Sex work and injection drug use are among the most risky behaviours worldwide. The harms associated with these behaviours can be minimized through harm reduction principles.
Harm reduction can be controversial, depending on who you talk to; however, it offers some tangible solutions to dealing with the issues.
Safer sex campaigns and distribution of condoms are examples of harm-reduction principles that are not new to sex work.
The bad date book initiated by the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society is a simple, low cost strategy to reducing the violence faced by sex workers. The online form at www.caans.org gives sex workers an opportunity to anonymously provide descriptions of violent customers and their vehicles so that others can be protected from the same dangerous and potentially fatal situation.
Sex trade workers can be of any age, including youths and children. They can be female, male or transgendered and can encompass a variety of occupations and activities such as erotic massage, phone sex, escort services, pornography and street work that involve selling sexual services or fantasies for money or payment in kind.
Street-based sex workers are only a part of the entire sex trade industry.
Many in the industry lead regular lives. Many choose their line of work.
Some like the flexible schedule, some are comfortable with sexuality, nudity, keeping others’ secrets, listening and giving moral support. Others enjoy meeting people and making meaningful relationships.
Despite this, there is still stigmatization in the industry that prevent people from seeking support. Many workers are embarrassed and shameful so they become invisible and work in isolation.
Like any other occupation, sex trade workers have rights to security and safety; however the reality is that their job marginalizes them and puts them in vulnerable situations.
The bad date book is a good idea because it provides those in the sex trade with an opportunity to support one another.
It gives them a voice to briefly tell their experience of being raped, assaulted, abused or robbed by a client. It provides a means for them to be taken seriously and acknowledges their rights to be respected and recognized.
The bad date book is an initiative that hopefully will begin to pave the way for additional programs in our community for those working in the sex trade.
Hats off to all the employees and volunteers at CAANS and supporters of reducing exploitation of people and violence in our community.
Editor’s note: The letter writer is a third-year nursing student at Red Deer College.