Tag Archives: people who use drugs

Former sex worker calling for overnight drop-in centre in Vanier


By Joe Lofaro

Metro News

December 17th 2014

A former sex worker turned advocate is calling for a Vanier drop-in centre for people working the sex trade, who she says are noticing a heightened police presence since new legislation took effect Dec. 6.

A new centre would operate from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and would serve as a safe space for sex workers who need to escape violence, seek counselling for mental health issues, or help with addictions.

Jennifer Bigelow says she left the sex trade after a violent attack by a client last year. At a luncheon in Ottawa on Wednesday, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, she recounted the traumatic incident.

She said in the New Year she is going to enroll in a social worker program and hopes to become a counsellor and work in a drop-in on Montreal Road — a place she says is a “high traffic” area for sex workers.

“At 4 o’clock in the morning when it’s raining and you have perverts driving around harassing you as well as two police cruisers, you need a place to go to. Or you’ve had a sh–ty date. You need a place to be,” she said. “You need people who understand you. And not from 9 to 5.”

Even though she is no longer working on the street, she still says “we” when talking about sex workers. “My heart is still on the streets with those girls. I lived it for so many years.

The new federal legislation, Bill C-36, targets johns and pimps by making the purchase of sex illegal. The government also lauds the bill for making it easier for vulnerable women to exit prostitution.

But, Bigelow disagrees with the suggestion from the Conservative government that sex workers should be viewed as victims and argues the new laws will force them more underground in unsafe conditions.

“Us women are not victims. We chose to do this. We chose to put on our high heels, paint our faces, fill our purse with condoms and go out,” said Bigelow. “The profession isn’t going to go away. The girls are always going to be out there.”


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Sex Workers pan bill

Jenn Dec17

By: Megan Gillis,

Ottawa SUN

December 17th 2014.

On the street, she said, there were beatings by one police officer — then the compassion of another who’d offer food or a ride home on a cold night.

Then, there was the time she felt terrified in a john’s car — relief coming only, she says, when she spotted a passerby to hear her scream.

“My angels were there with me that day,” said Jennifer Bigelow, once a street sex worker using crack cocaine who said she’s a daughter, sister, mother and now an advocate.

The 46-year-old told her story at an event Wednesday marking the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, arguing new prostitution laws that took effect Dec. 6 push the vulnerable deep into the shadows when what they need is help. Her dream is a drop-in centre offering safety, harm reduction supplies and counselling.

“Now we have to hide, we have to go more into seclusion,” she said. “In my case I was lucky — it was a public place.

“My heart is still on the streets with those girls.”

Preliminary research findings released at the event at the Murray St. home of PROUD — Participatory Research in Ottawa, Understanding Drugs — highlighted the links between addiction, selling sex and homelessness.

Of 858 drug users interviewed from March 2013 to January 2014 about the past 12 months, 108 had done sex work. More than two-thirds of that group had been in a shelter and while almost a third had experienced violence from a client four in 10 said they didn`t feel comfortable calling the police.

Of those who`d done sex work, 77 said they`d been stopped or searched by police without arrest. Half reported verbal abuse or harassment and just under a third physical abuse.

Emily Symons of Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist argued that the Conservative government’s new laws force sex workers to choose between the risk of arrest and the risk of violence.

Criminalizing buying sex makes johns fearful of taking time to negotiate a date, banning sex ads is a barrier to working indoors in relative safety and making it illegal to communicate for the purpose of prostitution “near” schools and daycares pushes street workers from urban areas where they could pair up in well-lit areas, taking down license plate numbers.

“Do I want to work in safety — and get arrested, or I do I want to work in dangerous conditions but at least I won`t go to jail tonight?” Symons said


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