) work to prepare for their testimony before the RI House Judiciary Committee.

Jillian Modzeleski, Esq.; Elena Shih, PhD; Bella Robinson from COYOTE RI; Malana Krongelb, Brown student; Dayana Taverez, Brown student; Dame Catherine Healy; Scott Cunningham, PhD; Jill McCracken, PhD; Kate Mogulescu, Esq.; Yeonhoo Cho, Brown student; Melissa Broudo, Esq.; and Meghan Peterson, MPH candidate from Brown University (L to R) celebrate after their testimony before the RI House Judiciary Committee.

DSW Billboard Challenges Lawmakers in Florida

April 27, 2019

Multiple police departments in Florida have recently staged news conferences to cast themselves as heroes who have “rescued” women from “slavery” … by handcuffing them. 

Devastating stings that result in criminal records and broken families are common, but when Robert Kraft, the widowed owner of the New England Patriots, received a high-profile hand job it provided an opportunity to show people what these “rescue” operations actually look like.

The billboard shows a Chinese woman being arrested, which is exactly what Florida police officers did to the 14 working at 10 massage parlors in south Florida. Handcuffs are not help. Arrest is not rescue. Policing is not protection.

We hope that what’s happening to sex workers in Florida is a national wake-up call and a teachable moment. We all want to stop trafficking, violence, and exploitation within the sex industry. No one is more invested in stopping this abuse than sex workers themselves. Instead of arresting them, we should be listening.

This billboard, which DSW workshopped, designed, and sponsored, was up for 4 weeks in April and May 2019 to highlight the hypocrisy of doing prostitution raids in the name of "human trafficking"

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.