SEX WORK SAFETY TIPS AND RESOURCES
Please note that these are not intended to make up a comprehensive safety plan. They are just ideas. Use the ones that make sense to you and discard the others. Know that some may be effective in one situation but not helpful at all in another situation. Please remember that if you experience violence on the job, it is not your fault and it is not because you didn’t follow safety tips.
Trust Your Gut
Listen to your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Appearances can be deceiving. Just because someone looks “ok” or “respectable” doesn’t mean they are.
Sometimes your “intuition” tells you that something about a situation is “off” but you can’t put your finger on what it is. It’s important to trust your own sense of things and allow yourself space to figure out the details of why you feel that way, if you can.
Booking and Accepting Work
If you take bookings over the phone, get their number and record it somewhere safe. Is it a landline or a mobile number? Is it listed on one of the escort safety websites?
If you use the internet, is the booking made from an account you need a credit card for, or is it a free one where they could use any made up details? Does the website promise anonymity for users?
When talking to a client be assertive and confident.
Check the address. If the client says they are taking you to one place but pulls up to another, this may not be the only thing that they are lying about.
Get you money upfront. If you have other money with you, stash the payment somewhere else if the is client watching you. This way if you get robbed it is less likely the client will take all of your money.
Do not promise a service that you are not comfortable with. Be honest upfront about your limits and services you do not provide. Although you always have the right to say “no” to a client they may not respect this once you are alone. Before you go somewhere private, negotiate price, services, safe sex, a safe location and payment up front.
Some sex workers prefer to tell their clients that they are transgendered up front because they feel less at risk of violence than if it comes out later.
Getting Ready for Work
Try to avoid wearing necklaces, scarves or anything around your neck that could be used to strangle you with.
Weigh out the pros and cons of your footwear choices. Some workers wear shoes that they can move quickly in, or that they can slip off easily. Try not to wear any clothing that may slow you down if you need to run.
Carry a cell phone and make sure it is fully charged when you go out. Program emergency numbers into your phone ie. friends, crisis lines, police. You can program it to dial a phone number by pressing only one button. You can also download apps that track your location or you can activate location services.
Have cash when you go out in case you don’t make any money, or get dumped by a client and you need to pay for a taxi.
Tell a friend or co-worker when you are going out to work and when you expect to be back.
Call yourself and leave a message with a description of the client’s car or text the license plate number to a friend.
Have a code word to use with someone you trust. If you are in trouble, call the person and say the code word casually to let them know you need help.
Work with friends if possible. Consider casually telling a client you have been seen leaving in their car and are expected back at a certain time.
Share information with other sex workers. If you have had a bad experience with a client, pass the details on to workers and any organizations that you trust that have a direct connection to bad dating reporting.
On the Job
Choose your environment if possible. When in a car or in a room, be aware of the exit at all times and do not let the customer block your access to it. If possible, position yourself so you are closer to the exit than your client.
Survey your environment and plan your exits. Notice what kinds of locks are on the doors and consider how you would open them.
Put your purse where you can find it without looking (eg. on the floor between your feet).
Try to avoid accepting food or drink from clients unless they’re prepackaged and still in their wrapper. Make sure your client is happy to take the same food and drink.
Decide whether you feel safe taking drugs from a client or using drugs with them. In addition, some sex workers say they prefer to be sober and not using drugs when they work, so that their instincts and judgement are not impaired.
What are your feelings about being videoed? If this is “hard no” for you, keep an eye open for recording devices that are used without your consent, such as an open laptop with a webcam directed at the bed.
Decide if you are comfortable doing sex work for more than one client at once. If you agree to work with only one person, and there are more at the destination or others show up, you might decide it is time to get out of there!
Watch the client. Look for warning signs that things may become unsafe like aggressive body language or a sudden switch in mood.
Sometimes sex workers say they make a lot of noise or “make a scene” to attract the attention of others if they find themselves in an unsafe situation. At other times people try to get out unnoticed or with as little commotion as possible. If you have to get away, run AGAINST traffic, not with it.
If you decide to report a situation to the police and need advocacy, consider getting in touch with an agency who will help
Tips for Making Referrals For Service Providers Assisting Sex Workers
There are many things to consider when making referrals. It is important as service providers to check assumptions about what is actually needed and see the client as a whole person rather than focus on just their involvement in sex work. Do not assume a client automatically wants or needs sex work specific services, particularly services that focus on exiting. Listen openly and carefully and recognize that appropriate referrals may or may not be related to sex work.
Secondary considerations relate to the barriers experienced by some individuals in sex work. When making referrals the following are possible questions to ask to help facilitate meaningful connections with other agencies and identify some of the barriers:
Do you require photo ID?
Do you require a Health Card?
Do you require an address, if so, what proof do you need?
Do you need to provide proof of immigration status?
Can a client text rather than phone?
What are your hours of operation? Do you have evening hours?
Do you provide any assistance with transportation?
Are you on a main bus route?
Do you offer childcare while the client is accessing service?
Do you provide any anonymous services?
Do you provide walk in appointments or do they need to be scheduled before hand?
Do you have a waitlist? If so, how long is it and can the client jump ahead if there is a crisis situation?
What is your policy about clients who use drugs and/or alcohol? Do clients need to wait a certain amount of time after using before they can attend your service?
Brant and Haldimand/Norfolk Counties have useful referral guides to utilize as service providers. The Refrigerator Door (Brantford and Brant County) and A Woman’s Guide for Help (Haldimand/Norfolk Counties) provide thorough lists and descriptions of services and support in our communities. Both referral guides are available through numerous community agencies, such as the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant and Haldimand Norfolk Women’s Services.
There are numerous resources that cover a broad range of topics related to sex work. More learning is available through the following:
Stella is a sex worker rights group in Montreal. Their website is geared mostly to those in sex work but has helpful resources for services providers as well. It includes PDF print outs simplifying each of the new laws included in Bill C-36, including advertising, clients, communication and third parties.
Maggie’s is a sex worker rights group in Toronto. The organization is run for and by local sex workers. The website includes resources for sex workers, a library of articles and links to other websites. Maggie’s also has physical space for drop in groups.
Butterfly: the Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Network is a Toronto based agency that offers support to Asian and migrant sex workers. They provide a 24/7 hotline (available in English, Mandarin and Cantonese) and outreach including legal, health and crisis support.
The Pivot Legal Society is a B.C. based organization with the mandate is to use the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion. It has numerous legal articles on the law and sex work.
POWER is an Ottawa based non-profit organization that is run by and for sex workers. It includes resources for sex workers, news articles and many helpful links to other areas of interest.
Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) is an international organization. Its purpose it to facilitate networking between advocates of sex worker rights at a global and regional level.
Sex Workers without Borders is based out of the United States and describes itself as a “grassroots educational organization.” Their focus is on raising awareness of issues pertaining to sex work and providing speakers to present on numerous topics. The website includes helpful information on harm reduction and blogs discussing sex worker rights.
SCOT-PEP is a campaigning and lobbying group in Scotland that advocates for sex worker rights. The website has helpful resources for sex workers on safety planning and sexual health (including pregnancy and parenthood). It also has numerous readings on issues pertaining to sex work.