Kelly’s Line is the anonymous reporting line for the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project (ASWOP). The purpose of this project is to provide outreach to sex workers in Buncombe County. Sex workers are individuals who exchange money or goods for sexual services. According to a National Violence Against Women study, the rate of violence among sex workers when compared to non-sex workers is 43% higher for rape and 13% higher for sexual assault. Studies have shown that most of the violence sex workers experience comes from their own customers (Church, 2001).
Many street-based sex workers are embedded in situations such as homelessness and drug abuse which can exacerbate their vulnerability; this can compound the experience of violence and leave individuals feeling hopeless. Sex workers are often less likely to seek help because they are unaware that rape crisis counseling or other services are available, or fear that they will be blamed because of what they do (Sex Work and Drug Use in a Subculture of Violence: Surratt, 2004).
At Our VOICE, we believe that all individuals deserve to be safe from sexual violence.
While the exact number of sex workers in the county is unknown, anecdotal evidence from police and other sex workers tell us the numbers are significant. Kelly’s Line (1-855-4kellys) is an anonymous reporting line sex workers can use to report dangerous customers and access services provided by Our VOICE and other local agencies.
Kelly’s Line was named after Kelly Lane Smith, a local sex worker who was murdered in 2006. Her remains were found in the French Broad River, and despite substantial evidence pointing to a single suspect, Kelly’s case remains unsolved. One contributing factor is the stigma against sex workers, and a fear of retribution. With this in mind, Our VOICE partnered with numerous other local agencies and formed the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project (ASWOP).
The overall goals of the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project include:
- Involve law enforcement and social service agencies in Our VOICE’s work of reducing rape and sexual assault in the sex worker community
- Inform the sex worker community about the free and confidential services offered by Our VOICE and other area social service agencies
- To increase the safety of sex workers
- To inform the sex worker community regarding identified perpetrators
The Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project follows a harm reduction model, and believes that all individuals deserve to be safe. In that vein, we seek to work with individuals at a high risk for sexual violence, who are also a part of a stigmatized group in society. To learn more about the ASWOP, contact Leah Rubinsky and visit kellysline.com