Last month a new chapter of the USA-wide network of Sex Workers Outreach Projects launched in Sacramento, California. Founded by Kristen DiAngelo and Stacey Swimme, SWOP Sacramento states that its mission is “upholding both civil and human rights of sex workers and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy”.
We spoke to DiAngelo via email to get some more details on SWOP Sacramento.
Why did you decide to begin a new chapter? Why does Sacramento need one?
The Sacramento chapter of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) arose in response to the closure of MyRedBook.com, an online tool that allowed Sex Workers to screen for predators, and post ads for free. The fallout from an IRS/Fed raid left literally thousands of California Sex Workers without jobs and the ability to feed themselves and their families. We had been discussing the need for a chapter and this gave us the motivation to move forward with SWOP Sacramento.
What are some challenges specific to sex workers in the Sacramento area?
Some challenges sex workers in Sacramento face are lack of communication and sense of community.There are serious gaps in all forms of health care, including mental health care. Sacramento Sex Workers are silenced when trying to report crimes, and when trying to seek health care; they are often mistreated by those very providers who should be healing them. We have no safety from prosecution even when reporting crimes and we have limited ways to avoid predators.
What were the challenges of starting the chapter? And what advocacy have you and Stacey previously worked on?
Funding. We had developed a concept that would address gaps in communication and social services for sex workers. The system would inform sex workers via text or email immediately when a predator is reported. A funder who espoused helping trafficking survivors, we approached and hoped they would help us launch the project. They loved the idea, but they didn’t want to work with SWOP or “sex workers”, even those who identified as survivors.
In the areas of advocacy, Kristen co-founded the American Courtesans Project, a project that launched a feature documentary, which has won awards around the world, including a civil and human rights award, and Best Documentary at the 2013 SF Sex Worker film festival. Kristen’s activism has centered on education and destigmatising sex workers, to give a voice to those who have none.
Stacey has been an activist for over a decade, and her contributions have been immeasurable to the Sex Worker movement. In 2003, Stacey co-founded SWOPUSA with the late Robyn Few. A few years later in 2005 she was co-founded the Desiree Alliance. Combined, Kristen and Stacey have worked in the sex industry for more than 50 years.
What services does SWOP Sacramento offer?
SWOP Sacramento will be providing sex work awareness training for professional therapists and other medical professionals to increase knowledge about how to best serve our community. We are outreaching to both LGBTQ and the overall Sex Worker community, as well. Funding for counselling sessions is coming from SWOPUSA, with funds targeting those who’ve experienced assault, violence, or harassment. Our mission includes building bridges between the needs of Sex Workers and those services that are available.
What are your hopes and ambitions for SWOP Sacramento?
SWOP Sacramento envisions a Capital City Region in which sex workers are not denied access to the basic human rights of health care, legal protection and healthy communities. We hope to end the stigma and fear that keeps sex workers isolated in silence.