After the news broke, Susan Davis’s phone rang nearly non-stop – around 80 calls in the first 24 hours alone. A long-time sex worker, an outspoken activist and a mother figure of sorts for other women in the trade, Ms. Davis became a go-to contact for other workers panicked to learn of two recent escort deaths and left wondering: “What should I do?”
“They’re freaking out. Everybody is freaking out,” Ms. Davis said Tuesday.
“People are working together in little collectives because no one wants to be working alone, independently, right now. Some girls have come together; other girls are going on tour. Other people are just taking down their ads and everything.”
Simon Fraser University criminologist John Lowman, who has studied prostitution and related law and enforcement for more than 35 years, says safety measures are complicated by the quasi-legal status of prostitution in Canada: The sale and purchase of sex is legal, but many elements related to it – such as keeping a bawdy house, soliciting or communicating and living off the avails of prostitution – are not.
“Legally, they can’t have any kind of person who lives in part on the avails of prostitution, so they can’t have a bodyguard,” Mr. Lowman said. “They can’t have a driver if the driver knows he’s being paid through the avails of prostitution.” Sex workers can’t operate out of one place on an ongoing basis, or else it becomes a bawdy house, or communicate in a public place.
“The current legal system is worse than absurd: Prostitution is legal as long as you don’t do it,” he said.