People should not feel as though they are victims of a law. Laws are meant to serve the common good. To improve life, not make it worse. Unfortunately, that is exactly what FOSTA is doing: making life worse for sex workers.
In the weeks since the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 1865 (commonly called FOSTA), life has become much more difficult and dangerous for sex workers in America. Valuable tools that aided in their safety have disappeared. Networks of fellow workers have been broken. And the pimps have stepped up their recruiting.
Critics have spoken about the Internet providing a “safe haven” for sex traffickers and prostitution. This is true. And while sex trafficking is a serious issue and needing to be stopped, the new law has served to remove much of the safety that the Internet has provided independent sex workers. Their “safe haven” has been markedly disrupted. Dangerously and destructively so.
There isn’t going to be much sympathy for the plight of sex workers in politics or society. But they are in a desperate situation. Nearly every sex worker I know personally has seem a drop in clientele since the Senate passed FOSTA and the websites started going dark. Those that didn’t are experienced ladies who did not rely on advertising of any kind and continue to work with a pre-existing list of regular clients. But many ladies are not able to do so. Most need new clients on a regular basis to survive. And the flow of new clients has dropped.
The result is that some ladies are starting to reduce their safety screening. This leaves them vulnerable to predators. Many ladies are being approached about performing unsafe sexual acts much more than in the past. Desperation may lead them to doing so, putting themselves at increased risk of disease and pregnancy. Pimps are aggressively recruiting women, an act that will INCREASE the problem of sex trafficking.
Today while walking my dog I spoke with a sex worker named “Vicki”. Since the websites she used went down she has lost her ability to advertise and screen clients. She went several days with no clients, causing her to run out of money for a room. Vicki is now on the streets. She has never previously worked as a “street walker” and is truly unfamiliar with the practice. She has already been robbed and raped. She now has no phone, no money, and almost no clothing. I’m sure that her story is far from unique.
Speaking with a police officer I know, I have heard of significant increases in the number of women working the streets. He told me that in recent years he would only see 2 or 3 women in his patrol area. In the past few weeks that number has increased tenfold.
While these are just anecdotal examples, they paint a scary picture. How many of these women will fall victim to dangerous men. Pimps, sexual predators, and sex traffickers are all now looking at a target rich environment. All brought to them through a law that was meant to do good. But no good is coming of it.