Everyone deserves to live their life without experiencing violence or fear. Despite this, we know the inherent right to safety is not a reality for many people. In particular, sex workers, particularly Black trans sex workers, face dispirate rates of abuse. This International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, we honor all those we have lost to abuse and call for the solidarity needed to save lives.
Today, we are also reminded of how the burden of abuse against sex workers is not shared equally, and the National Harm Reduction Coalition (NHRC) recognizes the importance of highlighting how sex work is deeply connected to racial and gender justice. Black and Latinx trans sex workers in particular face disparate rates of violence, and report disproportionate rates of assault compared to their white and cis counterparts. Add in the harmful treatment many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals face at the hands of police, and that risk for violence increases.
The Sex Workers Project notes that sex workers globally have a 45% to 75% chance of being sexually assaulted while on the job, and when sex workers are attacked by police, they are often ineligible for victim compsensation altogether or receive reduced amounts in compensation funds. Patterns of police violence against sex workers include, “assault, sexual harrassment, public ‘gender searches’ (police strip searches for the purpose of viewing genitalia) and rape,” according to a report submitted to the United Nations by sex worker advocacy organizations.
The very criminalization of sex work in many places around the world, including in the U.S., heightens the likelihood sex workers will experience violence. Research done by Human Rights Watch across numerous countries shows that criminalization makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence by assailants who view sex workers as “easy targets” because of the stigmas sex workers face and the likelihood they won’t receive support from police after an attack.
Our harm reduction work is thoroughly intertwined with racial, gender, and bodily autonomy justice, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers in every city and town in the U.S. and the globe at large. We support the decriminalization of sex work, and will continue working to challenge the stigmas that dehumanize sex workers and prevent those who do sex work from receiving support – the fabric of the culture that allows violence against sex workers to thrive.
For more information about sex work dynamics, a fact sheet, and other resources, visit NHRC’s website page dedicated to sex work and harm reduction. Resources provided include tips for folks looking to support sex workers and safety tips for people engaged in sex work, as well as information about decriminalizing sex work and links to local Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) chapters. Today and everyday after International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, we must do our collective part to create a world where all people can live peacefully and thrive.
About NHRC: National Harm Reduction Coalition (NHRC) is a nationwide advocate and ally for people who use drugs, creating spaces for dialogue and action that help heal the harms caused by racialized drug policies. As a national advocacy and capacity-building organization, NHRC promotes the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use. From coast to coast, our efforts advance harm reduction policies, practices, and programs that address the adverse effects of drug use including overdose, HIV, hepatitis C, addiction, and incarceration. Learn more via the NHRC website. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.