Oregon House Judiciary Committee to Hold Informational Hearing on HB 3088 to Decriminalize Sex Work

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The Oregon House Judiciary Committee will hold an informational hearing on HB 3088 to Decriminalize Sex Work on Thursday, June 3 at 1:55pm. A follow-up press conference will take place Thursday, June 3 at 3:30pm PST. Zoom meeting information is us02web.zoom.us/j/88095907111?pwd=NEdnMERGZC9VZDBVa3U1bmtZUkpPdz09

  • Meeting ID: 880 9590 7111
  • Passcode: 645531

Speakers Include:

  • State Representative Rob Nosse, Chief Sponsor of HB 3088
  • Numerous sex workers who will speak for themselves on the sufferings they endure working in a unjustly criminalized industry
  • Alex Andrews, international human rights advocate, executive director of SWOP Behind Bars (Sex Worker Outreach Project Behind Bars), former board of directors member of SWOPUSA and Global Sex Work
  • Melissa Broudo, attorney, SOAR Institute & Decriminalize Sex Work
  • Amy-Marie Merrell, executive director, The Cupcake Girls 
  • Barbara G. Brents, Ph.D., professor of sociology at University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Angela Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Farmingdale State College, State University of New York
  • Storm Large of the band Pink Martini
  • And many more, including leaders of Oregon’s labor, social and economic justice organizations

A Human Rights Commission event will be held on July 15, 2021 to present testimony from sex workers, academics and social and political leaders on how criminalization harms sex workers. Based on testimony and research, the Commission will release a formal report of public policy recommendations by August 15, 2021.

“For the dignity, protection and human rights of sex workers, we are pursuing a public policy shift towards the decriminalization and the destigmatization of sex work in Oregon. To this end, the Oregon Sex Workers Committee is sponsoring and organizing the first-ever Human Rights Commission for sex workers based in Oregon,” said Elle Stanger, writer, sex worker and educator, and lead event coordinator.

The committee is comprised exclusively of sex workers, has over 50 members and is growing rapidly. A secondary allies’ committee has also formed. Both meet weekly. To get involved, please email oregonsexworkers@protonmail.com.

“The July 15 event and subsequent recommendations report will highlight scientific studies, leading national experts and sex workers testifying to the violent impacts of criminalization. Our hope is that this will educate the public on the realities of sex work, and help launch a swift change in Oregon’s public policy,“ said Alex Andrews, who serves as Commission co-chair and is the executive director of Sex Workers Outreach Project Behind Bars (SWOP Behind Bars).

As Oregon Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward recently said, “As a family physician and proponent of evidence-based policy, I support efforts to decriminalize sex work in Oregon. The research behind this movement is clear: criminalization only keeps sex workers vulnerable to violence, incarceration, displacement and potentially life-threatening health risks. All Oregonians deserve access to physical and mental health care — and legal resources — without fear of retaliation.”

Criminalization of sex work harms the health, autonomy and futures of sex workers. Decriminalization allows sex workers to seek legal recourse for any violence or abuse they experience, as well as to organize and advocate for safer working conditions. Decriminalization also decreases health and safety risks to the general public.

Decriminalization of sex work would protect the most at-risk Oregonians — sex workers, BIPOC and GLBTQIA+ folks experiencing houselessness, and domestic violence survivors. Decriminalization would fight trafficking by focusing resources on coercion and abuse, rather than on consenting adults. Our commission is also establishing a committee for a 2022 ballot measure to decriminalize Oregon’s prostitution laws.

“It’s very clear that for the workers, justice delayed is justice denied, and this injustice has gone on far too long. We are also very excited by the positive polling numbers we see, with 68 percent of Oregonians supporting decriminalization after considering the benefits of saved public resources. We see a very clear path to changing Oregon’s outdated laws that hurt people and waste resources,” said Ted Blaszak, Assistant Event Coordinator and ballot measure consultant.

We are actively seeking other Oregonians to join our witnesses and supporters list. If you can testify in person or writing on your experience, expertise or the impact of sex work criminalization on your community, please email us as soon as possible at oregonsexworkers@protonmail.com.

We also encourage our fellow Oregonians to support sex workers. Please visit our website and make a donation: oregonsexworkers.com.

Members of the Commission include:

  • Co-Chair Rob Nosse, Oregon State Representative
  • Co-Chair Alex Andrews, executive director SWOP Behind Bars
  • Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland City Commissioner
  • Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, MD, Oregon Senator 
  • Barbara G. Brents, Ph.D., professor of sociology at University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Angela Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Farmingdale State College, State University of New York
  • Ricci Joy Levy, president & CEO, The Woodhull Freedom Foundation
  • Rev. Kerlin Richter, rector, Saint David of Wales

Expected witnesses and endorsers include:

Oregon Sex Workers 

LGBTQ Rights Leadership 

Labor Rights Leaders 

Youth Activists 

Gender Justice Experts 

BIPOC and BLM Leadership 

Asian Dignity Advocates 

Elected Officials 

Doctors and Nurses 

Therapists 

Leading Academic Experts 

Faith Leaders 

Scientists for Sex Worker Rights

Immigrant Rights Organizers 

Latinx Rights Leadership 

Peace, Economic, and Social Rights Activists 

Rural Organizing Project 

Oregon NARAL 

Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association 

Oregon ACLU 

Transponders 

Pacific Green Party 

Social Workers 

Storm Large, Neko Case and other celebrities 

An example of testimony from one witness that will be shared at our hearing:

“Growing up as an orphan with little to no support system, I quickly observed that consensual sex sells, and had the potential to give me a better quality of life.

Being young, uneducated and inexperienced, I was a target for sex trafficking. Since solicitation is illegal, there are no legitimate mentorship resources, so I sought help from the black market. In turn, I became a victim of sex trafficking. There are pimps who recruit young women and teenage girls who predominantly come from backgrounds similar to mine.

I was so brainwashed that I believed my pimp was actually my boyfriend. I was distanced from all my family and friends. I was not allowed to carry money or make my own decisions. I suffered years of slave labor and physical and emotional abuse, with nowhere to turn for help. I could not seek help or counseling due to fear of prosecution. And though I wanted help out of my situation, I did not want to retire from sex work completely.

I do not come from a stable family. I do not have a support system. I have lived in survival mode all my life, and once I got away from being trafficked, I became fully independent using my acquired skills.

I am a single mother. Being an independent, consensual sex worker has allowed me to provide for my family. The system is not set up for families to raise children, let alone for single parents to do so. I need a certain level of financial compensation during my limited availability. If it were not for sex work, I would absolutely be homeless.

I have been arrested in prostitution stings, and not only has this never effectively helped me or changed my life in any positive way, it did more harm than good. I now have prostitution charges on my record that show up on background checks, which make it difficult to obtain housing or employment outside of sex work, which limit my options.

I am a long-time sex worker and I use an alias with my client base to maintain privacy, but there are hobbyists who check local arrests and mugshots. If one of them finds my mugshot, home address and full government name, it makes me an easy target for hate crimes, stalking and harassment.

There have also been multiple situations where I was attacked or robbed, but could not seek protection or justice out of fear of being prosecuted for being a sex worker. In one instance in 2017, I arrived at a client’s private residence. He had passed all screening criteria, and lived in a gated community. Everything seemed fine until I was inside his home. He said he was not paying me. I immediately got a bad vibe and headed for the door. That’s when he became aggressive. He began to fight and wrestle with me. I fought for about 20 minutes but it felt like forever. The more I fought, the more violent he became. Each time I tried to go for the door he would catch me. I realized he would not let me go until I let him force intercourse with me. I was scared he would kill me if I did not let him. I cried, I begged and I pleaded, but he told me he would call the police on me for solicitation. Once I gave in, he finished and let me go. I left to get my children from the babysitter — all bruised up, clothes torn, with handprints on my throat. I could not go to the police because of my background; I would be treated as the criminal in this situation.

There have been other times when I was robbed and could not go to the police. There are huge limits on what resources are available to me as a single parent and sex worker because I can’t disclose my occupation and proof of income. Typically, the only form of protection ends up being pimps. If we want to change this, we have to decriminalize sex work.

Sex work is work. Demand isn’t going anywhere. We need to do this the right way.”

Sincerely,

Consensual sex worker, 30-year-old single mom of three and human being

oregonsexworkers.comoregonlegislature.gov

 

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