VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A tool for sex workers designed by sex workers has received funding to help save each other’s lives.
The Bad Date Reporting system is a B.C.-wide database for sex workers to search keywords, licence plates and clients who may be violent or pose a threat.
Rachel Phillips is with Peers Victoria, an agency that provides support to sex workers. She explains while sex worker support organizations in Canada have been operating Bad Date and Aggressive Reports for decades, they’re not linked geographically and they vary from site to site.
“If you’re a sex worker who travels, or if a perpetrator goes from city to city committing the same crimes, there isn’t a way to link that information right now,” she says. “So having a geographically linked system will help address that.”
While it’s too early to say what the database will look like exactly, Phillips says it will be for anyone in the province who has access to the internet. They will be able to file a report of their concerns online, and that information will be received in a provincial database.
Phillips adds details still need to be ironed out for people who don’t have access to the internet.
But she adds this tool will help workers that don’t trust police or not comfortable seeking out support because of stigma, criminalization or legal barriers.
“Police and justice responses have never been a good fit with sexualized violence,” she says. “Sexualized violence — in general — is an area where we need to get away from thinking that police have the solution.”
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She says instead, solutions should be to support and educate within the community.
“It’s more responsive, it’s more sensitive, it’s more flexible, it’s a better way to address sexualized violence in our community.”
She adds, the database will further contribute to the broader movement to defund the police.
“People who’ve experienced sexual violence, in general, often don’t report to the police. And people who are in the sex industry and have experienced sexual assault rarely report to the police,” she says. “So they need somewhere else to go with this information.”
But if you’re apart of a minority group as a sex worker, Phillip says the barriers are “overwhelming.”
Funding has been secured thanks to the Law Foundation of British Columbia and an anonymous B.C.-based family foundation for the first three years to allow workers to plan, build and eventually launch the database.
But afterward, sex work advocacy groups hope the province will offer its support.
Over 20 sex work service and support organizations across the province will be consulted, provide input, and design “to ensure this system will meet the needs of the diversity of sex workers across rural and urban areas of the province,” a release reads.