SAMRU is teaming up with Sagesse to bring MRU students the BE(lieve in) YOU program, an ongoing online program developed for women who engage in sex work. Since sex workers face an increased risk of abuse and violence, the program aims to create a safe space for individuals to connect and learn from other women who have faced similar experiences– consensual or not.
SAMRU’s Relationship, Identity, and Sex Coordinator, and Sagesse volunteer, Sarah Armstrong, wanted to bring the program to MRU to support student sex workers. When asked of the importance of an inclusive program like BE(lieve in) YOU, she explains, “it is a program that offers support for sex workers in university communities, which has historically been overlooked”.
Stigma kills, inclusivity heals. Negative stigma towards the profession of sex work increases the chances of women experiencing violence and abuse on the job, while also creating an environment where communities are hindered or forced underground. BE(lieve in) YOU is a way SAMRU hopes to decrease the stigma of sex work on campus and provide for all students who are apart of the MRU community, including sex workers. The program does not encourage students to exit the industry but rather supports their choices in the work they choose to do.
“The goal of this program never was to have sex workers exit sex work, but to help build community with others who may feel isolated in the industry. We wanted to create a way for those individuals to grow and share the skills that they apply to their profession, such as boundaries”, says Sarah. “This program is not problem-focused, but rather works to build capacity in areas that students already have knowledge and strengths in, as well as works to build a solid community of peers that are in-university for support, safety, tips, and resource sharing”.
Community has historically been a safety net for those who work in the industry by creating programs for each other such as ‘Bad Date’ reporting sites, which lets others know of unsafe clients and bad date scenarios. Building an inclusive community of sex workers also provides a sense of mental safety and a chance to chat with each other about their days and shared mutual experiences. It’s important for people to feel connected, share, and have their experiences validated by those who truly understand. This is especially important as so many people are facing increased isolation due to covid-19 and may be facing additional stressors such as a decrease in clients, worries about getting sick, inability to apply for CERB funds, and/or payment caps on online platforms (such as Only Fans).
Sagesse has worked extremely hard to ensure that its programs are safe, inclusive to the LGBTQ2+ community, and honour anonymity. The BE(ileve in) YOU program accepts anyone who identifies as a woman to participate in the program. While SAMRU is offering the program to MRU students, all registration and sessions will be taking place through the Sagesse office to protect the confidentiality of students. Any details students are hesitant to share, such as name or contact information, can be modified to ensure comfortability and confidentiality.
If you are an MRU student and actively work in the sex work industry, call (403-234-7337 ext. 100) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register for the program. Participants should mention that they are interested in registering for the SAMRU BE(lieve in) YOU program. Have questions about the program that weren’t answered here? Reach out to Sarah!