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 2022)

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...
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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...
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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...
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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

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 with sex workers across the United States since they became law in 2018. For the past five years, human rights advocates, sex workers, and even law enforcement have worked hard to oppose SESTA/FOSTA.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments challenging SESTA/FOSTA from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the Internet Archive, Human Rights Watch, massage therapist Eric Koszyk, and sex worker rights activist Jesse Maley, who filed suit as a group against the United States on the basis that the law is unconstitutional.

The group of plaintiffs filed its initial case in 2018 and has experienced a frustrating back-and-forth since then. After a series of dismissals and appeals, a panel of three appellate judges finally heard oral arguments at the D.C. Circuit Court on January 11, 2023.

SESTA/FOSTA amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects internet service providers from being held responsible for the actions of their users. SESTA/FOSTA makes it a federal crime to “own, manage, or operate an interactive computer service” with “the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.” This creates an exception to Section 230 by holding platforms liable for content posted by their users that could be perceived as promoting the prostitution of others. State law enforcement can prosecute these cases at their discretion.

Unable to bear this new criminal and civil liability, many platforms have censored user content, and many users self-censored their content to avoid being de-platformed. One of the most prominent examples of this happened when Craigslist shut down its Therapeutic Services page, leaving people like massage therapist Eric Koszyk, a plaintiff in this case, without a means of advertising, screening clients, and scheduling appointments online.

It’s important to note that sex workers also use online platforms to create networks, advertise, screen and approve clients, and schedule appointments. SESTA/FOSTA shut these resources down, effectively making sex work more dangerous.

The supposed purpose of SESTA/FOSTA is to put a stop to online human trafficking. However, law enforcement actually relies on online platforms for evidence when investigating trafficking cases. By censoring certain language from the internet, SESTA/FOSTA scrubs away leads and evidence, making it easier for cases of human trafficking to go undetected.

Those challenging the bill argue it does not provide a specific enough description of what it means to “promote prostitution” or even who could be charged with owning, managing, or operating an interactive computer service, thus leaving it unclear what specific actions are being criminalized. The basis of their argument is that SESTA/FOSTA’s overly broad language violates the First Amendment requirement that restrictions of speech must be narrowly specific. The plaintiffs also argue that this vagueness violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, which forbids the implementation of laws that do not reasonably define or explain the conduct that they make illegal.

Meanwhile, the main argument made by U.S. attorneys is that SESTA/FOSTA is simply an “aiding-and-abetting” statute intended to criminalize any individual who aids or abets another person engaging in prostitution. Yet the bill’s text never mentions either of these words.

This unclear use of language begs the question, what exactly does it mean to “promote” prostitution? Could the government hold the owner of a website liable for a post advocating for the decriminalization of sex work? Could this count as the promotion of prostitution?

The answer is unclear, which is why opponents of SESTA/FOSTA claim it is unconstitutional.

While the court’s final ruling can’t be predicted, decriminalization advocates agree that the events of the hearing appear encouraging.

When faced with the argument that SESTA/FOSTA is simply an aiding-and-abetting statute, Harry Edwards, a judge on the panel, said the following.

“In my mind, it's not an aiding-and-abetting law. We know how to write 'em when we want to. This doesn't look like anything that I understand to be an aiding-and-abetting law.”

SESTA/FOSTA has been actively harming sex workers for five years now. Should the court ultimately find SESTA/FOSTA unconstitutional, it will be a huge victory for human rights. Still, the judges won’t issue an official ruling for some time. Meanwhile, we must continue to defend the health and safety of sex workers by advocating for the full decriminalization of consensual adult sex work.

Audio of the full hearing is available here.

Last September, Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) staff attorney Becca Cleary took the lead in authoring an Amicus Brief against SESTA/FOSTA, along with the support of eleven other organizations.

Visit DSW’s Take Action page to join the challenge against SESTA/FOSTA.

Image courtesy of @WoodhullFreedom on Twitter.

DSW Newsletter #44 (January 2022)

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...
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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 2022)

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

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 act of loitering with “intent to commit prostitution.”

Archaic anti-sex work loitering laws are common around the United States.

What is Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution?

Loitering for the purpose of prostitution (LPP) laws exist in multiple states across the U.S. They make wandering, remaining, or spending time in a public space with the “intent to promote or commit prostitution” a crime. Behavior indicative of this “intent” can include beckoning or attempting to speak to passing pedestrians and motorists, but a 2019 study conducted through the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office found that under California’s LPP law, other causes for arrest typically included an individual’s presence in an area known for sex work, their clothing, possession of a cell phone, possession of cash, or reacting to the presence of police.

These types of laws are discriminatory by nature, as they encourage law enforcement to profile and arrest individuals based on their race, gender, and/or stereotypes of what a sex worker looks like. By criminalizing intent, rather than action, LPP laws allow police to enforce violations at their own biased discretion, which threatens equal prosecution under the law.

Who do LPP laws affect?

Unsurprisingly, LPP laws are used to target marginalized groups, especially transgender women of color. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, based in New York City, found that 80% of their clients who identified as transgender women of color had experienced police harassment or false arrest based on suspicion of prostitution.

According to the ACLU, black adults made up over 50% of individuals arrested in Los Angeles under California’s LPP law, despite only representing 8.95% of the city’s population.

Senator Scott Wiener, author of SB 357, denounced California’s LPP law in a Tweet last year, stating the following:

“An officer can arrest someone based on how they look. Arrests target trans women/women of color.”

Roxanne, a transgender San Jose attorney who goes only by her first name, lived this experience herself. In July 2019, she was out for a walk in her neighborhood when law enforcement approached and arrested her without explanation.

They processed her at Santa Clara County jail, where officers denied her request to be held with other transgender women and instead booked her as a man. It wasn’t until the next morning, after being held in a filthy cell and ridiculed by jail staff all night, that she learned what her charges were: Loitering with intent to commit prostitution.

Roxanne has stated that she’s used to being harassed by police. In an  interview with Mercury News, she said:

“The jailing was new, but the harassment is routine. A lot of our community faces the same thing, and we need to stand together and stop this. You shouldn’t be harassed just on your appearance.”

What does SB 357 mean for California?

SB 357 is a huge victory against discrimination in California and comes as the latest in a series of victories for sex worker rights.

In 2013, California changed its victim compensation laws, which previously excluded sex workers. Now, sex workers who are sexually or physically assaulted have the right to receive money from a victim compensation fund.

In 2016, the state passed SB 1322, which barred law enforcement from arresting minors for sex work-related offenses.

In 2019, SB 233 repealed the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution and gave individuals the power to report a crime without being prosecuted for sex work or drug use.

Together, these laws have been monumental in the movement to prioritize the health and safety of sex workers across California.

Laws like these pave the way for the eventual decriminalization of consensual adult sex work.

Loitering for the Purposes of Prostitution

SB 357 officially goes into effect, repealing “Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution” laws in California.

DSW Newsletter #44 (January 2022)

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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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....
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DSW Newsletter Archive

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 Bill would establish the decriminalization of consensual adult sex work in South Africa, and its publication for public comment has sparked a new wave of interest in decriminalization throughout the country.

Katelego Rasebitse, a South African human rights activist and sex work sector leader at SANACsaid:

“If the bill is passed, it will mean that both the buying and selling of sex is [decriminalized]. Sex workers will have a voice: they will be able to speak out against police brutality and client abuse. We also hope there will be less stigma attached to sex work. Sex workers are people who are living among us, and we need to protect them.”

The idea of decriminalizing sex work is nothing new for South Africa.

In 2017, The South African Law Reform Commission released a report on “adult prostitution,” which stirred opinions on the subject nationwide.

Decriminalization has been publicly supported by powerful South African organizations such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Commission for Gender Equality.

In 2019, Human Rights Watch published a lengthy report on the urgent need to decriminalize sex work in South Africa.

To keep up with the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa, follow the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).

Members of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) demand decriminalization. (Image: SWEAT via Instagram)

Members of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) demand decriminalization. (Image: SWEAT via Instagram)

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...
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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
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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....
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DSW Newsletter Archive

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 advocacy groups ELA One and The Ishtar Collective. According to The Ishtar Collective, the NESWS’s goal was to bring together “sex workers and their allies for a weekend of networking, learning, and celebrating.”

The NESWS featured a series of workshops for both allies and sex workers focusing on advancing policy reform and sex worker wellness, as well as a private community brunch honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance.

DSW members in attendance included Staff Attorney Becca Cleary and Community Engagement Consultant Henri Bynx, who is co-director and co-founder of The Ishtar Collective. They both took part in panels during the summit.

Bynx, along with David Mickenberg and Palana Belken, spoke about the role of storytelling in advocacy and policy, self-regulation in confrontational situations, and building allyship in government spaces.

Cleary’s panel, which included Savannah Sly, focused on the role that incremental state and local policies play in the health and safety of sex workers. They also discussed upcoming legislative efforts and innovative new policymaking that the community can look forward to.

When asked about their experience, Bynx said:

“The NESWS provided a sense of siblinghood that I feel is sorely missed outside of sex work organizing. It made space for sex workers to feel seen in their authenticity in a society that lends itself to polarizing character portraiture.”

Learn more about The Ishtar Collective.

NESWS
Savannah Sly and Becca Cleary pose for a photo after their panel at the New England Sex Work Summit (NESWS).

Savannah Sly and Becca Cleary pose for a photo after their panel at the New England Sex Work Summit (NESWS).

Palana Belken, Henri Bynx, and David Mickenberg give a panel discussing lobbying and storytelling.

Palana Belken, Henri Bynx, and David Mickenberg give a panel discussing lobbying and storytelling.

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....
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Police Raids Are Problematic: Yang Song’s Story

DSW Newsletter Archive

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. Amidst the panic and brutality of the raid, a massage parlor employee named Yang Song fell from a window on the building’s third floor.

Song sustained fatal injuries and died the next morning. This week marks the five-year anniversary of her death.

In the aftermath of her passing, Song’s family shared that she had been sexually assaulted by an undercover police officer after she was arrested for prostitution just a few months prior. Song had faced relentless harassment from the NYPD as they blackmailed and attempted to coerce her into being an informant. The harassment and threats grew increasingly ruthless the more she refused until she was finally targeted in the sting operation that ultimately led to her death.

Song’s story galvanized hundreds of local decriminalization advocates, who immediately organized protests and vigils in her honor. It was among these activists that the organization Red Canary Song was born. Originally founded with the intent of helping Song’s family pay for legal support and healthcare expenses, Red Canary Song now fights to promote the well-being of Asian and migrant sex workers through labor rights, mutual aid, and advocating for the decriminalization of consensual adult sex work.

Unfortunately, Song’s story is only one of countless instances of law enforcement targeting and brutalizing sex workers for their profession. The criminalization of sex work regularly enables situations like these, where immigrants and sex workers are powerless against law enforcement for fear of arrest or deportation.

Police stings are violent, brutal, and traumatizing. Asian-owned massage parlors are frequent targets of these raids, where law enforcement claim to be saving “victims of trafficking” by arresting them. However, as demonstrated by Yang Song’s tragic story, it’s clear that this isn’t the case. In fact, rarely, if ever, do these stings actually uncover human trafficking.

All they do is enable police to freely brutalize and assault sex workers.

The only way to create an environment where sex workers don’t have to fear law enforcement is by decriminalizing sex work.

Only then will sex workers be safe.

Advocates of decriminalization honor Yang Song at a vigil in 2018. (Image: Emma Whitford/Hyphen Magazine)

Advocates of decriminalization honor Yang Song at a vigil in 2018. (Image: Emma Whitford/Hyphen Magazine)

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....
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Police Raids Are Problematic: Yang Song’s Story

DSW Newsletter Archive

Support DSW This GivingTuesday

November 25, 2022

Decriminalize Sex Work relies on donations from supporters like you in order to sustain our mission of decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. If you’re unable to donate, consider supporting us this GivingTuesday (November 29) by amplifying our mission on social media or sharing this newsletter with a friend or family member.

Thank you for supporting us in all the ways that you do!

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DSW Newsletter #42 (November 2022)

DSW Attends APHA 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo

November 6, 2022 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary, and Volunteer Attorney Allison Kolins attended the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) annual meeting and expo in Boston early this November. According to their mission...
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DSW Attends APHA 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo

DSW Collaborates With Allies To Advocate for Decriminalization

November 15-16, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) is proud to regularly partner with Equality New York (EQNY),a statewide advocacy organization working to advance equality and justice for LGBTQI New Yorkers and their families and to promote the...
Read More
DSW Collaborates With Allies To Advocate for Decriminalization

Why Decriminalization Is Good for Public Health

November 1, 2022 Laws governing commercial sex have been significantly researched for their impact on public health and safety. Conclusive data on violence, exploitation, and sexual health from around the world supports the following conclusions: 1. Full...
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Why Decriminalization Is Good for Public Health

Remembering Carol Leigh

November 17, 2022 Carol Leigh was a force for good in this world — joyful, kind, welcoming, compassionate, caring, brilliant, and loving. Her memory and her legacy will remain an eternal force for good. For those who knew...
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Remembering Carol Leigh

Life After Arrest: The Collateral Consequences of Criminalization

November 12, 2022 When an individual is arrested, the consequences seem obvious. But what happens after the fines are paid, the time is served, and the probation ends? This is where collateral consequences come in. Collateral consequences...
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Life After Arrest: The Collateral Consequences of Criminalization

Support DSW This GivingTuesday

November 25, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work relies on donations from supporters like you in order to sustain our mission of decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. If you’re unable to donate, consider supporting us this GivingTuesday (November 29)...
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Support DSW This GivingTuesday

DSW Newsletter Archive

Remembering Carol Leigh

November 17, 2022

Carol Leigh was a force for good in this world — joyful, kind, welcoming, compassionate, caring, brilliant, and loving. Her memory and her legacy will remain an eternal force for good.

For those who knew Carol, it is impossible to think of her without smiling, even as we mourn this tremendous personal and collective loss of a true visionary and heroine.

I had the honor of meeting Carol while still in law school — it was the fall of 2005 and we were both part of a small contingent of sex workers’ rights attendees at the second annual Toledo International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference. It has been said that you should never meet your heroes — but with Carol, it was the opposite. I had idolized her work, having read Unrepentant Whore: The Collected Works of Scarlot Harlot and followed her Sex Worker Film and Art Show from afar. I also knew that she had famously coined the term “sex work,” changing the narrative history of the fight for sex workers’ rights forever.

Yes, she was brilliant and accomplished and did so much for the movement; but it was her absolute warmth and humility and kindness that eclipsed all. I have never met anyone like her — just pure love and acceptance. Being with her was like being embraced in a long warm consensual hug. You felt kinder and more loving in her presence — her love was infectious and other-worldly.

Over the next 17 years, I had the honor of connecting with her many times at sex workers’ rights summits across the country and on the phone, and she never wavered in her undying support and enthusiasm for fellow advocates. If there was in-fighting, she fought harder for unification; if there was a strategy disagreement, she turned to those who were the most impacted to figure out the best course of action; and if someone was struggling with how to do something, she immediately offered guidance and support.

Carol was — and will remain — a mother figure for the sex workers’ rights movement.

When we find ourselves lost or in conflict with other advocates or searching for an answer, we only have to think “What would Carol do?” and the answer will come because it will be infused with pure love. May her memory be a blessing and a revolution.

Carol may not have seen decriminalization of prostitution in her lifetime, but she sure as hell laid the groundwork for all of us who continue to fight in her name and her spirit. None of us who do this work would be here without her trailblazing the path — in the loving, fun, and hilarious way that only she could!

Written by Melissa Broudo

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo and Carol Leigh at a sex workers’ summit at ACLU Southern California, Los Angeles in February 2019.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo and Carol Leigh at a sex workers’ summit at ACLU Southern California, Los Angeles in February 2019.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, DSW consultant Ceyenne Doroshow and Carol Leigh at the same sex workers’ summit in February 2019.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, DSW consultant Ceyenne Doroshow and Carol Leigh at the same sex workers’ summit in February 2019.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, DSW consultant Joaquin Remora, and Carol Leigh at a sex workers’ summit in San Francisco in July 2018.

DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, DSW consultant Joaquin Remora, and Carol Leigh at a sex workers’ summit in San Francisco in July 2018.

DSW Newsletter #42 (November 2022)

DSW Attends APHA 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo

November 6, 2022 DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo, Staff Attorney Rebecca Cleary, and Volunteer Attorney Allison Kolins attended the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) annual meeting and expo in Boston early this November. According to their mission...
Read More
DSW Attends APHA 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo

DSW Collaborates With Allies To Advocate for Decriminalization

November 15-16, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) is proud to regularly partner with Equality New York (EQNY),a statewide advocacy organization working to advance equality and justice for LGBTQI New Yorkers and their families and to promote the...
Read More
DSW Collaborates With Allies To Advocate for Decriminalization

Why Decriminalization Is Good for Public Health

November 1, 2022 Laws governing commercial sex have been significantly researched for their impact on public health and safety. Conclusive data on violence, exploitation, and sexual health from around the world supports the following conclusions: 1. Full...
Read More
Why Decriminalization Is Good for Public Health

Remembering Carol Leigh

November 17, 2022 Carol Leigh was a force for good in this world — joyful, kind, welcoming, compassionate, caring, brilliant, and loving. Her memory and her legacy will remain an eternal force for good. For those who knew...
Read More
Remembering Carol Leigh

Life After Arrest: The Collateral Consequences of Criminalization

November 12, 2022 When an individual is arrested, the consequences seem obvious. But what happens after the fines are paid, the time is served, and the probation ends? This is where collateral consequences come in. Collateral consequences...
Read More
Life After Arrest: The Collateral Consequences of Criminalization

Support DSW This GivingTuesday

November 25, 2022 Decriminalize Sex Work relies on donations from supporters like you in order to sustain our mission of decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. If you’re unable to donate, consider supporting us this GivingTuesday (November 29)...
Read More
Support DSW This GivingTuesday

DSW Newsletter Archive