Building Relationships

Sex workers work in many different neighbourhoods. In some cases, people in these neighbourhoods feel hostility and aren’t aware of how to engage with sex workers respectfully. In the past, sex workers have experienced extreme acts of violence and shaming and as a result they have little or no trust in others.

Below you will find suggestions for how to initiate a dialogue between two people, one being a sex worker and the other a resident or business owner. Please keep in mind that this is a process; it requires commitment and good intentions. Relationships take time and both parties need to feel safe. Here is how to start:

1.     People come and go in neighbourhoods, but you probably see some faces regularly. If this is true and you feel safe, start by saying, “hello.” Be prepared to meet with silence the first few times. If you are consistent and your intention is good, eventually others will feel safe enough to respond.

2.     Naturally, after you have built up some familiarity, the next step is to make small talk. Maybe there is a community event or the weather has been extremely beautiful and you can comment on this to the other person. In some cases, a small dialogue will happen and both parties will continue on their way with smiles on their faces.

3.     In neighbourhoods where there is active street-level sex work you may see things such as garbage, needles, condoms and an increase in traffic. Now that a relationship has been built, this is the perfect time to speak to some of these issues with sex workers. Share your concerns and explore how we can all work together to address these issues. We all want to live and work in safer communities and solutions can be found if everyone works together.

Additional tips:

  • If you see someone in distress, don’t be afraid to ask if they are OK.
  • Never offer something that you can’t give. Keep it simple like coffee, water or the use of your washroom.
  • Never expect sex worker services in exchange for the use of your phone, washroom etc.
  • Know your neighbourhood and who is working. Sex workers will have a greater sense of safety if others are watching out for their interests.
  • Remember that sex workers are the eyes in your community when no one else is around. In some cases, their presence can lower the chances of vandalism and break ins.
  • Leave your lights on. Lit alleys will be safer for sex workers too.
  • Needle and mattress pick up can be arranged by calling 311.
  • The police aren’t always the best people to call in cases when no crime has been committed. Mobile services {link to support services} are available to assist sex workers if no other options are available. Keep these numbers handy.
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