Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is notorious across North America for its drug/human trafficking, addictions, prostitution, and violence. Might I just say before we move on that I do know people living on Van's DTES, and they humble me. Whether outreach workers, advocates, recovering addicts (or not), there is a blend of deep humanity in this place that few take the time to peel back and embrace.
With that said, let's move on to the article.
UBC student Isabel Chen wishes to develop the "Keep-Safe" Panic Button for sex trade workers. If they find themselves in a situation they cannot handle, a quick press on the button will alert previously inserted numbers (like 911 or other emergency crews) of the immediate need for assistance.
Now… I know the type of violence against sex trade workers is enormous, especially against women. This is a current state of affairs. I can see where Chen is coming from. When a worker does need help right away against a pimp or a john or, let's face it, jerks off the street just looking for a fight, it would be handy to simply press-for-help.
However, my concern is why this button is needed AT ALL. Once again, rape culture is impressed upon us rather than respect and the pursuit of peace. Women are sent the message: "Prepare yourself. Don't get raped". Instead the messages we need to be sending to our entire culture are: "Don't rape. Don't hit. Don't exploit. Don't abuse."
But that's not where we're at.
So I can see where Chen's device may assist workers in the interim, but I sure hope she has plans to join the many voices across Canada declaring that such things ought not to be needed anymore… ever again.
No one, sex trade worker or not, should ever feel scared or unsafe or at-risk walking their own streets. It's a pipe dream, some say, I know. But the messages of rape culture need to be declared as evil, and fought against with a hardcore reality of peace and mutual respect. With enough voices educating the public at all levels, this truth can be made a reality.