Event: Law Enforcement Safety & Drug Policy Summit
WHEN: June 12th, 2012
WHAT TIME IS THE EVENT: Registration starts at 8 am, and the event begins at 9 am and will go through Noon. A lunch will be served to registered guests after the summit.
WHERE: North Carolina Legislative Auditorium, 16 Jones Street, Raleigh, NC
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Law Enforcement, Legislators, Legislative Support Staff, Public Health Officials, Lobbyists, Harm Reductionists, Drug Policy Reformers, Policy Reformers, People Who Work With Incarcerated Populations and the Substance Abuse Community
WHAT WILL BE COVERED: Law Enforcement Needlestick Reduction, Law Enforcement Safety around Drug Overdoses, Reducing Recidivism While Maintaining Public Order and Drug Policy Reform
WHO WILL BE PRESENTING: Law Enforcement Safety Experts, Law Enforcement, Drug Policy Experts and Republican & Democratic Legislators, and Conservative, Liberal & Moderate Policy Institutes
EVENT CONTACT: Robert Childs, MPH (336) 543-8050, firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple weeks ago, NCHRC and sex worker groups around the world on December 17th, participated in activities to mark “International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers”. This event was created to bring attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the world. According to Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, “this day was conceptualized by Annie Sprinkle and initiated by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations and their allies stage actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against our communities.” We at NCHRC marked the day by having Executive Director Robert Childs, our Harm Reduction Coordinator Tessie Castillo and NCHRC ally Doug Upp from Shaka Zine in Hawaii go around the streets of East Durham, providing sex workers risk reduction counseling and violence prevention information. On the marking of this day we wanted to let everyone know of a great resource available to sex workers of western North Carolina called Kelly’s line. NCHRC Harm Reduction Coordinator Tessie Castillo highlights this issue below with her interview with NCHRC ally Sarah Danforth of the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project.
NCHRC Issue Spotlight:
Sex Worker Violence Prevention in North Carolina:
An Interview with Sarah Danforth at the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project
Five years ago, dismembered pieces of a human body were found floating in the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina. Forensics identified the victim as Kelly Lane Smith, a local prostitute, and though all evidence pointed to a local man infamous for the brutalization and rape of sex workers in the area, he was never charged, never convicted, and he left Asheville a free man.
Why couldn’t an obvious suspect be convicted? Because Kelly was a prostitute. The police couldn’t get enough testimonies against the suspect from other prostitutes who had been beaten and raped by him because the women feared retribution if they admitted to engaging in sex work. Violence against prostitutes and sex workers is rampant, precisely because if and when these crimes are reported, the victim may be arrested for illegal activity, instead of the perpetrator. The dilemma is all too common.
Thankfully, some people in Asheville, like Sarah Danforth of the newly formed Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project, are trying to do something about violence against sex workers. Sarah is part of a collaborative effort between several organizations, including the Asheville Police Department, the Jail Diversion Program, the Western NC AIDS Project, and two organizations who provide assistance to victims of domestic violence, Our Voice and Helpmate. In early November these organizations launched Kelly’s Line, an anonymous phone service that allows sex workers to report “bad dates,” or violent clients, to the police without fear of arrest on prostitution charges. Organizers of Kelly’s Line also compile a flyer of the reported information and distribute it to other sex workers to help them avoid falling into the same dangerous situations. “Bad date lines” are used in many cities across the United States to prevent violence against sex workers in a way that doesn’t compromise the worker’s identity.
In addition to Kelly’s Line, the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project provides outreach materials to sex workers and is attempting to launch a program to train law enforcement officers on sex worker issues.
“The ultimate goal of the project is to provide education and resources to sex workers and people involved in their lives, such as police, counselors, and hospital workers,” says Sarah Danforth. “It’s a safety issue, but we also want to create a culture of understanding and compassion for people who do sex work.”
About a year ago Sarah began investigating ways to stop violence against sex workers through her work with homeless populations in Asheville. “I see so many homeless people who have obviously been assaulted, but who are afraid to go to the hospital or the police because they’re afraid of being questioned instead of helped. Something has got to be done about this, and I’m glad we’ve been able to find people in Asheville who care about this issue and are willing to work on it.”
Fittingly, the logo for Kelly’s Line is a Forget-Me-Not flower to remind us of the lives lost through violence that was never acknowledged or reported. In this way Lane Smith lives on as she challenges us to denounce brutality no matter who the victim and to remember those who we’ve already lost.
Arrested for Carrying Condoms?
NCHRC Interviews Megan McLemore
Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch
There is a disturbing trend happening across the country and we can now add one more casualty to the list of Things-That-Shouldn’t-Be-Illegal-But-Are: CONDOMS. Though condoms themselves are not illegal, in many cities they can be used as the basis for police harassment and arrest or as evidence of prostitution in court. In New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco, police are using the number of condoms women are carrying to justify profiling them as prostitutes, and even to bolster an arrest on charges of sexual solicitation.
Megan McLemore, Senior Researcher with Human Rights Watch, became interested in the issue while on outreach with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC) in East Durham, North Carolina last spring. Megan has been working on issues related to HIV and human rights in the South for the last two years. Part of her research has focused on harm reduction, pushing to expand access to syringe exchange, medication-assisted treatment (methadone and buprenorphine) and other responses to drug use that are based in public health rather than the criminal law. While visiting with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Megan accompanied the outreach workers as they distributed supplies in East Durham and was shocked when a Durham sex worker refused the offer of free condoms over fears of harassment or arrest from local police. Megan began investigating the practice and found the criminalization of condoms to be prevalent in many U.S. cities. She plans to complete a full investigative report for Human Rights Watch by next summer. To date, Megan hasn’t discovered any condom arrests in North Carolina, through there is ample evidence to prove that sex workers think they can get arrested for carrying rubbers, and the perception is just as harmful as the real thing.
The public health consequences of condom criminalization, or even the fear of it, are severe. Taking away condoms won’t put sex workers out of business, but it will put them, their clients and the community at large at greater risk of HIV and STD transmission.
“It’s a public health imperative that sex workers and their clients have access to condoms,” says Megan McLemore.She’s not alone. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health organizations have also denounced the practice as contributing to the spread of disease.
But, as Megan explains, her research is not all about condoms. “This report will go beyond public health. It’s part of a growing advocacy movement among sex workers to stand up for their human rights. Other people don’t get arrested for protecting their health.”
The Human Rights Watch report on condom criminalization is set to be published in the summer of 2012. Until then, Megan will continue to contact and interview individuals and organizations who have seen or experienced police harassment or arrest for condom possession.
If you have any information about this practice, please contact Megan McLemore at email@example.com with your story.