Every year December 17th marks International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.  The day began as a vigil to the victims murdered in Seattle in the 1980s and 1990s but has become a day to call attention to hate crimes against sex workers globally.

Observed by sex workers, families, friends, colleagues and allies, the day and in particular the ‘red umbrella march’, aims to promote the removal of stigmatisation and discrimination of sex work.

The symbol of the red umbrella was first used in Italy when an artist collaborated with international sex workers to march through the streets of Venice. The prop was used so the demonstration would be eye-catching and memorable and has now become a worldwide symbol of the day.

Changing Lives led a march and a service in Newcastle City Centre where clients and staff remembered their friends and colleagues through sharing poems, quotes and stories. The service was held by our GAP and MAP project along with the people we support.

Within Changing Lives we have many projects which support men and women involved in sex work and exposed to sexual exploitation.

Our GAP and MAP services offer support for the multiple and complex needs of people involved in survival sex, such as addiction, mental health problems and offending.

The Red Umbrella Project is commissioned by the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner to deliver a service to any individual, inclusive of people in survival sex work and sexual exploitation. The focus is to combat instances of violence committed against anyone in the sex industry and to bring justice to perpetrators.

Our IRIS project provides programmes and tailored services to help women who or being, or at risk of being, sexually exploited.

The Amber project works to engage with specialist mainstream services to enable people to meet their individual needs and targets. It works with women helping them towards a life of stabilisation, recovery, health and resilience.

Working together with partner organisations is an important part of our sex work projects, with the aim to spread awareness and develop best practice when supporting clients.

Recently, Changing Lives partnered with Humankind – a charity that provides support to meet complex health and social needs, and the North Yorkshire Sex Work, Survival Sex, and Sexual Exploitation Peer Research Project. They created a workshop to show staff at various agencies how best to can support those with lived experience of sex work and survival sex.

For many of our clients, the invisible nature of sex work makes seeking support difficult. We want to reduce any barriers, remove prejudice and enable those who want help to access it easily and safely. We hope that by opening conversations amongst collaborating partners across a range of social and economic landscapes, more people, who are so often invisible, will be supported.

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