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Address: Van Nuys, California, United States
Countries served: United States
Geographic scope: National
Type: Other non-profit
Adult focused (NSFW): Yes
Female led: Yes
About Sex Workers Anonymous
Sex Workers Anonymous is men, women, and transgenders with a shared desire to leave any part of the sex industry, and find recovery (whether trafficked or not).
Sex Workers Anonymous (formerly called Prostitutes Anonymous) was founded in August of 1987 by J.L. Williams in Los Angeles, California. This was a time before cell phones or the internet. To generate calls into the program – a “hotline” was also created. This was the first such hotline for adults who wanted help to get out of the sex industry whatever the circumstances were. The only other hotline at the time had been created for juveniles when Children of the Night created their program, and hotline, in 1979, also in Los Angeles, California. As of 2014 – the hotline has answered over 500,000 phone calls. Both J.L. Williams and L. Lee (founder of Children of the Night), were responding to a melting pot of reasons why they decided to take action and form these hotlines, and programs because literally they were the first, and only, hotlines in the country. The CON hotline being for teens while the SWA hotline being for adults.
This was back before anyone even heard the terms “sex trafficking” because no one believed that such things existed in reality back in 1987. The term “sex trafficking” is actually a confusing one because it’s even hard sometimes to draw the line about where “force” and “coercion” is involved sometimes because sometimes force can be done very effectively without handcuffs and guns. Many men and women do not feel they were “forced” in any way to be in some area of the sex industry. Some will even argue what they are doing isn’t even “prostitution”. When a woman from a popular site where the men pay women monthly for their “services” was quoted by a newspaper as saying “I’m not a prostitute because I don’t get paid for the hour and I don’t walk the streets” even the very definition of prostitution can be hazy for some.
Which is partly one of the reasons we changed our name to “Sex Workers Anonymous” in 1995. While many will readily admit they are a “sex worker” – many of those same people will balk at identifying as a “prostitute”. Another reason we changed the name is because of the internet. For one thing, we had adult filters blocking the word “prostitute” so we were unable to even be listed in some directories or search engines (especially college computers). For another, there was the invention of the webcam studios. Now we had men and women coming to us who were not having physical sex with another person – but still wanting help to leave the sex industry. So to bypass the adult filters and be found, and to avoid any room at all for denial, or self-exclusion – we renamed our program to “Sex Workers Anonymous”.
If you are not sure whether or not we can help you – we define our members as “a man or woman, of any age, race, gender, religion or sexual identity, who for any reason, feels they want to leave the sex industry whether that be prostitution, stripping, pornography, phone sex, web cams, mistressing, madaming, pimping, or any form of exchange for sex, or a sexually related activity, where there is a form of exchange whether that exchange be money, services, favors or goods – and that person wants help and support in leaving and healing from whatever this activity has been for them.
One does not have to feel they are “addicted” to the sex industry despite our name. There are other 12 Step groups such as “Divorce Anonymous” where the members are there to support each other through a divorce – and not there because they are “addicted to divorce”. This does not mean however no one is addicted to sex work. On the other hand, if you’ve ever catch the TV show “Strange Addiction” you know that people can become “addicted” to anything whether it’s eating baby power, sniffing gasoline, or drinking paint even. So yes some can be “addicted”, but that is not a requirement for membership. We are not a “shamed based” program and in fact have no opinion on any part of the sex industry itself. Our only purpose is to gather together as people with the common goal of leaving, and recovering, from the sex industry never to return again. Therefore, the only “requirement for membership” with us is a “desire to leave the sex industry – and find recovery”.
The movement itself has been a confusing one as more and more people have entered this field since sex trafficking received federal recognition with the Trafficking Act of 2000. Meaning many people are entering the field that have no idea what sex trafficking is, let alone how it’s a part of the sex industry, nor how the two can be separate or intertwined depending upon the individual case. It become further confusing when addressing the issue of minors under legal age of consent for which ALL sex is statutory rape – especially when the legal age differs from state to state. For example, in California the legal age is 18 years old, while in Nevada, just a short drive away, the legal age is 15 years of age.
While we are a 12 step program, and therefore anyone, with a desire to leave any part, of the sex industry can join us for help to leave, and recover, from this – sometimes this means the person is a sex trafficking victim. This can make the situations differ greatly, and are not issues programs like Alcoholics Anonymous has to deal with. Neither Narcotics Anonymous. For example, neither of those programs have anyone forcing them at gunpoint to be drinking or using, nor paying their rent by drinking or using. I’ve never heard of a case where someone has been chained to a bar and forced to drink at gunpoint.
Which makes programs that address sex trafficking, but not sex work even more confusing. Imagine if Narcotics Anonymous were to only accept in addicts who had used illegal street drugs – while saying that legally prescribed drug use was “okay”. Meaning that they would accept a heroin addict – but if they had taken a doctor prescribed medical marijuana filled at a pharmacy/dispensiary then they would not be offered help. Further, what if someone stood at the door of an NA meeting and only allowed in young heterosexual women – while shutting out any males, transgenders, or any LGBT, as well as Jewish or Buddhist people. What is NA wrote their Basic Text to only speak about the female addict – while acting like there was no such thing as a male addict. Actually Alcoholics Anonymous used to be this way with respect to males. It took many years for the first female addict to come to the doors of AA – but even so she was welcomed. Which is why in Sex Workers Anonymous – we accept anyone, male or female, sexual orientation, religion or lack of religion, race, cultural identity, etc.
Now the reasons why AA did not set up AA residential programs was simple – the alcoholic would sit around those programs all day letting their rent get paid while they spent their time and energy seeking booze. The same for the addict – they would sit around all day letting someone take care of them while they spent their time finding “ways and means to get more drugs”. However, science showed us that not everyone who used alcohol and/or drugs abusively was a “true” addict or alcoholic who was in fact “powerless” to stop. For these people, treatment programs were set up to treat their abuse of drugs and/or alcohol. For those who used chemical to cope – they were provided counselors. For those who self-medicated – there were doctors. So as science progressed the world realized there was BOTH the need for the 12 step approach for the addict and/or alcoholic while those who abused or used the chemicals did have a need for something else.
Now we acknowledge there are trafficking victims who when rescued have nothing. They need housing, job training, counseling, socialization, etc. So too do people leaving the sex industry have to take care of legal issues, housing, job training, etc. They also need help with issues such as rent, housing, counseling, medical needs, food, daycare, etc. While our hotline will answer any and all calls and try and help all callers find whatever it is they need help with – please try to understand that our program is for two types of members – first for those who have tried to quit the sex industry before and found themselves going back to it when they did not want to. We are not saying this is an “addiction”. We are saying that this person found that despite school, despite family, despite money, despite education, despite everything – they returned to sex work for one reason or another. The second is a person who had no problem leaving the sex industry – but instead found they could not leave behind patterns of self-destructive or self-abusive behavior. If you’re not sure of what we mean by any of this – we refer you to please obtain our “Recovery Guide” for more explanation.
Basically what we’re saying is that if you are on the street homeless and you call us for help to get you into housing – we are not going to say “yes” or “no” to you automatically. We need to know how you got there, what your situation is, what your plans are, what is your desire, etc. Are you just not wanting to hook that night, or do you never want to go back to the sex industry ever again? Are you on the streets because you escaped your pimp or because you spent your paycheck on a new pair of shoes and thus put yourself on the street so you could justify hooking because you “have no choice”? Why do we ask questions? Because if you’re one of those that can be put into a situation where you have rent, transportation, food, clothing, a job, and essentially everything one could need or use and you find yourself going back to sex work BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO – then this program is for you. If however you want to go back to sex work – that is your choice IF YOU ARE AN ADULT, and therefore we can not. Sound complicated? It is.
If you’re wondering if this is for you – then please call our hotline at (702) 468-4529 or collect from any payphone. If you are worried your calls or call log might be monitored – you may call us from a payphone by dialing and we’ll accept the charges. Our phone is answered 24/7 by another recovering member of our program. All calls are confidential and we are not connected with law enforcement in any way, shape or form. Nothing you say to us will be used against you or repeated. Please understand we have no federal grants or operating money. All our members, including our hotline operator, are unpaid volunteers. We do not provide you with cash or housing ourselves. If you are in a situation however where you need these things – we can check on available programs to see if we can help you locate these things. What is available? That changes according to where you are, who you are, your age, and even the year. All we can do is suggest you call us – tell us what you need or want and we will tell you what we can and can not do to help you. But to be simple – all we are is a 12 step program that offers meetings, literature, and the sharing of our members “experience, strength and hope”.
People involved with Sex Workers Anonymous
Jody L Williams
Sex work focus for Sex Workers Anonymous
Sex worker demographics focus for Sex Workers Anonymous
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