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Sex Workers Outreach Project

December 17th and our new website.

Hi Everyone!

Thank you all for your patience while we work out our evil bad people trying to break into our website! We hope we have everything worked out now, and we have a shiny new wordpress running our site! We have a redesign of our site coming soon, so please be patient with us while we get our new look and feel worked out (hopefully at the beginning of the new year!). In the meantime, remember December 17th is our next big event, and it’s coming up soon! Check out the December 17th website here!

Rape and assault resources

Safe Sex

If you have been or are currently being harrassed or experience abuse resulting from a Craigs List posting or from meeting someone on the list, please contact SWOP-USA at (877) PRO-2004. Also check out DangerZone411. However, if you believe you are in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement immediately.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted

What to do if you have been assualted. List of Rape Crisis Numbers by County

St. James Infirmary Oakland PD Special Victims Unit San Francisco PD Sexual Assault Resource page

Be Smart, Avoid Breaking the Law and Know Your Rights!

What is the definition of prostitution in California? Prostitution is defined as exchanging a “lewd act” for money or something else of value. This does not mean that you actually had sexual intercourse. Lewd is described as physical contact between two people in which one person touches the genitals, buttocks or (female) breasts of the other person, for the purpose of sexual gratification. Spanking someone with a paddle is considered physical contact under the law, even if no body parts touch. If the act of spanking someone (for money or something else of value) is done for the purpose of sexual gratification, then an act of prostitution has been committed. These crimes are commonly charged under the California penal code section 647(b). 1

If you are charged with prostitution, the prosecutor would have to prove you were guilty in one of these three ways:

  1. You were actually engaged in an act of prostitution; or
  2. You decide to engage in prostitution, solicited (invited) someone to do it with you and engaged in an act in furtherance; or
  3. Someone asked you to engage in prostitution, you agreed to do it with that person and you engaged in an act in furtherance. 1

An act in furtherance means an action that advances the process of engaging in prostitution. Some examples are:

  1. taking off clothes,
  2. getting out a condom,
  3. exchanging money,
  4. getting in a car after accepting the offer of an individual to engage in an act of prostitution. 1

Just talking to someone is not an act in furtherance.

Loitering with the intent to solicit for prostitution is commonly known as “Flagging” It is unlawful for any person to loiter in any public place with the intent to commit prostitution. This intent is evidenced by acting in a manner and under circumstances which openly demonstrate the purpose of inducing, enticing, or soliciting prostitution, or procuring another to commit prostitution.

Among the circumstances that may be considered in determining whether a person loiters with the intent to commit prostitution are that the person:

(1) Repeatedly beckons to, stops, engages in conversations with, or attempts to stop or engage in conversations with passersby, indicative of soliciting for prostitution.

(2) Repeatedly stops or attempts to stop motor vehicles by hailing the drivers, waving arms, or making any other bodily gestures, or engages or attempts to engage the drivers or passengers of the motor vehicles in conversation, indicative of soliciting for prostitution.

These crimes are charged under California penal code section 653.22. 4

Entrapment- a common misconception is that law enforcement officers have to disclose their identity if asked, “Are you a cop?” Police are allowed to lie about being police. They are allowed to do drugs. They can take off their clothes. Entrapment is nearly impossible to prove in court.

You do not have to talk to the police, FBI, INS or any other law enforcement agent or investigator. You cannot lawfully be arrested for refusing to identify yourself on the street, although this may make the police suspicious and police and other agents do not always follow the law. If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license and registration. Otherwise you do not have to talk to anyone: on the street, at your home or office, if you’ve been arrested, or even if you’re in jail. Only a judge has the authority to order you to answer questions. 2, 3

There isn’t a bad situation that can’t be made worse by talking to the police! Whether or not you are under arrest, do not answer questions when interrogated by the police. Politely tell them, “I am going to remain silent. I want a lawyer.” Many people invoke their Miranda Rights and then continue to talk. This is a very bad idea. Anything you say to a police officer can and often will be used against you or your friends. 1

What if I’m not a citizen?Non-citizens already in the U.S.have rights under the United States Constitution. Assert your rights. If you do not demand your rights or if you sign papers waiving your rights, you may be deported before you see a lawyer or an immigration judge. Crimes of moral turpitude are grounds for deportation. This includes acts of prostitution and giving false information (lying) to the police. Better to say nothing than to give a false name. You have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment (Miranda Rights). You have the right to an attorney. For immigration proceedings you do not have the right to a government appointed attorney. 2, 3
________________________________________________________

The above information was compiled from publications created by 1) Katya Komisaruk, Just Cause Law Collective, 2) National Lawyer’s Guild, 3) American Civil Liberties Union and 4) the California Penal Code. It is a very basic overview and by no means complete. Efforts to obtain more complete information should be made by all interested parties. Visit www.aclu.org ,www.nlg.org for additional resources.

Safety tips for working adults

Hot Safety Tips for Working Adults

How safe is your work? Wherever you work, it is important to:

  • Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.
  • Think about an escape route in advance, in case of danger.
  • Look for well lit, open and secure areas in which to work.

Assess your clients:

  • Make sure you can see them clearly.
  • Engage in small talk to assess any potential risk.
  • Always go on your ‘gut instinct’.

BE AWARE & ALERT AND YOU WON’T GET HURT

What is ‘gut instinct’?

  • If you get bad vibes, feel uneasy or get butterflies, your gut instinct is telling you something is wrong…DON’T GO WITH HIM!
  • Trust your judgment at all times.
  • Even a regular can still turn ugly. TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT USUALLY IT’S RIGHT.

Attitude is important

  • Confidence at work can save your life.
  • Never show that you feel intimidated, frightened or ‘out of control’.
  • Try to stay positive and in control.
  • Take time out if work gets stressful.

BE STRONG, ALERT & ALWAYS ASSERT

Working Alone. Try to work in pairs. If you have to work alone:

  • Never let the client know you are alone.
  • Let them think that you have a friend that knows where you are.

WORKING ALONE? CARRY A PHONE.

Any signs of trouble

  • Make as much noise as possible. This frightens people away. Yell, scream—GET OUT! GET AWAY!
  • Run and scream “FIRE” as loud as you can.
  • Run to a busy street and get help.
  • Create a HUGE scene to get attention.

Carry a personal alarm

  • Loud noise scares people and attracts attention.
  • Carry a whistle or personal alarm.
  • Remember, any sign of danger, yell and get help!

If forced to fight

  • Turn fear into anger. Get really angry.
  • Use whatever you can as a weapon. Use your stilettos, bag, sharp ring, belt buckle or anything that will inflict pain.
  • Strike vulnerable areas of the body—eyes, throat, nose, fingers, balls, knee, feet—these hurt the most.
  • Create as much noise as possible.

If attacked and are at risk

  • If you can run, shout and set off alarms. Put distance and obstacles between you and the attacker.
  • If you can’t get away, fight with anything to protect yourself. Kick, bite hit with anything, be aggressive, scream and shout.
  • If you can’t run or fight, try not to show fear and try to talk your way out.

If weapons are involved

  • Stay out of attacking range.
  • Use an object, such as a bag or shoe as a shield to protect yourself.
  • If you can run, get out and scream “FIRE”—this gets attention.
  • Try and keep your vital organs away from the weapon.
  • Use anything around to throw at the attacker. This will give you time to get away.

IF YOU ARE ATTACKED, REPORT IMMEDIATELY TO THE POLICE AND SWOP—IT CAN SAVE LIVES.

The above tips have been adapted with the permission of SWOP NSW. www.swop.org.au

Contact

Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA is a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma thru education and advocacy.

SWOP-USA only provides services as a political advocate for sex worker rights. SWOP-USA also provides information regarding sex worker rights as well as information about resources which sex workers may have need of, including, but not limited to health, medical, and legal information. SWOP-USA provides no other services or information of any kind.

SWOP-USA is not in anyway affiliated with any specific sex worker or business which markets/represents sex workers and makes no recommendations or endorsements as to such individuals or entities.

If you are in need of immediate assistance call us at 877-776-2004. We offer a 24/7 sex worker hotline at 877-776-2004 option 1 (or just stay on the line).

SWOP Agreements

Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights-Dignity and Respect

In the past “respect” and “dignity” were used against sex workers and other “un-pure” women to kill or imprison them. In our struggle for human rights we choose to reclaim these words and give them renewed meaning.
Through dignity we honor the unique diversity that is intrinsic in all people. We also choose to respect each person’s unique traits, abilities and oppressions which through our mutual respect lets us work together in a complimentary fashion to achieve our mutual goals.

Communities

The Sex Workers Outreach Project strives towards the conscious building of community, with consensual decision making, out of respect for all individuals. Communities help to keep us strong and safe by networking and enabling our own education and support systems. This community is strengthened by acknowledging diversity among its members and assisting members’ rights to self-representation. SWOP USA and its individual chapters aim to build communities which support, educate and unite its members. These communities facilitate our political voices and our ability to protect basic human rights. SWOP’s force as a community is fortified through the expression of solidarity among other sex worki positive groups and activists sharing common interests and goals. The Sex Workers Outreach project and its affiliates create a professional community and offer agency.

Unity

Sex Workers Outreach Project is committed to justice, equity, and compassion for sex workers and their communities. This commitment requires unity within our organization and within the global sex workers’ movement as a whole. We agree to value the diverse experiences and politics of our members, while placing group principles before individual passions or pursuits.

Self Determination

Our bodies are our own. Individuals retain the exclusive right to determine what they do and how they use our bodies under all circumstances. This choice remains proprietary to each individual in all aspects of life including occupational, health, lifestyle, sexual and reproductive choices. Self-determination and harm reduction are intrinsically linked. Our choices are always constrained by external forces. We believe in empowerment within these constraints along with social justice strategies to increase access to resources and services. We also acknowledge that the boundaries of self differ from culture to culture, and person to person. We protect and cherish the diversity of definition and of each individual and their rights to their bodies, thoughts, feelings, forms of expression and methods of living their lives.

Bodily Integrity

With the right to self determination of the propriety of choice and consent regarding our bodies, we state unequivocally the right to determine that sex worki is different from violence, sexual assault, slavery and trafficking in persons. Individual rights and consent determine the difference. We also reject the notion that sex worki is inherently linked with violence. Our visibility, awareness, rights and bodily integrity do not perpetuate, but directly oppose sexual violence. The presence of sex workers in social movements, the visibility of sex workers in communities of all kinds, and societal awareness of sex worker rights as fundamental to human rights in no way perpetuate violence, sexual assault, slavery and trafficking in persons. The converse is true-our visibility and knowledge directly oppose sexual violence.

AR/AO PRINCIPLES

We agree to recognize and challenge all forms of oppression.
We are committed regardless of the form of oppression; be it racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, trans-phobia, ageism, elitism, prohibitionism, and all other systems and behaviors of discrimination which marginalize, exclude or de-humanize any one person or group.
We realize that the most important work for us is within ourselves and our community. We take responsibility for our own prejudices and actions which perpetuate oppression thru individual action and active participation in addressing privilege when it’s recognized and being constantly vigilant for privileged actions both within ourselves, and those around us. To this end, we continually work to identify our individual, systematic and organizational privileges, how they intersect our lives both internally and externally, and learn how to be allies with our privileges by recognizing the benefits and costs.
We express our commitment to anti-racist/anti-oppressive principles as a group by engaging and constantly evolving a PROGRAM OF ACTION around these principles.

Know Your Rights – Legal Guide to Prepare for….

Often when a sex worker gets arrested, s/he loses contact with his/her friends and support network. This is often because of the misguided notion that if one person is in trouble, hisThis is simply not true when dealing with state-level misdemeanors. This is part of our Know Your Rights Workshops that SWOP-Chicago puts on both locally, and nationwide. Please read through the Don’t Panic Plan document, and then Fill out the Emergency Response Worksheet. Most are PDF files, you may need a PDF reader which you can get here.

Cris Sardina, SWOP USA board member & co-coordinator of Desiree Alliance

Who are the people behind SWOP’s advocacy? Each month SWOP USA highlights a person creating change in sex worker communities. Knowing how people come to the movement for change and meeting them on a personal level will help more advocates step forward. Don’t hesitate, join the struggle for rights! This month we highlight Cris Sardina, a SWOP USA Board member and co-coordinator of Desiree Alliance.

SWOP USA: Can you tell us a little more about your background as an activist for sex workers’ rights?

Cris: Someone sent me an email for the 2006 Desiree Conference. I applied for a scholarship and found it to be life changing for me as an activist. I co-founded a nonprofit for women (ex) incarcerates in 2004 called the Women’s ReEntry Network (WREN). WREN is run by women ex-felons for women (ex) felons and is the only organization I believe, that its membership requires that you have a criminal background. I went back to college at 40 and although I became educated and have a Master’s degree in Social Justice, I found it more difficult to obtain employment due to barriers that prevented me from making a viable living. I found this highly frustrating, so along with another woman who saw a need to assist women (ex) felons navigate the systems of going legit, we formed WREN. So, when I went to the 2006 conference, I felt like I had found my niche in the sex workers movement and allied with Desiree Alliance. Because sex workers are stigmatized and often ostracized, I felt that as a former sex worker, I had a better understanding than most of what the movement meant.

SWOP USA: What motivated you to join the SWOP USA board of directors?

Cris: I feel I have a lot to offer and I liked the structure of SWOP. I’m still finding my way as a board member.

SWOP USA: You are one of the co-coordinators of the Desiree Alliance. Can you tell us more about your work there and the other new leaders at Desiree?

Cris: Desiree is going in an entirely different direction than before- complete social justice. Sharmus Outlaw (who co-coordinates Desiree Alliance with me) and I have been the best of friends since the 2006 Desiree Alliance conference so she and I share common goals on how we would like to lead the organization. It hasn’t been an easy task restructuring an organization but for the most part, we have a lot of support to make the changes needed.

SWOP USA: What key actions do you think people can take now to support sex workers rights in the United States?

Cris: I believe in educating people of what a sex worker’s organization actually is and what we do. Many, many people are ignorant of what the movement really means. I feel that we need to come straight out of the closet and not be ashamed of what we do. So many members are involved politically and I really feel we need to be heard by the very movers and shakers that make these inane laws repressing civil rights, human rights, and labor rights. I think we are heading in the right direction but I would like to see more involvement with sex workers that have little or no voice.

Stacey Swimme interview with the Alyona show “Craigslist Censored”

SWOP representative Stacey Swimme discusses why the closing of Craiglist Adult Services Section does nothing to address problems of trafficking in persons and suggests ways in which sex workers in need can be assisted.

SWOP USA released a media statement about the closing. The full text is below.

Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, a social justice and anti-violence project by and for sex workers, decries trafficking and demands protections for workers. In the debate regarding the coercive shutdown of the Craigslist adult services sections the voices of sex workers have been conspicuously overlooked. Trafficking is not sex worki. Real traffickers and child abusers must be stopped. Sex workers are in a unique position to help end trafficking, if our perspectives are taken into account. Based on our extensive knowledge and experience with the sex industry, SWOP calls on elected officials and members of law enforcement to pursue a sane and effective approach to ending trafficking.

The conflation of consensual sex worki with rape is a disservice to both victims of trafficking and to sex workers. Persecuting consenting adults for exchanging sex for money is a waste of precious resources that could better be used providing services and legal protections for minors and others who have been abused.

Trafficking and child sexual abuse are not sex worki. Real traffickers must be stopped. Sex workers need health and labor protections to keep them safe while working and the ability to report crimes to the police if they are violated.

Sex workers and our clients are part of the solution- not the problem- to identify and root out real abuses. Sex workers and our clients are best situated to recognize suspicious or illegitimate activity on the Internet. The criminal status of some sex worki is a barrier to helping law enforcement tap into this vital resource.

Since sex workers are not afforded equal legal protection from sexual assault and theft, we self-police by monitoring and identifying predators, work cooperatively to create safe workspaces and advise each other in safety methods that are critical to survival. Nobody is better situated to speak to the real problems and respective solutions for this community than sex workers.

SWOP demands that the voices of sex workers be included in all discussions of issues related to the commercial sex industry, particularly when the venues in which we communicate and keep each other safe are concerned. Purported rights groups, such as Change.org, have ignored sex worker voices while wrongfully vilifying Craigslist as a cause of- rather than an ally in stopping- trafficking. The continued silencing of sex workers, the trend to shut down the spaces where we communicate and the disregard of our expert knowledge demonstrate clearly that these efforts are more about stomping out sex for sale in general than in protecting those who are actually abused.
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