It should come as no surprise by now that Slixa is deeply invested in the ongoing advocacy and assistance efforts of sex worker-focused organizations worldwide (in 2018 alone, Slixa awarded $10,000 in prizes for essays about FOSTA/SESTA, raised funds for the Black Sex Worker Collective and Desiree Alliance, sponsored the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, and more). So when we were approached to contribute to making events around the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (#IDEVASW) possible, it was obviously a no-brainer.
December 17th, Explained
The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (or IDEVASW for short, since Twitter still counts characters) was first recognized in the US in 2003 as a memorial and day of observation for the victims of the Green River killer (trigger warning: we don't feel compelled to link to the Wikipedia article relevant here, but there is plenty of information to be found by googling the history of those events), and has grown since then as a day of solidarity and remembrance of those lost to violence against sex workers; and not just sex workers, but violence against transwomen, against women of color, against drug users, and against immigrants.
It is a day of mourning, but also of great solidarity.
SWOP USA's unique commitment to recognizing December 17
You may already be familiar with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), but if you're not, think of SWOP USA as the mothership to each of the regional chapters of SWOP (you can find your local SWOP chapter on the Resources page): they offer guidance, organization, advocacy, and often funding for smaller regional affiliates. While SWOP USA's purview is neatly summed up on their official site – a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade and their communities – the reality on the ground is that their work is focused on an often complex web of individual needs, scattered opportunities for community and legal advocacy, and now, national conversations about efforts to decriminalize sex work.
All of which makes it particularly significant that SWOP USA was the first major organization to recognize IDEVASW as a national day of remembrance, and to create a resource connecting each local December 17th event on one main hub: december17.swopusa.org . That site lists local recognition events, but possibly more importantly, the names of individuals our community has lost to violence toward sex workers. This year, individuals are being recognized with dedicated pages on the SWOP USA/December 17th site, where friends and family can submit personal remembrances and testimonials.
We spoke with SWOP's Executive Director, Christa Daring, about SWOP's focus on December 17 and events around the IDEVASW:
"December 17th is a critical day of observance for the sex workers' rights movement both nationally and internationally, making space to grieve loss and celebrate life communally is necessary.
"Our mini-grants go directly to sex worker-led organizations that are recognizing December 17th, and that can come in the form of a vigil, movie showing, march, dinner, or really any event that brings sex workers together to hold space and honor those sex workers that have transitioned from this plane of existence.
These events are crucial because they are a space outside of – the frequently exhausting – political activist meetings that are also part of sex worker advocacy. They allow for sex workers across industries and identities to come together as one."
The idea that it is significant for sex workers to come together in solidarity like this is an important one. This can often be extremely isolating work that, without some effort, often happens alone; different than the just-add-water community that might come with other kinds of work environments or employment.
"We hope to be able to extend our December 17th mini-grant program this year, and individual donations are vital to that goal," concluded Daring.
How you can help
All of SWOP USA's efforts cost money. That's why Slixa is proud to sponsor two of SWOP's December 17th Mini Grants, which are awarded to deserving groups looking to facilitate a local day of recognition on the 17th. If you are able to contribute funds directly to SWOP USA to help their work, you can donate easily via PayPal or check directly through their site.
But if you aren't in a place to contribute, there are still a number of ways to make a substantial difference:
- Testify – the recent landmark hearing by DC City Council on the decriminalization of Sex Work is still accepting written testimony until Friday, November 1, 2019. Details can be found here, along with a direct email address with which to share your written testimony.
- Join your local SWOP chapter and attend their events – just your presence can make a difference. You can find many of them on Slixa's Resources page (but please tell us if there are others you'd like to see!)
- Share (on your personal social media accounts and email lists) announcements and opportunities – you can't imagine the world of difference simple retweets and likes can make in raising awareness.
- Talk with your friends, coworkers, and family about the direct and valuable work groups like SWOP are doing – sometimes a simple lack of awareness is all that's keeping folks from contributing. Help the people in your personal orbit to understand why these groups are so important.
- Signal boost on and around December 17th – lots of community members have lost someone close to them due to violence. If friends or colleagues share stories or posts about their connection to the IDEVASW, make it your mission to like and retweet, or to share them in your Instagram story. Help make it impossible to ignore this national day of recognition. Be sure and follow the hashtags #IDEVASW and #December17 on Twitter and Instagram.
It is important to remember that there often isn't "someone else" who will take the action or make the donation if you won't. Anything you can give to support the important work of SWOP USA, and sex worker-focused organizations in general, makes a tremendous difference toward efforts to end violence and stigma.