The sex trade needs to be decriminalized not just for the protection of sex workers but for the men who buy sex — most of whom are not violent, according to speakers at a public forum being held tonight.

Esther Shannon, the founder of First — a national coalition advocating for the decriminalization of sex work — is co-organizing the event at the Vancouver Public Library tonight.

“(The forum) is about public awareness ... And breaking down stereotypes. We don’t say (decriminalization) is the silver bullet, but it is a critical first step.”

Johns victims too, says SFU prof
New research suggests buyers of sex are just as victimized as prostitutes, says a professor at Simon Fraser University.

Chris Atchison said a study called the John’s Voice Project, looks at the motivations and experiences of sex buyers.

“This notion of sex buyers as a group being labelled as inherently violent just doesn’t seem to be supported by any of this research,” said Atchison.

He said the study found that one to two per cent of johns assaulted sex workers. “In contrast … 14 per cent had money or property stolen (and) five per cent had been attacked by a sex seller.”

Rules endanger workers: Director
Prostitution laws that prohibit solicitation put sex workers in danger, says a former sex worker.

Jody Salerno, who is now director of women’s services with the B.C./Yukon Society Of Transition Houses, said it’s not the exchange of money for sex that’s illegal, but the negotiation process.

“They end up having to get in the car and start negotiating,” said Salerno.

She said abused sex workers are then re-victimized if they file a complaint.

“If our systems took violence against women seriously, (people) would respond in an equitable way without judgment,” she said.