Red umbrellas have become a symbol of sex workers, first used in Italy to create the ‘Prostitute Pavilion’ art installation. Now marches take place internationally to show support and fight the stigma surrounding the job. (Provided by PEERS Victoria)

Sex workers march in downtown Victoria for Red Umbrella Day

Red umbrellas became a symbol of sex workers after an art installation in Italy

The only time Naomi, a trans sex worker whose name has been changed to protect her identity and safety, tried to report a violent date to the police she was made to feel like she’d been asking for it because of her line of work. It’s a common experience and one of the reasons why Red Umbrella Day is so important, she says.

“Those first moments are really important and they affect you,” she says. “I still don’t think I would say anything to them [if I needed to again].”

Naomi ran away from home at a very young age. Ending up on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, she says she started doing street-based sex work more so for a place to sleep – which terrified her – and less for the money.

READ ALSO: Sex workers advocate for a provinicial bad date reporting system

“Eventually I started to realize this was a way I could control my situation,” she says. She used that money to transition off the street and into escort work.

PEERS Victoria, an organization run by and for sex workers, educates service providers in the city on how to reduce the stigma surrounding sex workers and advocate for them. One of the main aspects of its two-woman Violence Prevention Support Team is running the Bad Date Sheet, a way for sex workers to anonymously report anything from a creepy feeling to acts of violence and help keep others safe.

The Violence Prevention Support team at PEERS Victoria estimates there are anywhere between 2,000 to 3,500 sex workers in the region. (Provided by PEERS Victoria)

They estimate there are anywhere between 2,000 to 3,500 sex workers in the city and say only about 20 per cent of them are outside workers with the remaining 80 per cent working within escort agencies, massage parlours or doing cam-work and phone sex.

Emma, whose name has also been changed to protect her identity and safety, works in a massage parlour. She says she got into the industry because she didn’t want to get a second job.

“I can do this and make double the money I could waitressing,” Emma says.

READ ALSO: Award-winning Victoria author recalls her former life as a sex trade worker in new memoir

Both women agree that the work isn’t dangerous, it’s the way people treat sex workers that makes it dangerous.

With the lack of meaningful supports out there, sex workers can be isolated – especially if they’re transgender, Indigenous or disabled, all communities that have a historically turbulent relationship with police.

“[The violence] stems from people not feeling like they can report it, so people who want to inflict violence … go for someone who’s in the grey area of the law,” says Emma.

On Dec. 17, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a silent march heads from Bastion Square to Victoria’s City Hall to show support and fight the stigma that surrounds the industry.

“It’s not this victimizing, rock bottom [profession],” says Emma. “But it’s also not this glamorous thing – it’s just a job.”

Red umbrellas have become a symbol of sex workers, first used in Italy to create the ‘Prostitute Pavilion’ art installation. In 2005, the International Committee of the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe adopted the red umbrella as a symbol of resistance to discrimination and the marches began to take place internationally.

For more information visit safersexwork.ca.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: Study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

Some 500 people attend Sidney vigil for victims of Iran airplane crash

All 176 passengers, including 57 Canadians, died when Flight PS752 crashed

Six boat wrecks wash up on Cadboro Bay beaches over the weekend

Dead Boat Society working with Oak Bay, Saanich to clear derelict boats

Saanich Police ask for help locating missing high-risk youth

Robyn Coker-Steel has not been in contact with anyone from her home since Dec. 27

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey’s ‘Pink Palace’ being used for Stephen King horror shoot

New web series based on King’s The Stand novel

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Most Read