The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act would research the impact that SESTA/FOSTA has had on the sex worker community. It was reintroduced on International Sex Worker Rights Day, March 3, 2022.
SESTA/FOSTA became a law in 2018. The stated intention of SESTA/FOSTA is to prevent sex trafficking, however there is no proof that this bill has done anything to achieve this aim. On the contrary, there is countless anecdotal evidence, as well as some studies to show that this bill has increased the dangers that sex workers face. This bill lead to internet censorship that took down websites that were used to warn other sex workers about dangerous clients, as well as other online safety resources including child sexual abuse prevention information.
The censorship forced by SESTA/FOSTA also pushed some sex workers offline and “back in the streets”, leading to loss of income and higher rates of abuse. According to a study by HackingHustling, “This dismantling of an online-based sex work environment has created an increase in economic instability for 72.45% of the online participants of this survey, with 33.8% reporting an increase of violence from clients”.
SESTA/FOSTA may have also made it harder for trafficked victims to seek help and for police to investigate trafficking. Anecdotal evidence points to SESTA/FOSTA leading to sex workers placing greater reliance on pimps, potentially resulting in more sex trafficking rather than less. Sex workers may become victims to pimps out of economic necessity, but the laws also make it hard for sex workers to seek help without incarcerating themselves. It is a lose-lose situation. Police have also reported that they had barriers to investigating trafficking after the closure of a website called Backpage. So what exactly is the point of this law then?
The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act would provide a mandate to gather reliable data to show what the impacts of SESTA/FOSTA actually have been, which may in turn lay the groundwork for the law to be amended or repealed. This bill is necessary for the survival and safety of sex workers. Ask your representative to support it today!