President Donald Trump’s signing of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) earlier this year was a lazily-disguised attempt at shutting down voluntary sex workers in the name of trafficking. In the wake of our slob-in-chief’s hurried signature, sex workers nationwide have been grappling with the consequences of All-American misogyny and a seemingly inherent refusal to protect sex workers.
In sum, the collective national silence around FOSTA and SESTA is harming the lovely people who help us get our rocks off—from porn actors to prostitutes. Among them are sex workers who've had their bank accounts shut down after the End Banking for Sex Traffickers Act passed the House in April; sex workers who've had their social media shut down without warning or notice; and sex workers who've lost their entire clientele/ necessary online connections and networks for generating work and income, which means they are forced to return to a more dangerous working environment: the streets.
In Seattle, there are options for sex workers seeking assistance, care, supplies, or support, including local sex-worker-headed organization Safe Night Access Project Seattle (SNAPS).
“SNAPS has seen a marked increase in the number of sex workers on the streets since the passing of FOSTA/SESTA. Realistically, it’s probably as much as a five-fold increase on busier nights. This is a huge deal,” co-founder and director Laura LeMoon explained over e-mail. “Additionally, we are seeing girls that are much younger than what we previously saw, suggesting that many sex workers have had to hit the streets after the recent closure of internet-based mediums for sex work such as Backpage. There is a very big need for support on the streets right now, especially for more marginalized sex workers… Additionally, the visible presence of pimps on the track seems to have increased in certain areas as well, suggesting that they are exploiting the consequences upon sex workers of FOSTA/SESTA for their own good.”
The SNAPS collective was founded in 2016 by “four sex workers who saw that the needs of more marginalized, Street-based workers weren’t really being addressed by any other local agencies,” said LeMoon. SNAPS is headed by LeMoon and Magalie Lerman of Sex Workers Outreach Project and Reframe Health and Justice, who leads most of the ground operations.
“SNAPS believes that all sex workers are entitled to access to a healthy and safe working environment. We currently provide street outreach and support to the outdoor workers of north Seattle, and south Seattle with plans to expand to provide outreach to various encampments in the city,” said LeMoon. “We approach folks on the street in areas with well-known ‘tracks’ or places where outdoor sex work is known to occur and offer people food, drinks and clean supplies for injecting. We also distribute condoms, lubricant, socks and various hygiene supplies such as deodorant, tampons, menstrual pads, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other items.”
While SNAPS was initially established as a collective, the organization is currently in the process of potentially establishing fiscal sponsorship with the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, which would allow SNAPS to become part of a 501(c)3 nonprofit. “PHRA has been very supportive of our efforts to provide outreach to sex workers living in our community, which we are so appreciative of because not every organization considers sex working populations to be a priority,” said LeMoon.
Populations within sex work of priority to LeMoon and SNAPS include “outdoor sex workers facing greater stigma and discrimination, with a particular focus on reaching Trans sex workers, houseless sex workers, Queer sex workers, sex workers of color and sex workers living with disabilities,” said LeMoon. “SNAPS is the only peer-led project currently providing these direct outreach services to fellow sex workers in the greater Seattle area. SNAPS is exclusively sex worker lead and plans to stay this way so as to remain an agency that is as much by the sex worker community as it is for the sex worker community.”
If you are interested in assisting SNAPS, donations are always needed. If you have unused hygiene supplies, snacks, bottled drinks, socks (unused), Visa gift cards (SNAPS requests these to be in denominations of $10 for easy distribution), cash, or a van (SNAPS’ goal is to eventually get a vehicle for outreach and effective community presence), please contact LeMoon directly. LeMoon also named Aurora Commons as an organization that does similar work in Seattle that is in need of greater community support.
“Sex workers are especially encouraged to contact us and get involved as this is the community we aim to serve,” said LeMoon.
Interested in volunteering for outreach or to provide donations? Text LeMoon at 206-434-1674.