For press inquiries, contact Ariela Moscowitz: Ariela@dswork.org | 212-368-7874

Vermont Governor Approves Law Combating Crime & Exploitation

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Media Contact:
Ariela Moscowitz, director of communications
Ariela@DSWork.org |
(212) 368-7874

Vermont Governor Approves Law Combating Crime & Exploitation

Montpelier, VT (May 17, 2021) — Today Governor Phil Scott approved legislation that will provide limited criminal immunity to people who report a crime committed against them, or which they witnessed, while voluntarily involved in sex work or while a victim of human trafficking.

Sex workers and advocates for survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence testified in support of H.18, an act relating to sexual exploitation of children and limited immunity from liability for a person reporting a crime, commonly referred to as a “Good Samaritan Law.” The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Tom Burditt and Democratic Rep. Maxine Grad. The provision on limited criminal immunity was added to the bill as an amendment without controversy and with minimal debate.

“As insiders of the sex industry, we are often the first line of defense against trafficking. … We can spot signs of exploitation or coercion that are subtle and easy to miss, but we cannot report that or intervene safely in a criminalized or fear-based stigmatized environment,” noted J. Leigh Oshiro-Brantly, research and project manager at Decriminalize Sex Work.

“Passing this bill means that a pimp or an abuser could no longer threaten arrest to exploit a sex worker or survivor of trafficking, which is a common tactic of exploitation,” said Henri Bynx, co-founder and co-director of The Ishtar Collective, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization serving sex workers, survivors of violence, and trafficking. They continued saying, “It shows lawmakers care about us, as people. They are taking action to protect our safety by giving us equal protection under the law.”

H.18 is critical to protecting the human rights, health, and safety of all Vermonters. Kelly Arbor, Testing and Education Manager at Vermont CARES, says, “If I’m in a dangerous situation, I need all the tools in my tool belt … if I need to call the police … if I need that tool, I should have the right to make that call. And until we [had] a Good Samaritan Law, sex workers [didn’t] have that right.”

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Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual adult prostitution in the United States. DSW works with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.

Senators Merkley and Sasse Introduce Bill That Infringes on Privacy Rights

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Media Contact:
Ariela Moscowitz, director of communications
Ariela@DSWork.org |
(212)368-7874

Senators Merkley and Sasse Introduce Bill That Infringes on Privacy Rights

NEW YORK (Dec. 24, 2020) — U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA) last week. They claim that the bill’s purpose is to protect children, who cannot consent, and adults who have not consented to the sharing of pornographic images of them online. However, forty-six states and Washington, D.C. have anti-revenge porn laws in place and federal law prohibits the production, distribution, importation, reception, or possession of any image of child pornography. This bill is unnecessary and infringes on the rights and income of adults who engage in sex work consensually.

SISEA is like other misguided initiatives such as the EARN IT ACT and SESTA/FOSTA. Proponents of these laws argue that they combat human trafficking, although the laws, as written, fail to punish traffickers. Instead, they undercut the most crucial statute protecting freedom of speech on the internet (Communications Decency Act 230) and endanger the safety, health, and human rights of consensual sex workers and trafficking victims. Far from being a tool to combat sexual exploitation, SESTA/FOSTA ultimately forced websites to close, endangering sex workers and leading to their increased exploitation and financial desperation.

A recent barrage of anti-sex policies, including Instagram’s changes to its terms of service, threatens free speech and harms sex workers. Decriminalize Sex Work’s legal director Melissa Broudo explained, “There is a clear, consistent, and targeted attack on sex workers online under the guise of protecting women and ensuring safety; ironically, all of these measures will ultimately harm those who are the most marginalized. They all fail to target actual trafficking, but instead seek to censor and obstruct people’s ability to work independently and safely.”

Merkley and Sasse claim that this bill is about privacy, but it requires individuals to volunteer sensitive information. The bill calls for people who do not want their pornographic content posted online to enter identifying information into a database. Though the bill mentions that identifying information would be protected, it requires platforms that host pornographic content to cross check their information against the database, with no practical guidance on how to do this without breaching confidentiality. The consequences for an individual whose name is made public and associated with this database could be disastrous. Similarly, individuals who upload videos must trust that online platforms will protect their information.

The bill would create an impossible burden for most platforms. Smaller platforms, especially, will either shut down or ban all pornographic content completely, leaving sex workers who rely on these sites without income. SISEA was introduced as Congress announced Americans would receive $600.00, if they receive anything at all, which many argue does nothing to ease the financial devastation caused by COVID-19. This bill adds injury to insult for the most marginalized workers.

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Decriminalize Sex Work is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual adult prostitution in the United States. We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.

Advocacy Group Launches Grants Program for Decriminalizing Prostitution

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Media Contact:
Ariela Moscowitz, director of communications
Ariela@DSWork.org |
(212)368-7874

Advocacy Group Launches Grants Program for Decriminalizing Prostitution

NEW YORK (Dec. 1, 2020) – Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) launched a $150,000 grants program to fund projects that will have a measurable impact on decriminalizing adult prostitution in the U.S. DSW runs the only grants portfolio that exclusively funds projects to decriminalize consensual adult prostitution in the U.S. Most grants will be directed to sex worker-led organizations working to change laws on the local and state levels.

DSW awarded grants to the following recipients:

Ceyenne Doroshow — Founder and executive director of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (G.L.I.T.S.) in NYC. G.L.I.T.S. addresses the stigmatization and criminalization of trans people due to laws prohibiting sex work. Ceyenne is also a prominent leader in the Black Trans Lives Matter movement and has been featured in national news outlets such as Vogue, GQ , and The Wall Street Journal.

The Ishtar Collective — Vermont’s first-ever anti-trafficking and sex-worker-rights organization run by current and former sex workers, industry allies and survivors of human trafficking local to Vermont.

SWOP Behind Bars — A national organization that assists currently and formerly incarcerated sex workers.

“In a grossly underfunded movement, $150,000 of grant money has the potential to make a big impact on decriminalizing consensual adult prostitution,” said Crystal DeBoise, DSW’s director of strategic partnerships. “Our grants program will support local, on-the-ground activists who share a mission to decriminalize sex work, promote health and safety, and fight human trafficking.”

Organizations that advocate for sex workers’ rights and practical solutions to ending human trafficking are gravely underfunded. The lack of funding is a result of stigma and misunderstandings about these populations. Also, a large share of the federal money allocated to stopping human trafficking is misused by law enforcement to arrest consensual adult sex workers and their clients.

DSW accepts grants on a rolling basis. Applicants should submit a letter of intent on DSW’s website.

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Decriminalize Sex Work is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual adult prostitution in the United States. We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.

EARN IT Act Is a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

New animation shows how the EARN IT Act, now on the Senate floor, will curtail end-to-end encrypted messages, ending internet privacy as we know it.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – July 22 – The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020, also known as the EARN IT Act, by a unanimous vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has moved to the Senate floor. The bill was originally introduced by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. If this dangerous bill becomes law, it will end private communication on the internet.

The EARN IT Act is part of a long history of using sex panics to expand state power. If we fall for it this time we may effectively end freedom of expression and open communication on the internet as we know it. To raise awareness of this wolf in sheep’s clothing, Decriminalize Sex Work, a national advocacy organization, has released a new animated short:

EARN IT threatens website providers’ and other intermediaries’ ability to provide end-to-end encrypted services. End-to-end encryption is critical to ensuring private communication and often personal safety.

“Do voters really want the government snooping into their most private communication, with therapists, journalists, or intimate friends?” asks Kaytlin Bailey, Communications Director for Decriminalize Sex Work. “It’s easy to imagine how Trump’s DOJ will abuse these new surveillance tools to attack whistleblowers, protestors, and adult consensual sex workers.”

End-to-end encryption allows journalists to communicate about sensitive issues with sources, allows doctors to communicate with patients, and allows the average person to share sensitive financial information with trusted people. EARN IT can destroy all of this by exposing web platforms to an “enormous number of lawsuits in which they will potentially face liability for their choice to protect users’ privacy and security through end-to-end encryption (E2EE),” according to Emma Llansó with the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Prosecutors and civil litigants will point to the encrypted status of an intermediary’s services as a relevant consideration in their claims, even for criminal and civil provisions with a ‘knowingly’ mens rea. Even if an intermediary successfully defends against a particular claim, the consistent threat of litigation, and challenge to their decision to employ encryption, will be a strong disincentive against providing E2EE and continuing to have to defend that decision in court.”

“We can learn from the damaging consequences of the 2018 Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA),” says Bailey. “Donald Trump signed FOSTA-SESTA into law in April of 2018 to devastating effects. Rather than protecting children and victims of sex trafficking, this set of laws has made sex work more dangerous.”

Llansó writes, “The clear lesson from the SESTA-FOSTA debacle: When content hosts, website operators, social media services, search engines, and other intermediaries face increased legal risk for user-generated content, it is the users who end up suffering, a cost often borne by the most vulnerable.”

Like so many of the save-the-children bills before it, EARN IT will not combat child sexual exploitation, but it will be the largest expansion of state surveillance powers in recent history, eliminating private communication on the internet.

Decriminalize Sex Work

Decriminalize Sex Work is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual, adult prostitution in the United States. We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.


Kaytlin Bailey
Communications Director
512-942-6078 Ext 1
kaytlin@dsworg.org

Decriminalizing Sex Work Is Part of Reducing Police Brutality

Anti-prostitution laws are often used to target poor people of color. This often leads to arrest, incarceration, and trauma, rather than assistance or support.

NEW YORK, NY – June 19 –  The conflation of sex work and trafficking has led to a dramatic increase in funding for law-enforcement departments. As a result, law-enforcement officers raid and arrest adult consensual sex workers and their clients, often in the name of rescuing and saving sex-trafficking victims. These policies and priorities have done little to help victims of trafficking or violence. Decriminalizing sex work is one way to redirect resources from law enforcement to the social services that communities want.

“Instead of help, these people are getting put in jail”, explains Ceyenne Doroshow, founder and executive director of GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society) and community engagement consultant for Decriminalize Sex Work. “In the arrest, you are taking away the autonomy of a Black, trans sex worker.” Ceyenne continues, “You are taking away their equity, their mental stability. You are breaking what was already broken because of society and policing. Recidivism is because of the trauma they face in prison and in arrest. And if I had my way, I would go after the police union as they keep excusing bad behavior.“

Laws such as loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense give police the pretext to engage and arrest marginalized women. For example, in New York City in 2018, there were 139 people arrested for loitering for the purposes of prostitution, 95% of them persons of color, and a disproportionate amount of them transwomen. That same year more than 500 people were arrested for prostitution in NYC, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and transwomen of color.

Too often, police abuse their power and sexually assault their targets, like the case of West Sacramento, California police officer Sergio Alvarez, who raped several sex workers. In 2018, an undercover Columbus, Ohio police officer shot and killed 23-year-old sex worker Donna Dalton (a.k.a. Donna Castleberry) in an unmarked police car. In 2017, Yang Song leaped to her death to avoid arrest by NYC vice raiding the massage parlor where she worked.

Tens of thousands of people are arrested annually for prostitution and related crimes. The majority of those arrested are adults who engage in consensual, victimless activities. Where sex work is decriminalized, law enforcement is able to focus resources on prosecuting human trafficking and other violent crimes.

“Those who are arrested for selling sex face police abuse or harassment, potential incarceration, fines, lost wages, and significant collateral consequences. They often end up with permanent records that hinder future opportunities for employment, housing, immigration status, and other necessities,” says DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo. “Criminalizing sex work makes it dangerous. Police, prosecutors and jails don’t improve the lives of people who are arrested for trying to earn a living.”

DSW Communications Director Kaytlin Bailey says, “The police have never served the community of sex workers. Now that the nation is finally taking police brutality and institutional racism seriously, it’s time to redirect funds wasted on policing adult sex workers to helping people who struggle. It’s time to stop the arrests.”


Decriminalize Sex Work

Decriminalize Sex Work is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual, adult prostitution in the United States. We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.


Kaytlin Bailey
Communications Director
512-942-6078 Ext 1
kaytlin@dsworg.org

Addendum:
Why Decriminalizing Sex Work Is Good Criminal Justice Policy

Queens Prosecutor Is Wrong About Human Trafficking and Arresting Johns

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

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
May 25, 2020

Queens Prosecutor Is Wrong About Human Trafficking and Arresting Johns

On Monday, May 18, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of the Human Trafficking Bureau to “prosecute sex and labor traffickers” and purchasers of sexual services. Criminalizing clients reflects a willful refusal to distinguish between adult consensual sex work and trafficking. Human rights organizations, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and a growing number of policy experts agree that a more effective policy would be to fully decriminalize adult prostitution and focus law-enforcement efforts on instances of criminal labor trafficking — both in and out of the sex industry.

“As someone who has spent my legal career working with survivors of trafficking and people in the sex industry, I’m continually frustrated that prosecutors like Katz conflate human trafficking and adult consensual sex work,” says Melissa Sontag Broudo, legal director at Decriminalize Sex Work, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors can only effectively combat real trafficking when they acknowledge that the majority of sex workers and their clients are adults engaging in negotiated, voluntary exchange. Studies confirm that criminalizing clients increases violence against sex workers. For example, Northern Ireland criminalized clients in 2015, and a 2019 review by its own Department of Justice revealed sex workers felt less safe than before the law passed because of a surge of antisocial behavior directed at them.

Katz inherited a long legacy in Queens related to this issue. In 2008, the Queens Criminal Court pioneered the first-ever “Human Trafficking Intervention Court” (HTIC) to provide services to individuals in the sex industry. While there was no dedicated trafficking unit within the DA’s office, there were numerous dedicated prosecutors who worked on this issue.

“I have practiced in the HTIC, and while the feeling is quite supportive and compassionate, the underlying problem is that my clients should not have been forced into the criminal justice system to get social services. The entire foundational principle of these courts further disempowers victims. Why are we arresting sex workers or victims of human trafficking? The conflation of prostitution and trafficking predates these courts, but the HTICs effectively institutionalized it. Now Katz is continuing to pursue rhetoric and policies that will inevitably hurt those they claim to help,” says Sontag Broudo.

–end–

Decriminalize, For Public Health

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

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
May 15, 2020

Decriminalize, For Public Health

Yesterday, UNAIDS, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime called on global leaders “to make detention a last resort, to close drug rehabilitation detention centers and to decriminalize sex work, same-sex sexual relations, and drug use.

Decriminalize Sex Work, a national advocacy organization, is calling on states and cities to follow the UN’s recommendations and stop policing prostitution-related crimes immediately, as a matter of public health.

Global health experts are urging us to release as many people as possible from incarceration to reduce our collective susceptibility to this pandemic. High-density prisons spread disease amongst inmates, visitors, and employees. Guards and other essential staff bring the virus back home to their families, who then spread it around the community. You don’t need to know a single incarcerated person to want to reduce prison and jail density for your own safety. A simple way to start is by decriminalizing consensual adult sexual activities.

This is a matter of public health and safety. Melissa Broudo, policy director for Decriminalize Sex Work, says “Arresting adults for negotiated, consensual sex has always been a human rights violation for those arrested, but this global pandemic has really shown us how these arrests put all of us at risk.”

Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for Decriminalize Sex Work says “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Decriminalizing prostitution improves the health and safety of communities.”

The urgent call for action has never been clearer. Release nonviolent offenders from prison and stop arresting people for adult consensual prostitution.

–end–

Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

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

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 27, 2020

Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

Super Tuesday, March 3, is also International Sex Worker Rights Day.

International Sex Worker Rights Day began in 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta-based sex worker rights group that represents more than 65,000 male, female, and transgender sex workers. Durbar is a Bengali word that means unstoppable.

Sex workers and their allies across the world celebrate March 3 as International Sex Worker Rights Day, an annual and international event. On Super Tuesday, sex workers and their allies will be among the primary voters in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The majority of voters across the political spectrum support sex worker rights; we deserve a candidate who does too.

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) has updated its presidential candidate report card ahead of this historic day. Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Sex workers vote.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/2020-presidential-campaign.

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Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact J. Leigh Brantly, Research & Project Manager
jleigh@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 6, 2020

Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), the largest organization in the country focused solely on decriminalizing sex work, released its presidential candidate “report card” on Thursday, February 6, 2020. The organization is encouraging primary voters to use the issue as a litmus test for candidates who claim they want to reduce prison populations, support human rights, and promote health and safety within our communities.

Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Every candidate claims to want to reduce violence and exploitation in the sex industry. We graded the candidates based on whether or not the policies they support will help us achieve those goals. Voters should know how candidates think about policing the oldest profession.”

All three frontrunners, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren, scored a “C” from the sex worker rights group. Michael Bloomberg received the only outright “F” because of his degrading public remarks and punitive policies. Data from the New York Division of Justice Services (DCJS) showed that arrest rates for prostitution were 30% higher during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. Demographic data reveals that the spike in arrest rates almost exclusively targeted black Americans.

Melissa Broudo, general council for DSW, spoke to campaigns while preparing this report. “We were thrilled that many candidates were open to this conversation. In my nearly 20 years advocating for decriminalization, this is the first time this issue is part of the national conversation.”

Data for Progress released a poll on January 30, 2020, showing that an “outright majority of all voters support decriminalizing sex work.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/advocacy/2020-presidential-campaign.

–end–

Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
January 27, 2020

Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Sex workers and their allies have won an important victory in their ongoing constitutional challenge to FOSTA/SESTA, a federal law that is having a destructive impact on the health and safety of sex workers and their communities.

“This is the most important case pending in federal court,” said Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for DSW. “Sex workers are feeling the brunt of this law now, but so are harm reduction advocates, massage therapists, and human rights organizations.”

At issue is the FOSTA/SESTA law, enacted in 2018, which imposes severe criminal penalties for the operators of web sites that allow discussions of prostitution, which caused many dating web sites to close.  As a result, sex workers who had been using websites to schedule and screen their clients have since resorted to more dangerous tactics, such as soliciting on the street or relying on third parties such as pimps.

“Allowing sex workers to schedule and screen their clients online improves the health and safety of our communities,” said Melissa Broudo, DSW’s staff attorney who coordinated DSW’s amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs.

Studies show that when Craigslist Erotic Services allowed adults to negotiate consensual sex with each other, the female homicide rate dropped by 17%. When sex work was decriminalized in Rhode Island from 2003 to 2009, reported rapes dropped by 30% and gonorrhea by 40%.

“The evidence couldn’t be more clear,” said Broudo. “Allowing adult consensual sex workers and their clients to connect online makes the work safer.”

On Friday, January 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs’ case can proceed to trial, where a federal judge will decide whether FOSTA/SESTA interferes with the constitutional rights of website operators and their users.

“Sex workers have been waiting for our day in court for over 100 years,” said Bailey.