Need FREE Legal Help? Check out our Fall Dates & New Location!

static1.squarespace.com
This month’s Free Legal Clinic will be on:
September 21 @ 7pm-9pm
at
Central Autonomo

3460 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

(Look for the Swop signs– Second Floor)
 All services are free of charge for low-income individuals with current/former experience in sex trade or street economy.

The clinic Accepts Walk-Ins, and you can also pre-schedule an appointment via our online intake​ form.  (or call 312-999-0056.)

If the clinic times or dates don’t work, we can do intake and offer general legal consultation, advice and education via phone at other times. Use our online intake form to schedule an appointment (or call 312-999-0056.)

Got Questions? Call 312-999-0056 or email board@swop-chicago.org!

This Saturday 2pm ~09/05! Sex Worker Solidarity Action in Boystown!

In light of the recent raid on RentBoy and in solidarity across the country, sex workers and allies here in Chicago say; ENOUGH!

We are tired of being marginalized and criminalized and having our choices taken from us. It is time to make our voices heard, and our points clear. Decriminalize sex work and sex workers. May the string of recent events (Rentboy raid, Backpage Credit Card Scandal, closure of MyRedBook) bring the community together in a supportive, cohesive way.

Join us this Saturday! We’ll be meeting at the Center on Halsted (3656 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60613) @ 2pm to make signs (in the community area right inside). We’re marching from there @ 3pm up and down the historic stretch of Halsted St in Boystown to Belmont Ave, distributing literature & info & showing our support of all sex workers.

Please share & repost & invite your friends! All workers, allies, friends, & family of all ages are most welcome.

11953092_10156853913443125_7494179684438135946_n

Facebook Link: http://on.fb.me/1LWkEeF

Warning Signs: Patterns of Domestic Violence in Our Community

By Ruby Rue

 

Victims of violence are more likely to have experienced violence at the hands of someone they know. The same goes for sex workers. Domestic violence, when it happens to sex workers, is compounded, reinforced, and excused by whorephobia.

Here is a list of things to watch out for in a relationship that is specific to sex workers and our experiences.

Wheel of Violence: Adapted by U-Wisconsin Oshkosh from Minnesota Domestic Violence Interventions Project

Wheel of Violence: Adapted by U-Wisconsin Oshkosh

Emotional Abuse

behavior that threatens, intimidates, undermines the victim’s self-worth or self-esteem, or controls the victim’s freedom

Verbal Abuse

  • Abuser calls you any number of slurs against sex workers: ‘hooker,’ ‘whore,’ etc.
  • Abuser calls you names to demean you and your profession.
  • Abuser tells you that you don’t deserve to be loved, don’t deserve food, don’t deserve to live. (You do deserve to be loved, well fed, and able to live.)
  • Abuser threatens to harm you. Abuser leverages your profession and possible difficulty of police involvement should the abuser harm you.
  • Abuser threatens to harm you  if you don’t make enough money for them. These situations are specific to when the abuser is also your management/pimp.

 

Control

Due to whorophobia, it’s easy to rationalize ‘controlling’ behavior as genuine care, support or a ‘natural’ reaction to your work. Here are some controlling behaviors we’ve experienced:

  • Control can come from both partners who aren’t comfortable with you 5signsworking, and from partners who don’t think you’re working enough.
  • Comments like “I feel like [your sex worker friends] are out of control and a bad influence,” “I’m worried about your safety [traveling for work],” “I’m just worried about your future,” “I’m helping you set goals” or “I’m just trying to help you get your shit together.”
  • Often, sex worker partners want to control “how” you work, when you work, what you do at work, or get jealous of your clients and want to know what you’re doing all the time, and may question/doubt what you tell them. Sometimes, it’s a flat-out demand for you to quit your job. Sometimes, it’s a flat-out demand to work more.
  • A partner ‘trying to help you get your shit together’ may give you directives about exactly how you should ‘fix’ your life, have unreasonable expectations and demands, and micro-manage. Suggestions are always okay, but it is never okay for someone else to set your schedule, set your goals, tell you exactly what you should do, or how you should go about doing it.

 

Jealousy and Possessiveness

A subset of control, this one is something that sex workers are especially vulnerable to…and that many of our friends, family, or colleagues may think is normal. This is how it looks:

  • Abuser conflates you seeing your clients with you having affairs. Abuser does not understand the difference between an affair and seeing a client for a job.
  • Abuser is “okay” with your job so long as they have control over who you see, when, or where. This can be a dangerous situation because it hinders your ability to screen clients, etc.
  • Abuser does not approve of you talking to other sex workers or having friends who are sex workers.

Isolation and Threats

Abusers often isolate victims from their support network to gain control. For sex workers, stigma already does so much to isolate us from our primary community support systems (as well as alienate us from social service support systems). Here are some ways abusers can further isolate sex worker partners:

  • For sex worker parents, a partner/pimp may pressure you to have a schedule that keeps you away from your kids and that family/friends/local day-cares can’t meet child care needs for, and then arrange childcare.
  • isolationA partner may pressure you to distance yourself from other sex worker friends, to quit your job or to keep a schedule that impedes your relationships with family. A partner may also use sex work as a reason why you can never interact with your partner’s family, friends, or network. Like control, for sex workers, it’s easy to rationalize and empathize with your partner’s concerns.
  • Isolation can also be convincing you that you won’t get support elsewhere, or threatening to isolate you from support systems. A partner might question your ability to find someone who’ll love you besides them, given your work. An ex-partner might respond to your questions about child support payments with, “Sure, you go tell a judge I’m not paying, and I’ll tell a judge what you’re doing for a living.” A pimp or manager may convince you that you will not receive support from social services or the police if you reach out.


DVdoesntDISCRIMINATE220-no-url

Economic Abuse

When one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, or discourages or prevents the other partner from working to get economic resources.

 

Discourages or Prevents you from earning income

  • Your partner has convinced you that all problems in your relationship are based on how you make money, you might quit… and end up financially reliant on the partner.
  • Your partner may offer to financially support you if you quit sex work, and subsequently counter requests for support in meeting basic needs with claims that you are a ‘gold digger’ ‘useless’ or ‘in the relationship for money’.

 

Takes and ‘manages’ money you earn from you ‘for your own good’

  • A partner may tell you that it’s dangerous for you to keep your own money or keep your own bank accounts, because what you do is illegal. They then take all of your money, and pay for your expenses, or say they’re making investments in your name.
  • A partner may also question your ability to take care of basic things on your own — they may attempt to convince you that you won’t be able to place ads or find clients, take care of your kids, find drugs, or manage finances without them.

Physical and Sexual Abuse

Sexual Violence

  • Abuser is under the false impression that because you are a sex worker that you are always sexually available.
  • Abuser is under the false impression that sex work is rape, which means, according to the abuser’s backwards logic, that it “doesn’t matter” if they sexually assault you.
  • A partner may withhold sex or intimacy as a way to punish you for working, for not working enough, for not making enough money, or until you give them money you’ve earned.

Physical Abuse

  • Slapping, hitting, kicking, etc. Even seemingly small things like slapping should not be disregarded. Small acts of violence can be meant to communicate how much they value you and your live (or rather, how much they don’t). Violence can escalate.
  • In the context of BDSM relationships, the Dom/Domme must respect when you code. Your Dom/Domme must respect your hard limits. Your Dom/Domme should not punish you for coding or for having limits. If your Dom/Domme breaks any of these rules, then they are an abuser masquerading as a Dominant.

 

How We Come to Accept this Behavior

Whorophobia and the abusers actions mutually reinforce each other, chip away at our sense of self-efficacy and ability and convince us that the abuse is understandable, that it’s our fault,  and that we can’t get and don’t deserve better.

 

Shifting the Blaming

  • Abuser may make you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your/your job’s fault, or like you don’t deserve the relationship.
  • The abuser may dismiss calmly expressed concerns about your relationship, and immediately refocuse the conversation to what you’re doing wrong or what’s wrong with you… or your job.
  • Comments like “I’m not answering your calls because I can’t talk to you right after you’ve screwed someone else,” “I just get really upset whenever you come home smelling like the club,”  “I’m normally not like this, I just can’t stand you stripping for/fucking/touching other people”
  • Abuser may use your job to justify violence: “I’ve never hit anyone else, but they weren’t f&%*ing other guys.”
  • Cheating – In the context of a monogamous relationship, your partner claims that it is “okay” for them to cheat because of your job. It is not okay.

 

Internal Monologue

  • Thinking to yourself, “I don’t deserve him/her in the first place because of what I do.”
  • Feeling afraid often; feeling “like you’re walking on eggshells.” Being more jumpy than usual.
  • Blaming yourself, blaming your job for problems at home.

 

The “Apology”

  • An abuser’s apology for their behavior includes blaming your job. They might say things like, “If you left that awful work, I wouldn’t be so angry,” “I just hate to see you degrading yourself,” or “It’s illegal, and it stresses me out.” These are not acceptable apologies for their behavior that was caused 100% by him/her and not by you or your job.

 

Recovery

Maybe you still have a job or still live in the same town, but either way, the aftermath of an abusive relationship is a very difficult period. You probably don’t think very highly of yourself, and you’re still filled with a lot of fear. Be patient with yourself. Everything isn’t going to fall back into place right away. Building up your life again from the bottom up takes a lot of time.

In every case, a victim has some part of their agency still intact, a healthy relationshiphowever small. The myth that agency has to be completely removed from the victim in order for the victim to be a victim is a fallacy that limits the definition of abuse and therefore perpetuates victim-blaming.

Abuse is always simultaneously an abuse of trust. You trust that someone you love isn’t going to harm you, or if they have, that they’re going to change and never do that again. You trust that the people you work with aren’t going to harm you. These are basic assumptions that we carry in our lives in order live, and abusers are people who disregard and take advantage of that trust.

Regardless of what society… or an abusive partner tells you – you do deserve support, and you can get support. If you reach out for support, you have a right to withhold your story. You have a right to tell your story. It’s all up to you, and what makes you feel safe and understood.

 

Resources

 

  • Peer Support can be great. Reach out to local sex worker advocacy groups, like SWOP. (Feel free to use a pseudonym if you’re more comfortable that way). If there’s not a sex worker support group near you, you can also get peer support online.
  • Domestic Violence services are victim-centered, and are there to help you, not judge. Click here for a link of resources ‘approved’ by the sex worker community.
  • If you have experience stigma or prejudice from a domestic violence service provider, know that it’s not your responsibility to educate those employed to help you, and know you can contact us to respond.

“SAVE” Bill would Help Traffickers and Hurt Youth, Homeless and Other Vulnerable Groups – Take Action!

Senator Kirk (IL) and Senator Feinstein (CA) recently introduced a bill (S. 2536) to the federal senate which would change requirements for placing adult advertisements, as well as record-keeping requirements for adult advertising websites.
The bill, titled the “Kirk-Feinstein Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act”  can be found here. The bill would impact any individual who places an online ad for any adult service (fetish, stripping, body rub, escort, and adult film), as well as all websites that contain sections devoted to adult services, even those that do not charge for ad placement.

Summary of S. 2536

  • Requires individuals placing ads to submit a valid government ID and telephone number.
  • Requires all individuals placing ads, whether free or paid, to submit valid debit or credit card information.
  • Prohibits payment with pre-paid cards, money orders, cash, or bitcoin.
  • Requires ad websites to maintain records of advertisers’ identification, phone numbers and financial information for at least 7 years.
  • Requires ad websites to share records with the attorneys’ general without a warrant or subpoena.
  • Ad website owners and administrators that fail to comply with new requirements would be punished with between $250-300,000 in fines and up to 5 years in prison.saveact2
How the Bill Would Impact Our Communities
  • Increase the vulnerability of adult workers to traffickers and third parties, increase street-based sex work: Requiring debit or credit cards and government IDs will bar the most vulnerable populations involved in the adult industry from using the web to work, thus forcing them into higher-risk street-based sex work or into the hands of traffickers, pimps and third parties.save4
  • Increase government surveillance of adult workers: New record keeping requirements will effectively create a database of all individuals involved in the adult entertainment industry, and increase surveillance of our community.
  • Compound discrimination against sex workers by the financial sector and reduce economic well-being and stability of adult workers: The financial sector has an awful track record of freezing, seizing and closing bank accounts of individuals who place adult advertisements using cards. Forcing individuals to use credit and debit cards to place legal adult advertisements will make individuals who place ads even more susceptible to these forms of institutional exclusion and violence, and would significantly reduce the economic well-being and stability of sex workers.
  • Increase work costs for adult workers and reduce economic well-being and stability of adult workers: New record-keeping requirements for advertising websites will be expensive. It is unlikely these new costs would of ad websites; rather, it is very likely they would be passed on to adult workers who advertise on them.chasebank

Take Action!

SWOP-Chicago encourages community members and allies to take action:

SWOP-Chicago has drafted a sign-on letter, and we invite you to sign it as an individual or organization and share the link of facebook, twitter, or within your email lists.

Sign as an Individual

Sign as an Organization or Group

 
We will collect organizational and individual sign-ons until Thursday, July 24 at 10AM.

PROS Network Chicago, Website Launch!

Today is International Sex Worker Rights day, and we specifically chose today to launch the PROS Network Chicago Website:  www.prosnetworkchicago.org

After over a year of hard work, we’ve created a network of (to date) over 25 health-care, legal, counseling, and harm harm-reduction practitioners and agencies with over 40 locations throughout Chicago, all offering affirming, client-centric, and harm-reduction-oriented services to individuals currently or previously involved in the sex trade/the adult entertainment industry. See our website for a full list of current PROS Network Members!

PROS NETWORK CHICAGO:
The PROS Network is a directory of direct service providers and legal, medical and mental health professionals who are capable of providing non-judgmental, client-centric and harm reduction-oriented services to individuals in the sex industry.
The purpose of the PROS Network is to connect individuals that by choice, circumstance or coercion, engage in sexual activities in exchange for money or other survival needs to non-judgmental and culturally appropriate services and resources.
The PROS Network – Chicago website includes:

This is only the soft launch. 

On May 8, 2013 we will have the PROS Network Chicago launch party!
We’ll be releasing the first batch of outreach material and celebrating the organizers who have been working on this project diligently for over a year and celebrate the organizations and individuals who have signed on, who are providing resources that makes a positive differences in the lives of so many individuals living and working in Chicago.
In Solidarity and Support,
Sex Workers Outreach Project – Chicago
PROS Network – Chicago

We are always looking to add PROS Network Members and expand knowledge and access to client-centric, affirming, harm-reduction-oriented services for individuals involved in the sex trade.
If you are a helping professional or represent an agency and are interested in joining the PROS Network, please email serpent@swop-chicago.org for more information. Signing PROS Network Partners can fill out an e-contract here, or they can request a printable form to be emailed or mailed to them.
If you are a current/former sex worker, please recommend a few of your favorite resources here  or give feedback on any of the resources we have listed on our website at: prosnetworkchicago@gmail.com!

The Veneration of Whores! December 17th…

The Veneration of Whores ~ Celebration & Candlelight Vigil
10th Annual, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Come enjoy a beautiful evening of celebration & community in Chicago!
Join us as we pay respect to life by honoring our dead and firmly resist ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­the
 institutional and physical violence committed against sex workers worldwide.
Image

EVENTS THIS YEAR INCLUDE:

• Speakers (TBA)
• Community Commemoration Graffiti Wall
• Special Burlesque & Art Performances
• Robyn Few “Patron Saint of Sex Workers” Shrine 
• Featuring queer DJ All the Way Kay
• Candlelight vigil for sex worker victims in 2012
• Wine & Tea by donation

✔ Bring yourself
✔ … and bring a Friend!
✔ Bring some positive energy
✔ Bring solidarity
✔ Please also consider bringing something healing ,or personal, or special to share/commemorate & glue/write on the community wall; or leave at the “Patron Saint of Sex Workers” Shrine. —-> feather boas, candles, mementos, condoms, poetry, hotel key cards… (get creative!) (glue & markers provided)


This is an ALL-AGES event, which is Open to the Public.
• Light Snacks & Refreshments will be Provided!
Image
For more information contact the SWOP-Chicago: 
www.swop-chicago.org |  312-252-3800  | sexworkchicago@gmail.com

Asia Pacific Network Of Sex Workers – Speech at the International Women’s Development Forum

SWOP-Chicago normally only publishes original content. However, this speech was so powerful that I felt it was important to share.

Hello everybody

I am Kthi Win from Myanmar and I am a sex worker. I manage a national organization for female, male & transgender sex workers in Burma & I am also the chairperson of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers.  Until now, organising anything in Myanmar has been very difficult.  And people ask, “how did you set up a national programme for sex workers?”

And my answer to them is “Our work is illegal.  Every night we manage to earn money without getting arrested by the police.  We used to work and organise together, so we use this knowledge in order to work out how we can set up the National Network without making the government angry”.

This topic is about transforming economic power.  I want to say to you, that when a woman makes the decision to sell sex, she has already made the decision to empower herself economically.  What we do in organising sex workers, is we build on the power that the sex worker has already taken for herself – the decision to not be poor.

Like other workers, we gain more economic power by organising collectively and demanding our rights.

The key demand of the sex worker’s movement in Burma, in Asia and all around the world is simple.  We demand that sex work is recognised as work.

But we have one OTHER key demand, specific to certain parts of the women’s movement.

We demand that we are not treated as victims.  Sex work is work! Sex work by definition, is NOT trafficking. Treat us as workers and not as passive victims.

For me and for sex workers movement in Myanmar, the thing that changed us the most and inspired us was to meet other sex worker activists and to become part of the broader sex workers rights movement through APNSW.

We organised for members of APNSW to come to do a workshop in Myanmar and we met other sex worker activists and learned about how they organised and how they can do things for themselves.

Until then we thought that we would be led by and learn from non sex worker experts in other NGOs. But what we learned and what made the change was that we realised, that instead of having to do what other people told us, we could do it ourselves and become more powerful by being part of a regional and global movement for sex workers rights.

Many people always assume that sex workers have less power than our customers. They assume that because customers are men they have all the power. But who pays whom?

Who makes the money?

It is sex workers who make money. And by understanding men and what it is they want from us, we usually end up walking away from them with more money than they agreed to give us at the beginning.

Also people do not realise that many customers become our good friends and they keep supporting us.

It is this same skill we use when dealing with government or dealing with donors.

We have learned to work out what it is that the donors want from us, or what it is the national government or district officials expect from us.

We then frame what we need in ways that will help them to do what it is that they need to do.

SO in building our movement we build the confidence of sex workers to use the skills they have already learned.

We get a lot of quiet support from most of the women’s movement.

But we face daily attacks from a small fringe group who have hijacked the whole debate on sex work by defining all sex work as trafficking and claiming to speak for all of YOU – claiming that “real feminists” all oppose prostitution and that “real feminists’ all know that sex work is not work.

They say that women like me are all victims.

They tell you that there is some pimp or madam who has told me what to say.

They tell you that some man who works for an “international sex trafficking and pornography syndicate” will beat me or violently rape me if I do not do what I am told.

So, let’s talk about attacks and violence against sex workers.

And when I say attacks on sex workers, I don’t just mean verbal attacks or debate within a movement.

I mean real violence on a daily basis against women like me.

Do you know that sex workers do not live in fear of violent clients?

We live in daily fear of being “rescued”.

The violence happens when feminist rescue organisations work with the police who break into our work places and beat us, rape us and kidnap our children in order to save us.

As a movement, feminism is meant to believe in agency. Even oppressed women in sex work can make choices.  But we cannot chose not to be saved when a policeman or police women has a gun pointed at our head.

What we need is for the mainstream women’s movement to not just silently support our struggle but to speak up and speak out against the extremists who have turned the important movement against real trafficking into a violent war against sex workers.

I ask that you all to stand with sex workers.

We ask you to TALK with sex workers.

Nothing about us without us.

It’s time for the silent majority of feminists to stand with us and say:

Sex work is work!!!

Kthi Win – APNSW