News

‘Bad Date’ Reporting Tool for Sex Workers to Launch in Canada

The first province-wide database of its kind in Canada will allow sex workers in B.C. to report violent encounters and access information about alleged offenders.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
February 2, 2021, 2:03pm
Person holding an iPhone
It's unknown how the bad date reporting system will be designed, but an app component is possible, sources say. (Photo Illustration by Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Community groups in B.C. are building a “bad date” database that will allow sex workers to report violent encounters and access information about alleged predators. 

Experts say the “bad date reporting system,” the first of its kind in Canada, is built for and by sex workers who already rely on informal networks to spread information about predators.

According to Alison Clancey, the executive director of SWAN Vancouver, a nonprofit supporting migrant and immigrant sex workers involved in the project, there is a “100 percent chance” SWAN clients won’t go to police if they experience violence.

“Criminal justice is woefully inadequate,” Clancey said. “Reporting to police is just not an option for these women.” VICE World News previously reported how authorities detain and deport migrant sex workers under the guise of anti-trafficking raids, which makes them unlikely to report to police. 

The newly announced system will be developed over the next three years, with a focus on making it as accessible as possible. Considerations include language barriers, and access to in-person resources for people without the internet or smartphones.

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Heather Paddison, a community health educator with Positive Living North, an advocacy group that covers northern B.C., said the tool will not only help sex workers bypass the RCMP—it will ideally help them protect themselves from temporary workers at mines, pipelines, and other resource extraction sites who are known for violently targeting Indigenous women.

“Someone could be working in Fort St. John, then sent out to camp closer to Fort Nelson, travelling all over this oil and gas region, and there’s no way at all to track a predator right now,” Paddison said.

A centralized list that includes locations of the incident as well as detailed information about the (perpetrator) will change that, she said.

Organizations in Vancouver already have various bad date reporting systems. SWAN, for example, offers an online abuser alert tool in multiple languages because it caters to migrants specifically, Clancey said. Sex workers file a report that outlines who the abuser was—a client, police, or bylaw officer, among others—as well as the type of abuse, Clancey said. Then, notifications go out to other women.  

But there is no resource in Canada that connects all sex workers, with various accessibility needs, across a massive geographical area. In the U.K., National Ugly Mugs offers a country-wide database that allows sex workers to report incidents and receive alerts about offenders. 

An anonymous group in the province and Law Foundation of B.C. are funding the $1 million project, which will include input from more than 20 sex work advocacy group. 

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