"Teens sold for sex aren't prostitutes, they're rape victims." That's what the billboard just a few blocks from my house reads. I live in West Oakland near San Pablo Avenue, where the reality of minors in the sex industry is on my doorstep. The Bay Area, especially Alameda County, was recently named one of the nation's top sites for child sex trafficking.
I'm an independent sex worker. I love my job, partially because no one forces me to do it. I make my own hours and I choose my own clients. I didn't enter the business because someone coerced me, or because I was desperate for money. I'm also not a child.
I'm lucky. But many in the Bay Area are not.
Sex trafficking is an atrocity that violates fundamental human rights. Sex work, however, is just my job. The two are as different as night and day. But whether a person is forced into the sex industry or they enter it by choice, I believe that they deserve the same right to justice when they experience violence. However, sex workers are often left out of the anti-trafficking conversation.