The SWOP Community Support Line was born in 2011 and was a valuable tool to connect the sex worker community within the SWOP organization to connect community members and chapter representatives throughout the United States.
Since 2015, we have offered Safety Planning, Know Your Rights toolkits, reentry resources, education and information about sex work, domestic violence and sexual assault counseling, assistance with sex workers who were expereincing doxing and online harrassment and helped connect sex workers to legal counsel if they had been arrested or were facing child custudy dusputes. One of our main services has been to help sex workers access their identification documents, like birth certificate, state ID’s or Drivers Licenses and Social Security Cards. It is far too common that the lack of identification bars our community members from getting other services and support when they need it.
In 2015 the Community Support Line, now operated by leadership from SWOP Orlando, only received about 6-10 calls a week, so it was a manageable task, but the VoiP system that it was connect to was complicated to operate and once SWOP Behind Bars was formed, it made sense to take burden on so that our increasingly growing incarcerated members were able to contact us quickly on release. We switched the hotline platform to a much more manageable “app” that was easy to use and far less technical.
The Community Support Line experienced a dramatic surge in growth from 2016 to 2018 and calls to the support line to request assistance after Backpage was seized by the federal Government and platforms for adult advertisers started to disappear. We had volunteers from chapters all over the country answering local extensions and providing a wide range of crisis related services to their local community. We expanded our resource network and successfully integrated with other support lines to be a resource for people who trade sex.
In late 2019, using another “app”, we added a “Chat For Support” feature and this became a very popular way for younger callers without the ability to make phone calls, to chat with us online, and get the support they needed with nothing more than a wifi connection.
The Community Support Line callers exploded in 2020 as the pandemic took over our lives and we received more than 200 chats and calls each week.
Like most organizations that work with and for people who trade sex, we are underfunded and under resourced. SWOP Behind Bars has consistently refused to apply for the very few grants available to sex worker organizations because we see ourselves as direct services providers and we want grassroots organizations who put in so much unrecognized time and energy ON THE LITERAL GROUND to serve the needs of their community. These organizations are well recognized as experts in the field and they deserve to have these limited opportunities for funding.
So we come to you now, hat in hand, asking you to support our work with your time, talent and - most of all - your treasure. We have launched a campaign to raise the money we need to get us through the summer and each dollar you donate will be matched up to 20K.
Success is measured differently in our world. We are not able to meet all the needs of our callers but we have many success stories that demonstrate our effectiveness and our flexibility in providing community based support for people who trade sex.