Former sex worker speaks out on Red Umbrella Day

By Jessica Lepp
December 17, 2015 - 4:09pm Updated: December 17, 2015 - 5:28pm

KAMLOOPS — Red Umbrella Day is being marked in Kamloops today as a time to recognize violence against sex trade workers.

After working the streets for several years just to get by, a former sex trade worker has decided to share her near death experience.

While there are resources for this vulnerable population in Kamloops - more has to be done to protect sex workers.

“It’s not a choice. It’s hard. It’s cold.”

The indentations to her skull are reminders of the time she almost lost her life.

They are the scars from her days working the streets as a sex trade worker.

Today no longer working the streets, Sam hides her face to protect herself from her attacker but she refuses to be silent hoping she might be a  glimmer of hope for others.

“You wake up and go O.K. I need dope to start the day, before I go to work. Because it’s hard to go and do the job being straight. Some girls have to be straight first and then they want to go and get the dope. It’s an addiction that supports the problem, right. It’s not a two way street. It’s not a choice of life, it’s a way of life and it’s hard,” says Sam.

She says violence is considered a common occurrence for sex workers.

“He started grabbing at me and saying I want your money back, you didn’t finish! I said no you’re not getting your money back. I got out of the car and he came around, grabbed a hammer and threatened me. I wouldn’t give him his money back. Next thing I know I’m covered up in branches and I’m waking up.

Sam was left for dead in a ditch.

Her story, like others, highlights the need to protect this vulnerable population which is part of the dialogue that "Red Umbrella Day" hopes to initiate.

Blood Born Infection Health Navigator with the S.H.O.P. Program at ASK Wellness Kira Haug says, “the reality is people don’t grow up saying this is what I’m going to be. There’s life circumstances. A lot of the time people leave home, because they aren’t safe, looking for safety and the get on the street and wind up with addictions issues or just purely in need of resources.”

And through community resources like S.H.O.P. run out of ASK Wellness, there are options available for sex workers but they might not be enough.

“If it was legal I think we wouldn’t have that same safety issue.People would feel like this is a reasonable service. People have a right to deliver this safely and therefore I’m purchasing these services therefore they’re going to work safely. They will have an opportunity to report that when that wasn’t respected. Right now there is a complicated relationship with the police” says S.H.O.P. Outreach worker Amy Baskin.

Sam woke up from her attack weeks later in hospital and it has been a long road to recovery ever since.

“Someone was calling and there was no one around. It was my higher power telling me to get up, I do believe” says Sam.

Today, now clean from drugs for more than two years and working part-time at ASK Wellness, Sam is using Red Umbrella Day to help raise awareness of violence to sex workers.

She says, “it means a chance to speak out for us girls and for society to understand. We’re not here to make your lives bad, we’re just trying to survive ourselves. This is the only way we know how to survive, so why don’t you help us make it less violent”.

To join the conversation you can visit the community Facebook Page "Red Umbrella Day" created by ASK Wellness.

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