What I Think of AA


A great post from a woman in recovery reflecting on 12-step programming.

Originally posted on Tracy Chabala:


I’ve had to reconcile many things throughout my life, many many things. I’ve had to reconcile my artistic and literary inclinations with the reality that I must rake in an income, I’ve had to reconcile with, and then rebel against, Christian fundamentalism, I’ve had to reconcile with and reject patriarchal constraints, I’ve had to reconcile with my seething desire to remain childfree and unmarried, I’ve had to reconcile with the reality that my intellectual support for polyamory doesn’t fit with my emotional inability to engage it, I’ve had to reconcile my political beliefs—despite being a raging liberal I believe in a set-in-stone flat tax for everyone without loopholes (and everyone includes GE and Goldman Sachs), I’ve had to reconcile my detest for Big Pharma with the very important reality that my psych meds help me remain stable, I’ve had to reconcile that Noam Chomsky isn’t always right, I’ve had to reconcile with the reality…

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We Remember April Brogan

By Kris Morgan

Sex Workers Outreach Project-Chicago Member

On May 1, 2015, April Brogan tragically passed away after negligent treatment in a jail cell in Volusia County, Florida. She was arrested on April 29th for aiding and abetting prostitution. When she showed symptoms of heroin withdrawal in her cell, no one helped her to get the treatment she so sorely needed. Subsequently, she passed away in her cell, despite the fact her cellmate was aware of her condition and tried to alert the authorities.

We believe that the criminalization of prostitution and the mistreatment of drug-addicts as criminals caused this death, which could have been easily prevented. The criminalization of prostitution forces individuals to work in the shadows, which hinders access to social, economic and legal services. Sex workers are made more vulnerable to violence. Criminalizing prostitution is morally wrong, and, in this case, has resulted in a woman’s tragic death. The stigma of both prostitution and drug use causes us as a society to turn a blind eye to the needs of sex workers and drug addicts. Instead of being met with health care, social services, and compassion, they receive punishment and denigration.

The best way to prevent such deaths is to remove criminal penalties on both prostitution and drug use. We need to focus our resources on education, healthcare and economic opportunities. 

In the meantime, and immediately, we need to reexamine prison policies around addressing the health and safety of inmates with substance dependencies and hold prisons accountable for failing to respond appropriately when an inmate asks for help. Brogan is the not the first woman to die due to guards’ lack of response to withdrawal symptoms in Volusia County Jail. Across the United States, over two-thirds of local jails lack detox programs, and each year, dozens of individuals convicted of low-level crimes die due to prison mismanagement of withdrawal.

We send our condolences to friends and family of April Brogan. She will be remembered in our fight for justice.


A link to a fundraiser for April’s family is here.

Project SAFExSWOP-Philly Info Session & Volunteer Training

Saturday, May 30

Info Session & Volunteer Training
Overdose Prevention Training
William Way Community Center
1315 Spruce Street

Learn more here!

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Rights Not Rescue: Oppose HB241/SB904 in MD

We stand in solidarity with Power Inside and other organizations who seek to challenge the criminalizing approaches to human trafficking.

Opposition Statement to Maryland HB241/SB904-2015

(To go directly to endorsement page: www.surveymonkey.com/s/P6HXV2Z)


 Across the country, there is a growing concern that laws designed to protect victims of trafficking are needlessly criminalizing people who have no role in forcing, defrauding, or coercing others into sex work or other labor. Even adult victims of trafficking are being arrested and treated in the criminal justice system as if they were perpetrators. We, the undersigned, are individuals and organizations who share this concern and believe we can create policy that holds perpetrators of violence accountable without violating the rights of victims and others.

Supporters of HB241/SB904 say this bill is only about making human trafficking a felony rather than a misdemeanor, but in Maryland, forcing, threatening, coercing, or defrauding children and adults into prostitution is already a felony. HB241/SB904 will go even further and make felons of people who may have nothing to do with an adult’s choice to be a sex worker, as well as applying felony charges to individuals who are involved in trading sex for safety or survival.

Those who will be most harmed by HB241/SB904 are those charged based on non-violent and helping acts, such as providing a ride or securing shelter for a consenting adult involved in prostitution. HB241/SB904 would escalate criminalization of vulnerable young adults involved in the sex trade with peers who often work together to further their mutual survival. Even victims of trafficking and intimate partner violence are not excluded from being arrested for and charged with human trafficking. This creates lifelong consequences to people by impeding their ability to secure employment, housing, and higher education. Read more here.

It is for these reasons we oppose Maryland House Bill 241 and Senate Bill 904. The potential for increased collateral consequences to victims, homeless youth, communities of color, and vulnerable women are too great. STATEMENT AND ENDORSEMENT LIST WILL BE SUBMITTED TO MEMBERS OF THE MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY, to endorse please complete the SM form here:www.surveymonkey.com/s/P6HXV2Z

 power inside


U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

Please see the press release below from our colleagues who are currently in Geneva. Project SAFE is proud to have contributed to Human Rights Violations of Sex Workers, People in the Sex Trade, and People Profiled as Such (2014). We will continue to hold the United States accountable for the violence against people in the sex trade.

                          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

~Advocates Call for Justice as the UN Reviews the U.S. Human Rights Record~

Geneva– Representatives of U.S.-based sex worker rights organizations will travel to Geneva, Switzerland next week, March 15-21st, to meet with members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and to call for greater human rights protections. As the HRC prepares for a review of the U.S.’ human rights record later this spring, civil society organizations from throughout the U.S. are traveling to Geneva to educate members about violations of civil, political, economic and social human rights in the U.S.

For Monica Jones, a human rights advocate and transgender woman of color from Phoenix, AZ, the issues she will raise while in Geneva have directly impacted her own life. The target of discriminatory police profiling, Monica Jones was wrongfully arrested under an anti-prostitution police sweep program in Phoenix, called Project ROSE. After a long fight and an appeal, a judge dismissed Monica Jones’ charges earlier this month. However, like many transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, she is threatened by regular harassment by police, who use anti-sex work laws to intimidate and harm members of communities already vulnerable to discrimination. “As long as the police can target my community using these anti-sex work laws,” Ms. Jones notes, “we will never be safe from violence, including the violence of incarceration.”

Sex worker rights advocates participated in the prior review of the U.S. via the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, through which countries’ human rights records are submitted to scrutiny every four years. As a result, the U.S. adopted Recommendation 86, obligating it to increase human rights protections for sex workers. In advance of the review this year, advocates with Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, and Sex Workers Outreach Project-NY submitted a report to the HRC, demonstrating that the U.S. has failed to live up to the promises of Recommendation 86.

The report, written in consultation with sex workers and their allies throughout the country, shows that criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, exposes them to rape, extortion, assault, harassment, and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement. Criminalization and stigma can also lead to denial of housing, healthcare, parenting and other reproductive rights, education, incomes, and employment. The report demonstrates that the legal system frequently fails to recognize that sex workers can be victims of crime, and thus denies justice or support to sex workers who seek help. At a recent civil society meeting organized in advance of the UPR by the U.S. State Department, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance member Janet Duran told officialsthat “most of the violence [sex workers] fall victim to is at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them.”

Advocates are concerned that the U.S. exports stigma and discrimination through policies such as the “anti-prostitution loyalty oath” attached to development funding. “We will ask the world to hold the U.S. accountable for making sex workers vulnerable to human rights abuses,” said J.M. Kirby of the Best Practices Policy Project. “Our country should be promoting human rights for all, including sex workers, not shaming people because of the work that they do.”



Our Letter to Councilman Neilson and the Committee on Licenses & Inspections: Have you sent Yours?

Councilman Neilson has proposed Bill Nos.150076 & 150075. In efforts to stop human trafficking, these bills would ban Philadelphia hotels from renting by the hour and also require employees at all Philadelphia hotels to be trained to recognize signs of human trafficking by the Philadelphia Police Department. Information can be found here fromPhilly.com and Councilman Neilson’s Website. 

Preventing human sex trafficking can only be done in collaboration with individuals who labor in the sex trade. We need more safe, affirming services, not more surveillance.

Please contact Councilman Neilson and urge him to reconsider this bill by leaving a comment on his website or calling his office at 215-686-3420 or Ed.Neilson@phila.gov as well as other members of the Committee on Licenses & Inspection who are now reviewing the bill.


Councilman Neilson and Members of the Committee on Licenses & Inspections:

Thank for your interest and commitment to combatting human trafficking in Philadelphia. I am writing you and other members of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections as the Executive Director of Project SAFE and Board Member at the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Trafficking and labor exploitation are compelling issues for individuals in the sex trade, however it is important to remember that the majority of human trafficking does not happen among those in the sex trade (Clawson et al., 2009; Free the Slaves, 2004).

Project SAFE has served women in the sex trade since 2004. We are a grassroots organization and 100% volunteer. Most of our volunteers work with us because they also have experience in the sex trade and recognize that there is a dearth in direct services for sex workers and victims of trafficking in Philadelphia.

The majority of the women we work with trade sex for money, housing or other goods because of their circumstances – because they are poor, because they need flexible employment to care for their children; some have arrest records preventing them working, or they find that the minimum wage is not enough to support a family. Many of these women are survivors of various forms of violence.

Initially, we served women in Kensington. Since the increase of policing on Kensington Avenue, we – at first – thought our services would be less necessary in the community. Now we know instead this community of sex workers have migrated all over the city, generating more of a need for advocacy and allied intervention.

Sex workers move indoors to work with managers or “pimps,” or online to work out of hotels or rented rooms. Women still needed to make a living, so sex work ensued, undeterred by law enforcement’s best efforts. We now serve women all over the greater Philadelphia area.

We provide health and harm reduction services for women – anything from clean socks to condoms to tampon (our most requested item) – all for free and 100% anonymous. We use a harm reduction approach as opposed to an abstinence-based or zero-tolerance approach. We find for many women sex work is not their first choice, but leaving the sex trade is a process. It takes time, options, and above all compassionate support for the individual.

We support those ready to leave the industry through referrals to shelters, recovery communities and other therapeutic services. For those actively working we help ensure they have access to essential health and safety provisions. We let sex workers know their lives matter because so many people treat sex workers with shame, indignity, and sadly even violence.

Councilman Neilson and Committee members, herein lies our concerns with both of these bills:

  • For those women who are trading sex because they have nowhere else to go, by regulating hotels, you are again taking away another low-cost option. These are not women who can jump on smart phones to look up low prices on priceline.com. Often, a $40 for a few hours of solace is all they can afford, and is the best deal in town when shelters are full, or for many people shelters are more violence, stigma, shame and abuse (Koyama, 2006).
  • While your focus is on regulating sex trafficking, sex workers face extreme amounts violence (see below for several US-based research studies). Hourly hotels, because of affordability and ease of access, are one of the few safe places individuals who are trading sex by choice, circumstance or coercion can go to earn money without going to a client’s private place of residence, where we find a number of violent transactions occur. This bill could potentially may force at-risk women to engage in dangerous and exploitative labor situations in areas where we can’t reach out to help them.
  • I am aware that sex work is illegal in PA. While our organization is supportive of sex workers we ultimately believe that most people would live happier, healthier lives outside of the sex trade. As it stands, however, there is no formal program to help sex workers exit the industry. For these women, their only choices are organizations like ours, or law enforcement. However, utilizing police officers as first-responders to rescue victims of trafficking has been unsuccessful, and tends to replicate the systemic racism of the criminal justice system (Red Umbrella Project, 2014; Strangio, 2014).

I look forward to collaborating about the many stakeholders that could and should be trained to identify human trafficking activities and human trafficking victims both within the sex trade as well as other vulnerable industries: domestic labor, agriculture, hospitality, food service and, sadly, much more.

I hope City Council will consider including the voices of survivors and sex workers. We have intimate knowledge of human trafficking, and how to best be supportive to those victimized by it. We – if possible – want to work in interdisciplinary teams with law enforcement to better the lives of those we all serve in our shared communities.

I encourage you to contact me regarding this issue. I am so grateful that your office and the Committee on Licenses & Inspections are tackling Human Trafficking in Philadelphia. I hope we can respond with evidence-based approaches grounded in data that support survivors and resist further stigmatization and criminalization of victims.



Executive Director, Project SAFE

Consulted Sources

Clawson, Heather J., et al. “Human trafficking into and within the United States: A review of the literature.” US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (2009).

Decker, M.R., Pearson, E., Illangasekare, S.L., Clark, E., and Sherman, S.G. (2013). Violence against women in sex work and HIV risk implications differ qualitatively by perpetrator.

Free the Slaves (2004). Hidden Slaves, Forced Labor in the United States. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20070830033751/http://freetheslaves.net/files/Hidden_Slaves.pdf

Koyama, E. (2006). Disloyal to feminism: Abuse of survivors within the domestic violence shelter system. Color of Violence: The INCITE Anthology, 208-22.

Hail-Jares, K. (Forthcoming) Bad Dates: How prostitution strolls impact client-initiated violence. Studies in Law, Politics & Society

Human Rights Watch (2012). Sex Workers At Risk. Retrieved Fromhttp://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/07/19/sex-workers-risk-0

Human Rights Violations of Sex Workers, People in the Sex Trade, and People Profiled as Such (2014). Submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America.

Hospitality. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/labor-trafficking-venuesindustries/hospitality-0

Murtha, T. (2013, October 30). Activists Campaign Against Philadelphia Judge Who Ruled Rape as Theft. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/10/30/activists-campaign-against-philadelphia-judge-who-ruled-rape-as-theft/

Red Umbrella Project (2014). Criminal, Victim or Worker. Retrieved from http://redumbrellaproject.org/advocate/nyhtic/

Strangio, C. (2014, August 5). When Walking Down the Street Is a Crime. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from https://www.aclu.org/blog/lgbt-rights/when-walking-down-street-crime


Let’s End AIDS in Pennsylvania by 2020 – Call Gov. Wolf today!

From our friends at ACT-UP Philadelphia 

Governor Wolf could become the 3rd governor to announce that his state will see an end to the epidemic by 2020. Can you call on him today at 717 787 2500 to make a public statement that Pennsylvania can end the AIDS epidemic, and keep his promises on HIV?

Call the Governor’s Office at 717 787 2500 and tell them,

“Hi, my name is [insert your name] and I live in [insert your city/county], and I’m calling on Governor Wolf to End AIDS in Pennsylvania by 2020, like Gov. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Inslee of Washington have pledged. Pennsylvania has the resources to drastically reduce HIV transmissions and start bringing the AIDS epidemic to an end. I have admired the Governor’s public commitments to fight HIV in a number of ways, and urge him to make a public statement that he will pledge to end the epidemic by 2020, and convene a task force of people living with HIV/AIDS and public health professionals to make a concrete plan to End AIDS in Pennsylvania by 2020.”

When Governor Wolf was still on the campaign trail, his campaign met with members of AIDS service and activist groups across the state and discussed a platform of steps that we believe will pave the way to ending the AIDS crisis* in Pennsylvania by 2020.

Governor Wolf has already agreed to many of our points. Now that he has been sworn into office and is preparing his first budget, make his first legislative proposals, and crafting his first executive statements, it’s time for him to take the first steps towards meeting his campaign promises!

Thank you so much for all that you do to ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS!

*We believe that the science and know-how are there to drastically reduce new infection rates and reduce the viral loads of those already infected to undetectable — if we can make HIV undetectable in the state by 2020, the end of AIDS will be right around the corner.”


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