Chicago, show your local sex workers some love this Valentines Day!

Please help supply our street outreach program by supporting our Valentines fundraiser.

Essentials such as safe sex and safe injection supplies, hygiene products, clothing, snacks and hot drinks, and info on free services are available from our outreach team at these weekly locations:


Ohio sex worker murdered by cops

Yet another life has been cut short by a murderous cop, anti-sex worker bias, and the ongoing criminalization of sex work.


Donna Dalton Castleberry, a 23-year-old mother of two, was shot eight times at point-blank range on August 23 by Columbus, Ohio undercover vice cop Andrew Mitchell. Castleberry was inside an unmarked police vehicle when she was killed by Mitchell, who alleged that she attempted to stab him in the hand with a knife. Two days earlier, a judge had issued a warrant for Dalton’s arrest for failing to appear for sentencing on a misdemeanor soliciting charge.

Two days later, over 100 friends, family members, and supporters held a memorial vigil for Donna.


“The family is crying out for justice and answers,” said the victim’s older sister, Bobbi McCalla, on her GoFundMe campaign to cover Castleberry’s final expenses. According to McCalla, enough has already been raised for the funeral, and all additional contributions will go toward a potential legal fight against the city of Columbus and its police department.

“If I were in that position, I might lunge at someone if I feared for my life,” said Castleberrry’s cousin, Mary Laile, about Donna’s last moments.

According to a police spokesperson, other cops on the scene claimed a conversation took place inside Mitchell’s car before he opened fire. While no further information is available concerning the circumstances of Castleberry’s death, we can easily imagine that she may have gotten into the unmarked vehicle believing Mitchell to be a client, then acted in self-defense when she discovered otherwise. Just such situations are all too familiar to sex workers, who face on-the-job violence every day at the hands of both cops and clients. Due to the criminalization of our profession, sex workers are denied redress for this violence. Meanwhile, recent legislation such as SESTA/FOSTA, which targets online discourse concerning sex work, has forced more sex workers on to the street and into more dangerous working conditions. While these conditions prevail, we can expect to see an increase in murders such as Castleberry’s, and other instances of violence against sex workers.

Donna Dalton Castleberry fell victim to intersecting forces of oppression: the ability of police to kill with impunity, and the stigma that says sex workers’ lives are disposable.

SWOP-Chicago stands in mourning, rage, and solidarity with the family of Donna Dalton Castleberry, and Ohio’s sex worker community.

#sexworkersrightsarehumanrights #sexworkiswork #LetUsSurvive #nokillercops



On June 20, Chicago City Council quietly and unanimously passed a substitute ordinance that specifically outlaws “prostitution-related loitering.”


Introduced in November 2017 by Aldermen Joe Moore of Rogers Park and Jason Ervin of Garfield Park, the ordinance amends the city’s Municipal Code by adding Section 8-4-016. This new law imposes fines of $50-500, along with potential arrest and imprisonment, on individuals deemed by police to be engaged in “prostitution-related loitering.”


The new language also instructs the Superintendent of Police to “designate areas of the city in which enforcement of this section is necessary because the areas are frequently associated with prostitution-related loitering.” The ordinance also amends existing Section 8-8-060 to include more detail and specificity concerning “solicitation for prostitution.”


The ordinance was introduced in the wake of months of targeted harassment of both street-based sex workers and SWOP-Chicago outreach workers in Rogers Park, on the part of Alderman Moore and some residents.


On the advice of some members of the local social services community, the ordinance was revised prior to passage to lower potential fines for sex workers while raising them for customers, thus partially embracing an “end-demand” approach to policing sex work. While this “end-demand model” purports to transfer legal liability from workers to clients, in practice criminalizing our clientele harms sex workers by keeping our industry marginalized and our work environments unsafe.


By passing this ordinance, Chicago City Council compounds the harm inflicted on sex workers by SESTA/FOSTA, the Federal “anti-trafficking” legislation recently passed by Congress. While this legislation erases sex workers’ access to safer online means of conducting business, thereby forcing more workers on to the streets, the City of Chicago has now chosen to add to the danger faced by street-based workers by creating new levels of criminalization.


SWOP-Chicago joins our city’s harm-reduction community in opposing this new assault on the safety, livelihood, and self-determination of sex workers. The new and revised laws reflect the worst of both the dangerous criminalization of sex work, and paternalistic “rescue-based” treatment of workers. Only the full decriminalization of sex work can ensure safety and self-determination for individuals engaged in trading sexual services, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion.


Today’s passage of #SESTA (the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) by the US Senate spells more danger ahead for those who work in the sex industry.

Along with #FOSTA (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), passed by the House of Representatives on February 27, this potentially disastrous bill seeks to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA, which protects Internet companies from prosecution for user-posted content) to exclude anything deemed to facilitate sex trafficking. The result could be a dramatic widening of the crackdown on sex work online that began with last year’s Federal shutdown of Backpage.

Sex workers and allies faced an uphill battle against SESTA/FOSTA, which most members of Congress viewed as an easy bipartisan win on a “no-brainer” issue. Sex work has been barely visible in the national debate around this legislation, which has focused almost entirely on Net neutrality and First Amendment issues. But even some tech giants such as Facebook and IBM reversed their positions on these bills, presumably to avoid appearing to condone sex trafficking. As usual, the most vulnerable people in the equation and those most directly affected have no voice in the passage of legislation that endangers while purporting to protect them.

Yet advocates for sex workers’ rights and anti-trafficking activists agree that SESTA/FOSTA will hurt everyone working in the sex trade, including trafficked individuals. As Freedom Network USA, “the largest network of anti-trafficking service providers and advocates in the United States,” said in a recent statement,

Reforming the CDA to include the threat of civil litigation could deter responsible website administrators from trying to identify and report trafficking. It is important to note that responsible website administration can make trafficking more visible — which can lead to increased identification. …When websites are shut down, the sex trade is pushed underground and sex trafficking victims are forced into even more dangerous circumstances. Street-based sex workers report significantly higher levels of victimization, including physical and sexual violence.


The ability to advertise and communicate openly online constitutes a major safety net for all sex workers. Take this away and workers are driven back to the danger of the streets and increased vulnerability to predatory clients and procurers. Under SESTA/FOSTA, Internet companies could ban sex workers sharing information about dangerous clients and other harm reduction resources. Only full decriminalization can empower sex workers to control the conditions of our labor.

The struggle continues against the attitudes embodied in this legislation: that people trading in sex–whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion–need rescue; that the consensual sale and purchase of sex by adults enables, or is the same as, human trafficking; that sex workers don’t deserve the same rights and respect as other types of workers. With both government and well-intentioned rescuers failing us yet again, it will now be up to the sex-work community to devise new best practices to keep workers as safe as possible from prosecution and violence, while they continue to work for survival.

#SESTA #FOSTA #LetUsSurvive #SurvivorsAgainstSESTA


Join SWOP-Chicago in opposing dangerous “anti-trafficking” legislation currently before the Senate. A vote is expected Monday, so there’s still time to contact your Senators and urge them to vote NO on SESTA!


This legislation, along with the similar FOSTA that’s already passed the House, would endanger sex workers by censoring not only online advertising, but also potentially information and resource-sharing between workers and allies.

Excellent analysis here:

And a detailed call to action on the Support Ho(s)e blog:

#SurvivorsAgainstSESTA #LetUsSurive #StopSESTA #SexWorkersRightsAreHumanRights