Online chatting to sex workers

In New Zealand, where both brothels and street solicitation have been decriminalized for adults since 2003, working conditions have improved for some people, but not for everyone, said SAS's Robert Beiser."More educated white folks in New Zealand who are voluntarily sex workers may be saying, 'This is great.' But every year, the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report says there are thousands and thousands of aboriginal people and children being exploited, and thousands of immigrants brought to New Zealand and sold to white people." (This year's report notes that many victims of sex trafficking are brought to New Zealand from Asia.) But Briq House argues that it's inaccurate to conflate sex work with human trafficking.One of those websites was averaging 34,000 ads a month last year." When they find these ads, former sex workers with Real Escape from the Sex Trade (REST)—a Seattle-based Christian group that aims to help people they think are being sexually exploited—reach out via text message, offering support services or just someone to talk to.Robert Beiser, the executive director of Seattle Against Slavery (SAS), a not-for-profit group that developed the program and partners with REST, told me that in the past year, they've sent more than 7,000 text messages to potential sex workers whose ads they found on the internet. The ads appear to be from a sex worker offering her services.When you don't have agency over your own body, you're at risk for a whole slew of bad things.It was really disempowering." After less than a year, Le Moon left her pimp—which was difficult in its own right, as she had become completely dependent on him.Amnesty International and other human-rights groups support the policy of decriminalization, because it would increase access to health care and safety, and would allow more sex workers to report crimes against them.(Neither Amnesty nor SWOP is calling for legalization, which, instead of removing laws that criminalize sex workers, would introduce new laws to regulate the trade.

If you want help to stop buying, find out more at " Beiser said that in past year, they've had more than 2,000 buyers interact with a decoy trafficking victim and get through the conversation long enough to receive a deterrence message and a link to get support services if they want to stop buying sex."A better way forward would be for more open dialogue as a society about the harm of sexual exploitation in these situations." Several sex workers, both those who had been trafficked and those who entered sex work voluntarily, told me they had reservations about the SAS program. House is equally dubious about the prospect of using text messages written by real human volunteers to target current sex workers, and she disputes the idea that most sex workers are victims at all. Decriminalization would remove laws that penalize sex work while keeping in place laws that penalize human trafficking, violence, and criminal exploitation.Briq House, a Seattle-based sex worker and the communications director for the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), a national group that advocates for sex workers' rights, laughed when I asked if she thought it would work. Decriminalization could also mean the release of people who are currently imprisoned for sex work.Potential interventions for sex buyers include a 10-week class held in Seattle and around King County called "Stopping Sexual Exploitation: A Program for Men," which Beiser said is run by former sex workers.The class, which costs per session, offers facilitated conversations about how the sex trade impacts victims and survivors, as well as how it affects sex buyers themselves. If anything, it's going to stop people from responding to ads they think are fake." In reality, House said, the online sex trade has actually made the job safer, because connecting with potential buyers beforehand allows both the sex worker and the client to set boundaries and expectations.

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