Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project
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).
The Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project (ASWOP) is a community coalition that stands for the rights and health of sex workers by facilitating the needs of this population through connecting them to services and support.This coalition includes active or former sex workers, community members, and a variety of community partners.
ASWOP 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.
Text “KELLY” to 85511 to anonymously report about a dangerous customer.
Kelly’s line is a free, confidential Text Line that sex workers can utilize to report information about dangerous customers and to find out information about local resources.
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 Kelly’s case remains unsolved. Sex workers experience disproportionate rates of violence yet don’t report or seek remedy for this violence out of fear of retribution. With this in mind, Our VOICE partnered with numerous other local agencies and formed the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project (ASWOP).