On Sunday 21 August, sex trade advocates tried to derail the launch, in Townsville, Queensland, of Prostitution Narratives, a recently published compilation of sex trade survivor testimonies.
NorMAC National Director and sex trade survivor, Simone Watson, said, ‘The tactics used by the pro sex trade lobby are becoming increasingly nasty, especially since the release of damning stories of violence in the Australian sex trade, as described in detail in Prostitution Narratives’.
Members of the public were invited to the book launch at a Townsville domestic violence service over three weeks ago, through advertising on social media.
‘The domestic violence service that offered the use of their conference room, as they do for many groups, was contacted by a representative of local sex industry group RESPECT, a couple of weeks ago. They said they disagreed with the event and demanded to leave their flyers at the venue. The host service agreed to accept the flyers’, said Ms Watson.
‘On Friday last week sex trade advocates visited the domestic violence service saying they had information to offer and demanded to put up posters of partly naked women in the sex trade “looking empowered”. While the host in no way discouraged their attendance at the event it was made clear that the posters would not be allowed because they would cause offence to survivors, and no offensive conduct would be tolerated’.
The book launch was subsequently held at another venue because the domestic violence service provider was not able to ensure attendees safety.
‘The response from the sex trade advocates was extremely threatening’, said Ms Watson. ‘They said they would not be responsible for the behaviour of their group members at the event’.
‘At the launch itself, former president of the Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys [see https://twitter.com/ElenaJeffreys?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor], stood on a chair and interjected while survivors were speaking. She attempted to harass and intimidate both survivors and other speakers at the event.
At the end of the event she approached the youngest survivor, most recently exited for the sex-trade and encouraged her to return to the sex industry citing great opportunities in NSW. The young survivor, who had first been pimped into the sex-trade at the age of four, felt sick and distressed by the approach.
‘This type of harassment, vilification and threats against survivors who give voice to their experiences is becoming increasingly common. Sex trade advocates are perhaps alarmed at the rising tide of people who are coming to understand the reality of the sex trade, and the harms it causes, especially to women and children’. Ms Watson said.
‘The sex trade lobby’s continuing aggressive attacks on survivors’ freedom of speech exposes it for the violent, abusive, manipulative and coercive trade it is. I also find the intimation of threat to a domestic violence service absolutely unconscionable.’ said Ms Watson.