Letter to Seattle Public Safety Chair Herbold on Seattle’s Suspension of Sexual Assault Investigations

Below is a letter sent to Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the Public Safety committee on the recent revelation about the Seattle Police Department’s suspension of sexual assault investigations.

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June 14, 2022

Councilmember Herbold,

This is Emi from the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade. I’ve been in conversation with community members about the recent revelation about the Seattle Police Department’s suspension of adult sexual assault investigations, and I’d like to share some thoughts:

1. As others have already pointed out, SPD’s decision to abandon sexual assault victims is not a result of the “defund” movement, but that of a conscious decision to prioritize homeless encampment sweeps and low-level misdemeanor crimes such as small scale shoplifting.

2. SPD’s prioritization of anti-homeless and anti-poor enforcement didn’t just take resources away from investigating sexual assaults. It increases sexual assaults by making homeless and poor women (among others) more vulnerable to sexual coercion, exploitation, and violence.

3. Some observers have mentioned how there are many women working along Aurora who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, and argued the police had better pay more attention to them. However, the reality is that the police has been paying extra attention to Aurora ever since the election to the detriment of the very women who are experiencing risk. After years of mostly benign neglect, SPD has ramped up targeted harassment of people suspected of walking while woman (of color) on Aurora under the same policy of targeting those “unwanted” by “neighborhood” NIMBY activists.

4) SPD’s deprioritization of sexual assaults demonstrates its misogyny and lack of understanding of harms of sexual violence, but it also shows the law enforcement’s internal logic: sexual violence is notoriously difficult to prosecute, compared to other crimes like shoplifting and trespass that they are prioritizing, because it often relies on the cooperation and perceived credibleness of traumatized and often confused or conflicting victims. The law enforcement prefers to focus on something where they can score points more easily.

…which brings us to 5) even in the best of circumstances, which we definitely are not in, but even in the best of circumstances, law enforcement cannot be the primary or effective solution for vast majority of sexual assault cases. Hence, regardless of SPD’s priorities, we cannot rely on the police as the primary vehicle to prevent sexual violence, support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, etc. We need to reject attempts to use survivors to increase funding for the police, which would make more people vulnerable to sexual violence, and instead call for more funding for preventitive efforts at schools, communities, and workplaces, as well as for survivor support, restorative and transformative justice practices, etc.

Best,

Emi Koyama
Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade
http://www.rightsandsafety.org/

Open Letter from Gender-Based Violence Organizations regarding House Bill 1989

Below is an open letter from organizations with decades of experiences addressing gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking, expressing concerns about House Bill 1989 which is intended to provide funding for “exit services” for people to leave the sex trade. We support more funding for services for this population, but believe that services should be designed to enhance safety and self-determination, rather than paternalistically push toward “exit.” Text of the open letter as well as links to PDF files of the open letter and our proposed changes follow.

Logos

Open Letter from Gender-Based Violence Organizations regarding House Bill 1989

January 24, 2022

Dear Chair Senn and members of the House Children, Youth & Families Committee,

We are leading organizations in Washington working to end sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence. As organizations with many decades of experience supporting survivors of violence and their communities, we support the establishment of more healing services to individuals in the sex trade that will expand the range of options available to them as well as more coordination among organizations providing such services. However, we are concerned that House Bill 1989 limits the scope of services for adults and also that people directly impacted by the law are not centered or included in its implementation.

1. In Section 1(3), healing services are designed to “intervene and prevent further exploitation” and to provide an “exit path from commercial sexual exploitation.” We believe this language creates a barrier to services for many people the bill intends to serve, as most people do not view themselves as “commercially sexually exploited” and may not view “exit” as a viable option at the moment they need or connect with healing services. We believe that offering low-barrier, harm reduction-based services designed to enhance safety and self-determination is the more appropriate, humane and responsible option and that those types of services will create a wider range of options, including the choice to exit sex trade.

2. Throughout the bill, the phrase “commercial sexual exploitation” is used, but without definition and perhaps without fully considering the impact of the term. Existing laws refer to “commercial sexual exploitation” only in reference to minors who are in the sex trade (e.g. RCW 7.68) and not to adults. As such, the bill is a departure from the existing legal framing, and treats adults who are in the sex trade akin to children, denying their agency. Further, when the City of Seattle modified its ordinance to rename the misdemeanor crime of “patronizing a prostitute” to “commercial sexual exploitation” a while back, it led to unintended consequences including prejudicial treatment in immigration determinations.

Additional language in Sec. 1(4)(d) specifically excludes the community most knowledgeable about the needs of people working in the sex trade. The bill’s mandate to involve “diverse community representatives who have lived experience of exiting commercial exploitation” in the development of the request for proposals unfortunately excludes and silences people who are currently in the sex trade, despite the fact they are the intended recipients of services it will fund. For the greatest success, we believe people closest to the issue should be included in the policy development and implementation, especially in the coordination efforts of healing and transition centers. (A separate bill, Senate Bill 5793 seeks to provide stipends to low-income or underrepresented community members to participate in state committees, which will help people in the sex trade have a voice in the process.)

We hope to continue to dialogue with the members of the committee to address our concerns and make the bill better.

Sincerely,

API Chaya
Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence
Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade
Gender Justice League
Legal Voice
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

PDF version of this open letter here
Proposed changes to HB 1989 here

All 38 outstanding prostitution cases at Seattle Municipal Court closed/dismissed/vacated

As reported by PubliCola (Court Approves City Attorney’s Motion to Clear Outstanding Prostitution Warrants), last week Seattle City Attorney’s Office (SCAO) filed a motion last week to close/dismiss/vacate a number of outstanding prostitution cases and squashing bench warrants, which was approved by the Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) presiding judge Willie Gregory this week.

The PubliCola article has different numbers, but the earliest case dates back to 1993 and the total number of warrants quashed is 38 (not 37), involving 35 individuals according to SCAO.

Also according to SCAO, this closes/dismisses/vacates all outstanding prostitution cases in the SMC.

As for the impetus for this move, SCAO credits the work of the Community Task Force on Criminal/Legal System Realignment, a group of formerly or currently system-involved folks and our families (including Coalition for Rights & Safety director Emi), which has just turned in a report to the City Council this past Friday (September 17th) and will present it to the Public Safety Committee next Friday (September 24th) at 9:30-11:30am.

On another big news, we have also been informed that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has ordered his staff to stop seeking SOAP or SODA orders, which if issued by a judge excludes individuals from specific areas considered high traffic for prostitution or drug trade. We’ve been advocating for SOAP and SODA orders to be abolished because it leads to racial and gender profiling and other hardships with discriminatory impact. After the City abolished prostitution loitering and drug traffic loitering ordinances in response to the BLM uprising last summer, there was no excuse to keep SOAP and SODA orders intact since they result in the same exact consequences as the loitering ordinances.

The impact of SCAO’s decision not to seek SOAP and SODA orders is limited. First, this does not stop King County Prosecutor’s Office or any other prosecutors in cities across the County from seeking them. It also does not stop judges, including SMC judges, form issuing them anyway. Finally, it will not invalidate existing SOAP and SODA orders, or prevent the Seattle Police Department and other law enforcement agencies from using the pretext of enforcing SOAP and SODA orders to profile and harass communities. The Community Task Force mentioned above is asking the SMC to stop issuing SOAP and SODA orders, and SPD to stop enforcing them altogether.

Massage Parlor Outreach Project Links

Massage Parlor Outreach Project/CID Coalition Statement:
Solidarity with Massage Parlor Workers Means Ending Police Raids and Patrols in the CID

Massage Parlor Outreach Project collaborative members:

Massage Parlor Outreach Project on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/110436964153952/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mpop_sea/

Vigil photos by Mel Ponder Photography:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.123130783156661&type=3

Vigil promo images for social media:
https://1drv.ms/u/s!Asp-Sx_gj6JNiXYBnEpaF7DUwwKy?e=ByKxdM

Recent articles mentioning MPOP:

Solidarity with Massage Parlor Workers Means Ending Police Raids and Patrols in the CID

(The statement below is reprinted from Chinatown/International District Coalition. Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade is one of the four organizations partnered to form the Massage Parlor Outreach Project.)

SOLIDARITY WITH MASSAGE PARLOR WORKERS MEANS ENDING POLICE RAIDS AND PATROLS IN THE CID

A JOINT STATEMENT + CALL TO ACTION FROM THE MASSAGE PARLOR OUTREACH PROJECT 女工互助小组 AND CID COALITION

The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP) and Chinatown-International District (CID) Coalition are horrified by the recent shootings that have taken place in Atlanta and disgusted by the long history of misogyny and exploitative racism they represent. We extend our condolences to the families of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Tan Xiaojie, Feng Daoyou, Park Soon Chung, Kim Hyun Jung Grant, Kim Sun Cha, and Yoo Yong Ae. To the sole survivor Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, who remains hospitalized with injuries, we pray for his health and send our wishes to his family.

Within hours of the news of this targeted massacre, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief of Police Adrian Diaz publicly pledged to increase police patrols in the CID and conduct outreach to Asian American and community-based organizations. Yet, for those in our community most affected by anti-Asian violence of the kind seen recently, increased policing only compounds the danger in their lives. And to date, grassroots groups who have built deep relationships with Asian migrant women working in CID massage parlors over many years have not been contacted by the Mayor’s office. Instead, Mayor Durkan and other local electeds made plans to interrupt a community vigil scheduled for Monday, March 22nd for the victims in Atlanta with a press conference of their own — an empty gesture and publicity act that appropriates and demeans community self-organizing.

Had the City bothered to conduct any meaningful community outreach, instead of scrambling to pull together a photo op, they would have learned that increased police presence does not prevent violence against Asians and Asian Americans. On the contrary, policing and surveillance harm the very people the Mayor and SPD now claim concern for.

Two years ago, Seattle Police raided 11 massage parlors, supposedly “rescuing” 26 Chinese women from so-called “sex trafficking operations.” In reality, the owners of these parlors were charged with promoting prostitution, not human trafficking. And the women who had been “rescued” were simply displaced. They lost both their means of living and their housing, as housing was connected to their workplace. Many had their meager cash savings and other belongings confiscated.

Police raids have made all massage parlor workers’ lives more precarious. By surveilling, punishing workers, or closing massage parlors, law enforcement officers take away workers’ safety, agency, and source of income — ultimately increasing their vulnerability to the most heinous forms of exploitation and gendered violence. In 2014, Seattle attorney and former city prosecutor Danford Grant was sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting 5 massage parlor workers. Like the Atlanta murderer, Grant, a white man, claimed to have a sex addiction. These unjust racist and gendered power dynamics — re-enforced by the targeted sexualized policing of massage parlors — expose Asian immigrant women working to survive to racist fetishisms and violence. Policing massage parlors without providing a viable structure for immigrant and undocumented women to succeed, thrive, and control their own lives only increases their jeopardy, exploitation, and precarity.

Mayor Durkan and Chief Diaz’s call for increased policing is inseparable from their support of and visions for gentrification in the neighborhood. As with speculative real estate developers and even local neighborhood nonprofits in the CID, talk about “public safety” is coded language for displacing massage parlor workers and our unhoused neighbors to appease white-advantaging gentrification. But just as encampment sweeps fail to address homelessness or meet the actual needs of unhoused people, policing massage parlors out of existence does nothing to improve living or labor conditions for those who work at and use these businesses.

We stand in solidarity with all low-wage immigrant workers. We stand in solidarity with our Black, Latinx, and Indigenous siblings who are impacted by police brutality, and who live in and adjacent to the CID. We stand with our immigrant siblings who are detained and deported by police, the FBI, and ICE. We stand with our houseless siblings who shelter in the CID together for collective safety and community. And we stand with massage parlor workers who have been systematically arrested and harassed by police. We refuse to allow yet another instance of wanton white supremacist violence to justify the increase and expansion of law enforcement into our neighborhood.

Massage parlor workers and workers who provide sex have always been part of the CID, along with migrant laborers, cooks, grocers, and merchants. If we truly want to “stop Asian hate” and keep our community safe, we start by protecting those most vulnerable.

We encourage policies that advocate for and alongside what massage parlor workers want and need to be empowered and safe from harm. We demand the decriminalization of sex work, and recognition of sex workers and immigrants in massage parlors as legitimate essential workers providing an in-demand service. And we demand the defunding of the Seattle Police Department and the reallocation of monies to housing and social services in the CID. Let’s respect massage parlor workers and fight the harm, not our own people.

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The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP) and Chinatown-International District Coalition are two grassroots organizations based in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. We value the cultural and historical importance of the Chinatown-International District (CID) and organize in solidarity with all who live and work in the CID, including massage parlor workers and houseless communities, for an inclusive CID.

Seattle Vigil for Atlanta Massage Workers by MPOP – Monday March 22th @ 9:15am

With rage, love, and solidarity, we invite our Seattle/King County community to remember the lives of the massage workers and clients who were murdered in Atlanta on Tuesday, 3/16/21 in an act of gendered colonial violence and white supremacy. We are honored to hold this vigil on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples.

🌸 Details 🌸

🌷 Monday 3/22/21, 9:30AM PST, Hing Hay Park

🌷 Food & beverages, station to send cards to Atlanta and fold cranes

🌷 Program will be presented in English, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. Featured speakers: Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, PARISOL, API Chaya, & UTOPIA

🌷 Please follow COVID safety guidelines: mask up, physical distance, sanitizer

🌷 Bring candles, flowers, small gifts for local massage workers, cards to send to Atlanta, or other memorabilia.

🌷 Be prepared for rain; we will have some canopies and seats for elders and disabled folks

As we gather to remember their lives, we also call on community to unequivocally support Seattle-area massage workers and sex workers, who deserve respect, protection, and power as beloved members of our community.

Let’s imagine a future where our massage parlor and immigrant Asian workers are safe from raids, criminalization, and terror from police and the crimmigration system. We are in solidarity with the movements for Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. The forces that make Asian immigrant women workers unsafe are the same ones that murder and harm our Black, Indigenous, undocumented, and houseless siblings.

Donations to MPOP will go to support Seattle-area massage workers and MPOP’s outreach work, please add memo “MPOP”:
Cashapp (preferred): $mpopsea
Venmo: @MPOP_SEA

Rest in Power:

Tan Xiaojie, 49
Feng Daoyou, 44
Park Soon Chung, 74
Hyun Jung Grant, 51
Yue Yong Ae, 63
Kim Suncha, 69
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
Paul Andre Michels, 54

(copied from Facebook event page)


Below is the text of the speech Emi gave on behalf of the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade at the Seattle vigil on March 22, 2021.

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Thank you everyone for gathering here this morning to honor people who have lost their lives in our current climate of hate and violence toward women, Asian people as well as other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, immigrants, and people whose work is undervalued and disrespected.

My name is Emi and I am from the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, which has been part of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project from very beginning. I want to make it clear that not all migrant Asian women working at massage parlor do sex work, so massage workers should not be equated with sex workers. But the way the society vilifies, criminalizes, and targets sex workers for violence, as well as those that target women, Asians, immigrants, and poor people, affect all Asian massage workers regardless of whether or not they personally perform any sex work, as the recent violence in Georgia has shown, so we support and advocate for them all the same.

In February 2019, Seattle Police Department conducted the largest massage parlor raids in our city’s history. They shut down about a dozen Asian massage parlors and claimed to have “rescued” 26 Asian women. But the reality is that raids deprive women of their livelihood, displaces them, confiscates their cash savings and important documents, and abandons them. No manager or owner of the establishments have been charged with trafficking, the businesses reopened within weeks under a new management. The women would get on WeChat, a Chinese social media app, to find another massage parlor to work for in order to regain what they had lost in the police raid.

This is the exact same thing that happens to street-based sex workers when the police sweeps the street, or to internet-based escorts when they shut down Backpage: it displaces us and harms us without offering anything useful to improve our lives.

Some pro-police groups are capitalizing on the recent tragedy to increase surveillance and policing of our communities, but that is not the solution. We are indebted to the analysis of the Black-led uprising and join their call to divest from policing and to invest in community-led safety programs such as the Massage Parlor Outreach Project to protect our Asian sisters as well as all people experiencing violence. Thank you for joining our vigil today, and please connect with the Massage Parlor Outreach Project to find out how you can be part of the solution.

Communities Respond to the Shootings at Massage Parlors in Atlanta Area

We are joining communities in Seattle and across North America responding to the rise of anti-Asian violence and to the murder of eight individuals, including six Asian women workers, at Atlanta-area massage parlors earlier this week with calls to support community-led and community-centered safety solutions instead of increasing police surveillance of our communities.

Members of Seattle-based Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), which began in 2018 as a collaboration between Parisol (Pacific Rim Solidarity Network), CID Coalition, API Chaya, and the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, reached out to some of the women working at massage parlors in International District/Chinatown the morning after the news of violence in Atlanta. Understandably, they were scared.

MPOP is putting on a vigil Monday (March 22nd) morning. We will provide more information as they become available. You can donate to MPOP via Venmo at mpop_sea to support outreach and advocacy for massage parlor workers. Other organizations doing similar work include Red Canary Song in New York, Butterfly in Toronto, and SWAN Vancouver. Barnard Center for Research on Women has compiled a resources page for other community responses across North America.

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Below is a copy of the statement presented by Emi at a virtual vigil on March 18th hosted by Red Canary Song:

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight. It’s great to share space with you all despite such horrible circumstances.

My name is Emi and some of you know me as the Coordinatrix of the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade in Seattle. I am also a member of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project, which is a collaboration between Parisol, or Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, CID (Chinatown/International District) Coalition, API Chaya, and the Coalition for Rights & Safety.

MPOP originally started as an internship project of one of our founders, but became more organized after the largest raid on massage parlors in Seattle’s history in February 2019. The police claimed that they “rescued” 26 women from sex trafficking, but the reality was that women working at these establishments were simply displaced. None of the managers or owners of massage parlors were charged with human trafficking, and the workers lost their jobs and any housing connected to their jobs, and many had their cash savings and important papers confiscated.

Most of the workers we reach speak Chinese, and some speak Vietnamese, so we sent outreach workers and volunteers who speak these languages to connect with them. We distributed care packages, health and safety information, and other important supplies. Many workers are feeling scared. They rely on each other and their boyfriends for safety, although we know that because of the nature of heteropatriarchy, boyfriends can sometimes be dangerous too. When asked what makes them feel safe, not a single person mentioned the police, and they never called 911 when they were assaulted.

Many workers are excited about the vigil we are planning in Seattle next week. We scheduled it on Monday morning to make it possible for actual massage parlor workers to attend before their work shift begins. We will have dim sum breakfast and provide care package for these workers. We hope to deliver any leftovers to other workers who could not show up.

In response to the recent spate of anti-Asian violence, our Mayor has pledged to send more police officers to the International District/Chinatown, but we do not feel safe with that. You know who routinely stroll around Seattle’s International District/Chinatown equipped with weapons, terrorizing and intimidating Asian American neighbors for no reason? The ICE vans. We firmly echo the massage parlor workers’ sentiments: More cops do not make us feel safer. We need to divest from the police and reinvest resources into community-based safety solutions, like we at MPOP are working towards, and look to other groups such as Red Canary Song, Butterfly, and SWAN Vancouver for example.

Our organizing today is informed by and made possible in large parts thanks to the Black-led uprisings that have been ongoing for centuries, and became extra visible since last summer. While the recent rise of anti-Asian violence deserves our attention, we must also keep fighting anti-Black racism and refuse to allow our community’s need for safety to rationalize the expansion of state institutions that especially targets and attacks Black communities. We must also resist the urge to co-op slogans like #BlackLivesMatter, erasing Black people from a message intended to resist the erasure of Black lives.

Thank you for our friends in Asian communities, sex worker communities, and all others gathered together to remember the victims of violence in Georgia as well as victims and survivors of state and non-state violence against our shared communities. Please keep taking care of yourself, your family and friends, and your neighbors in this scary time, as you have for centuries.

Sex Workers and COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility in Washington State

As COIVD-19 vaccines become available in limited supply, it is essential that we prioritize people who are especially at risk for acquiring or spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, for vaccination. We believe that sex workers and people in the sex trade are at an elevated risk for contracting coronavirus because many of us continue to work, usually indoors, in cars, or other closed locations, often without the benefit of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), with members of the public.

Washington State Department of Health recognizes this. In COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Guidance and Interim Allocation Framework published on January 20, 2021, sex workers are listed among workers in various areas who “are at high risk.”

People working in jails and prisons, health workers, front line workers, pharmacists, restaurant and grocery workers, utility workers, critical infrastructure workers, contact tracing professionals, public transport workers, volunteer firefighters, people who work in hospitals, parks and recreation staff, hatchery staff, long-term care workers, farmworkers, sex workers, veterinarians and veterinary staff are at increased risk. Child care workers, school staff and nurses, teachers, and workers who leave their children in congregate child care, and other workers that are exposed to people or work in settings where proper safety precautions aren’t taken are at high risk. [Note: emphasis added]

It also states:

Sex workers are at risk when seeing clients, which disproportionately impacts queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

However, that has not translated to putting sex workers on the State’s current COVID-19 vaccination roadmap.

Vaccine Phases in WA

As of today, State of Washington is vaccinating people who fall under categories 1A (workers in health care setting, first responders, long-term care facility residents) and 1B tier 1 (people 65 or older, people who are 50 and older and live in multigenerational households). As more people in these categories are vaccinated and vaccine availability continue to grow, people in the rest of 1B categories and beyond will become eligible.

None of the categories that have been established so far appears to cover sex workers as a whole, though individual sex workers may already qualify under 1A or 1B1 classification or become eligible under other categories soon. For example, sex workers who are also health care workers or sex workers who are older would already qualify. Some sex workers doing harm reduction public health outreach (street outreach, needle exchange, etc.) to other sex workers have received vaccination as health care workers, which includes everyone who works at health care settings, not just doctors and nurses, and includes volunteers as well as employees.

Some sex workers consider themselves health are workers similar to massage therapists and counselors. The government will not say that this is the case, but it has not stated that sex workers are not health care workers either–and that is a good thing. Everyone has to make their own judgment as to whether or not they qualify and answer questions honestly on Washington State’s Phase Finder to self-certify their eligibility and then sign up for an appointment. Completing the Phase Finder will lead to a screen you can use as a proof of eligibility, and none of the people we know who have already received the vaccine said that their eligibility was ever questioned or verified by someone else (although your mileage may vary–please let us know if you experience any problems).

Dangerous environment sex workers and people in the sex trade operate under is not inevitable. When the pandemic hit, front-line essential workers continue to work with PPEs while others began working remotely or took generous unemployment insurance to stay home, watch Netflix and bake banana bread. But none of these options were realistic for many sex workers: masks and other PPEs baffled clients (they have hard enough time agreeing to condoms) and doing remote sex work (i.e. camming) isn’t for everybody nor is it realistic when you have kids doing schoolwork from home.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was designed to provide benefits to gig economy workers, self-employed individuals, and those who work as independent contractors for the first time. Many sex workers fit under these categories, but found it virtually impossible to receive financial support as it was difficult to prove lost income and meet other requirements. Dancers whose work is completely legal and could produce records of paying house fees (money charged by the clubs to dancers to “rent” the stage) had a slightly better luck accessing PUA, but also faced denials and unconscionably low benefit amount.

Sex workers are also categorically excluded from Small Business Administration loan programs that were created to support small businesses, independent contractors, and self-employed folks because services they provide is of “prurient sexual nature.” These explicit and implicit exclusions in the nation’s pandemic relief efforts are what left many sex workers and people in the sex trade without any option other than continuing to work during the pandemic at great risk to themselves, their families, and everyone else.

We will continue to monitor what happens in the vaccine rollout. Please share your experiences with receiving or not receiving vaccines and how you are working to reduce risks at work.

(Thx to Justice from Reframe Health and Justice for bringing us in to this conversation.)

Police Reform Bills in 2021 Washington State Legislature We Like & Those We Meh

Washington State’s 2021 legislative session is to begin next Monday, January 11th, which will hold public testimonies remotely via Zoom. Remote meeting has its own problems, but hopefully this will make it easier for more people who live outside of Olympia and surrounding areas to voice their opinions.

One of the themes of this year’s legislative session will be police reform and accountability. There are many pre-filed bills already that address this theme, and there will be more. Here is the list of stuff we like (mostly from our Black and POC representatives and senators!) as well as those not so much.


Stuff we like:

HB 1054 Establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers

Sponsored by Representatives Jesse Johnson and Debra Entenman, HB 1054 prohibits certain police tactics historically used in racially disproportionate ways, such as chokeholds, neck restraint, and the use of police dogs to arrest people, along with the use of tear gas and other military equipment such as acoustic weapons and armed drones. It also prohibits police officers from concealing their badge number. A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 12th at 8amclick here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

HB 1082 / SB 5051 Concerning state oversight and accountability of peace officers and corrections officers

Companion bills HB 1082 sponsored by Representatives Roger Goodman and Jesse Johnson and SB 5051 sponsored by Senators Jamie Pedersen and Manka Dhingra strengthen the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, giving it greater authority to decertify and deny employment for police officers who commit misconduct, including failure to intervene and report another officer’s misconducts. Public hearing for HB 1082 is scheduled for Friday, January 15th at 10am; for SB 5051, it is Monday, January 18th at 10amclick here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

HB 1092 Concerning law enforcement data collection

Representatives John Lovick and Roger Goodman proposed HB 1092, which requires collection and reporting of police data, including incidents that result in police conduct causing death or injury, as well as uses of firearms, chokehold or neck restraint, tear gas and other “less lethal” weapons, or unleashed police dogs. A public hearing will be held on Thursday, January 14th at 1:30pmclick here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

SB 5055 Concerning law enforcement personnel collective bargaining

Senators Joe Nguyen and Rebecca Saldaña sponsored SB 5055 which will prohibit municipalities from entering into collective bargaining agreement with police unions that would prevent or undermine these municipalities from establishing or implementing civilian review board to hold misbehaving officers accountable. Public hearings for both SB 5055 and SB 5134 will be held on Thursday, January 14th at 8amclick here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

SB 5134 Enhancing public trust and confidence in law enforcement and strengthening law enforcement accountability for general authority Washington peace officers, excluding department of fish and wildlife officers.

Similar to SB 5055 above, SB 5134 sponsored by Senators Jesse Salomon and Jeannie Darneille prohibits collective bargaining agreements with law enforcement officers unions that hinders municipalities’ ability to hold officers accountable, such as mandatory “waiting period” before officers are interviewed about use of force, and many other clauses common in police contracts. Public hearings for both SB 5055 and SB 5134 will be held on Thursday, January 14th at 8amclick here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

SB 5067 / HB 1088 Concerning potential impeachment disclosures

Cryptically titled, SB 5067 (sponsored by Senetor Manka Dhingra) and HB 1088 (sponsored by Representatives John Lovick and Roger Goodman) deal with police officers who are unreliable witnesses due to misconduct. They would require law enforcement agencies to disclose any information they have about officers’ misconduct that may affect their credibility as prosecution-side witnesses to prosecutor’s office in jurisdictions where they may be called to testify. Prosecutors are (theoretically) then required to provide any such information to the defense, under Brady v. Maryland U.S. Supreme Court ruling.


Stuff we meh:

SB 5089 Concerning peace officer hiring and certification

Sponsored by Senators Patty Kuderer and Jamie Pedersen, SB 5089 makes several changes to the basic requirement for someone being certified and hired as police officers. In particular, it rewards applicants who are proficient in a language other than English, has experiences in the peace corps, AmeriCorps, domestic violence counseling, or other social service profession, or those who have completed crisis intervention program with extra points in the qualification score, similar in fashion to veterans receiving preferences when they apply for public employment.

HB 1089 / SB 5069 Concerning compliance audits of requirements relating to peace officers and law enforcement agencies

Companion bills HB 1089 (sponsored by Representatives Bill Ramos and Roger Goodman) and SB 5069 (sponsored by Senator Manka Dhingra) authorize state auditor to review if any investigation involving the use of deadly force was conducted in accordance with rules and procedures by the police, prosecutors, and others that participated in the investigation. A public hearing is scheduled on January 14th at 1:30pm–click here to learn how to testify remotely or submit written testimony.

SB 5066 Concerning a peace officer’s duty to intervene

Similar to SB 5051 above, SB 5066 sponsored by Senators Manka Dhingra and Mona Das addresses police officers’ duty to intervene and report when they witness wrongdoing committed by their colleagues, but unlike SB 5051 this one merely requires adaptation of internal written policies on the duty to intervene within police departments as well as the development of basic training on it.


Outright non-solutions:

HB 1001 Establishing a law enforcement professional development outreach grant program

Representatives Jacquelin Maycumber (the only Republican mentioned on this page) and John Lovick sponsored HB 1001 laments how law enforcement agencies struggle to recruit and retain police officers due to “community distrust of law enforcement.” This bill proposes to solve the supposed problem of well-deserved community distrust by giving more money to law enforcement agencies to establish “outreach” programs to underrepresented communities to encourage them to become police officers. We try to be objective and not so opinionated on this page, but yuk.


We will keep this page updated as these bills advance (or not) or more bills are introduced.

Let us know what you are thinking!

Seattle Unanimously Repeals Prostitution & Drug Traffic Loitering Laws

Seattle City Council has just unanimously approved a pair of bills repealing prostitution loitering and drug traffic loitering laws after dozens sex workers and allies gave testimonies in support. We have been working on this issue since 2018, meeting with Councilmembers as well as folks from Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and it feels really good to hear so many of our sex worker and ally friends speaking out and see the entire Council agreeing with us today.

Both ordinances have negatively impacted communities of color, but prostitution loitering law in particular have been used as a pretext for the Seattle Police Department to profile young women of color as suspected “prostitutes,” leading to unnecessary and unwarranted police interactions, background checks, unconsented and possibly illegal searches, harassment, and other harms. The City’s own Reentry Workgroup released a report to the Council in October 2018 which recommended repealing these ordinances because they disproportionately target communities of color based on who and where they are.

During the Council discussion, Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and others pointed out that it would be incorrect to say that these ordinances are “outdated.” To say so implies that they served a worthwhile purpose at some point in the past before they became obsolete since then. The truth is, they always had racially disparate impact and have always been wrong, serving no good purpose worth defending.

But the Council needs to go further. As long as the crime of prostitution (offering sex in exchange for money or other items of value) remains on the books, even if it is rarely prosecuted, similar profiling and harassment of young women of color will continue. Further, the City needs to stop the police from enforcing SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) and SODA (Stay Out of Drug Areas) orders, which are used exactly the same way as the loitering ordinances against exactly the same population despite having no basis in Seattle Municipal Code.

Also during the discussion, Councilmember Tammy Morales expressed willingness to work with sex workers (yes she used the phrase multiple times) to decriminalize sex work in Seattle so that sex workers and people in the sex trade can be safer and have access to emergency assistance. Other Councilmembers also committed to continue working with sex workers to improve safety and health for people in the sex trade. We are excited to be involved in these future conversations.

We also want to respond to a point made by a couple of people who identified themselves as survivors of trafficking and testified in opposition to repealing the loitering ordinances. Their concern was that repealing prostitution loitering ordinance would also prevent “johns” or buyers of sex, whom they consider perpetrators of harm against people in the sex trade, from being arrested or charged with prostitution loitering.

We generally believe that criminalization of clients of sex workers for purchasing sex from a consenting adult diminishes safety for people in the sex trade, but that beside the point here. Prostitution loitering ordinance has been used disproportionately against men of color (as suspected sex buyers) as well as cis and trans women of color (as suspected “prostitutes”), both for being in the wrong place as someone of a wrong race and gender, and therefore it needs to be abolished for that reason regardless of what one believes about paying for sex. Nothing in the bills passed today will legalize or decriminalize buying sex, human trafficking, or sexual violence in any way. That said, their voices belong at the policy table and we hope they will be part of future conversations about keeping our communities safe without over-reliance on the violent police system.

Thank you for your continued support, and thank you to POC SWOP/Green Light Project, UTOPIA-Seattle, Surge Reproductive Justice, Legal Voice, Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, and other allies as well! Join our email list by contacting us or follow our facebook page for future updates.