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December 17 marks the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. First recognized in 2003, the Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers is marked by events held globally that encourage sex workers and allies to organize against discrimination, rally for visibility and empowerment, and remember victims of violence in this line of work.

According to the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), in the U.S., where commercial sex is criminalized, sex workers are four times more likely to experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence. The World Health Organization advocates for the decriminalization of sex work because doing so improves worker safety. This has proven true in several other countries where commercial sex is legal, such as the UK, where the rate of assault against sex workers is approximately 40 times less than it is in the U.S. (SWOP-USA).

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With nearly one arrest for prostitution made every six minutes (SWOP-USA), American sex workers are afraid to report crimes committed against them. This makes them easy targets for victimization. “We’ve created a target population [for abuse],” Kate D’Adamo, a national policy advocate for the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project told Mic in a 2015 interview.

To prove D’Adamo’s point, ThinkProgress.org reported that after New Zealand decriminalized commercial sex in 2003, 70% of sex workers there reported that they would be more likely to go to the police if they experienced violence.

Violence is, of course, an even bigger issue among sex workers who are LGBTQA+ (especially trans women), women of color, drug users, and immigrants. Transphobia, xenophobia, stigma against drug users, and sexism all add to the already existing stigma against sex work, leading people to seem apathetic towards the issues sex workers face. “Any time we ignore violence against someone else, it takes away our ability to declare violence when it occurs against us,” D’Adamo told Mic.

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence related to sex work, call the National Sex Worker Hotline at 877-776-2004.

Read more about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and organize your own event by visiting december17.org.

Top Image: DAVID HOLT Flickr Creative Commons

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Casey is an editorial intern at BUST. She lives in New York City by way of Nebraska and enjoys petting dogs on the street, going to movies alone, and quoting comedy specials from Netflix.

Twitter/Instagram: @casey_seline

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