People who trade sex face a range of harms in digital spaces. Either by moving interpersonal violence, stigma and shaming online, or in the abuses which stem from exploitative practices of internet companies, sex workers are survivors of a range of abuse. Bills like EARN IT and FOSTA-SESTA not only cherry pick out specific criminal statutes instead of addressing the range of ways people are victimized, they are premised on approaches which are more likely to cause harm than prevent it. Instead of turning marginalized people into corporate liabilities, Congress has a range of other options to not just address harm, but prevent it.

Co-Sponsor the SAFE Sex Workers Study Act and better understand how expansions of liability impacts marginalized people. (S. 3165/HR. 5448)

FOSTA-SESTA showed us what happens when congress expands liability for tech platforms: increased violence. Ignoring this violence doesn’t make it go away. Sex worker communities began collecting information immediately and identified a range of harms that people faced after losing internet platforms. (See Erased: The Impact of FOSTA/SESTA and the Removal of Backpage) On Dec 17, 2019, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Congress introduced the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. This bill asks the Department of Health and Human Services to research the impact on health, safety, exploitation and vulnerability when people who trade sex lose access to those platforms.

This research is needed to understand this impact before doubling-down on the same tactics and recreating the same outcomes. Creating further expansion of liability is complicity in that violence. Ask your Congressmembers to co-sponsor the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act and understand the impact of these tactics.

Read the Two-Pager on the bill.

Read a sign-on letter from LGBTQ, harm reduction, HIV and sex worker organizations in support of the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act.

Invest in preventing violence instead of asking victims to sue after it happens.

We don’t have to accept abuse as inevitable. We can invest in the tools we already know will prevent violence. Prevention programs include education, comprehensive sex education, familial support, and fostering communities. Congress can support all of these interventions, but funding remains paltry. When we are rely on tech platforms to police for child abuse instead of preventing it, we are failing victims.

Further, civil remedies like the ones championed in EARN IT ask survivors of harm to overcome many hurdles for redress. Survivors must retain private legal council, a financial impossibility for many, and go through long, traumatic legal cases in the hopes of financial remedy. This options leaves behind the majority of survivors of childhood violence.

Expand community systems and individual support.

Expanding community support means expanding the care and support that every child has access to. Many young people experiencing violence are able to identify their experiences and look for support, but find few resources. We must invest in the safety of every child thought school counsellors, comprehensive health care – including mental health care – and social support. If we are relying on websites to identify child abuse, we have already failed that person at every other step.

Center healing.

Non-carceral approaches to ending and healing from child sexual abuse are essential, and these conversations should not be sidelined. Generation Five sought to use transformative justice mechanisms to end child abuse within five generations. Love With Accountability is an anthology on surviving, and healing from, child sexual abuse perpetrated by family members. The HEAL Project seeks to end and address child sexual abuse through fundamentally changing the conversation on sexual oppression, abuse and liberation.