Unconstitutional Government Censorship of Backpage Makes Everyone Less Safe

Washington, DC — Last night, Backpage released a statement addressing the shutdown of Adult services on their website, citing “unconstitutional government censorship.” Sadly, here at HIPS, we are unsurprised, and deeply affected by the impact this will have on individuals that engage in sex work in the District.

We will call this what it is: over-criminalization of sex work and shutting down safe spaces for sex workers, under the guise of ending sex trafficking. Already, HIPS has heard from community members that in the space of one day, the only immediate option they have is being forced to work exclusively on the streets. They have lost access to choice, bodily autonomy, self-determination, and self-sufficiency. Under the guise of safety, we remove agency. This is illogical and inaccurate — it tells instead of listens to what sex workers need to be safe.

When we take away safe spaces for sex workers, we vastly increase their vulnerability to violence, trafficking, and coercion. HIPS has helped hundreds of people out of trafficking situations, through resources and services, rather than corrective law enforcement.

As the confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions goes on today, we encourage our community to remember that criminalization affects our most marginalized members — transgender and gender non-conforming people, women and femmes, queer people, Black people and people of color, people who live and work on the streets, disabled people, and others. Do not leave sex workers behind in the conversation of whose bodies will be regulated by the state.

As always, HIPS is here for you, with resources, support and services 24/7. Please call us anytime, at 1–800–676-HIPS (1–800–676–4477) to strategize safety, to mourn loss, and for anything else you might need.

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