On Sunday 21 August, sex trade advocates tried to derail the launch, in Townsville, Queensland, of Prostitution Narritives, a recently published compilation of sex trade survivor testimonies.

The tactics used by the pro sex trade lobby are becoming increasingly nasty, especially since the release of damning stories of violence in the Australian sex trade, as described in detail in Prostitution Narratives.

Members of the public were invited to the book launch at a Townsville domestic violence service over three weeks ago, through advertising on social media.

The domestic violence service that offered the use of their conference room, as they do for many groups, was contacted by a representative of local sex industry group RESPECT, a couple of weeks ago. They said they disagreed with the event and asked to leave their flyers at the venue. The host service agreed to accept the flyers.

On Friday last week sex trade advocates visited the domestic violence service saying they had information to offer and asked to put up posters of partly naked women in the sex trade “looking empowered”. While the host in no way discouraged their attendance at the event it was made clear that the posters would not be allowed because they would cause offence to survivors, and no offensive conduct would be tolerated.

The book launch was subsequently held at another venue because the domestic violence service provider was not able to ensure attendees’ safety.

The response from the sex trade advocates was extremely threatening. They said they would not be responsible for the behaviour of their group members at the event. At the launch itself, former president of the Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys ( HERE ), stood on a chair and interjected while survivors were speaking. She attempted to harass and, in my view, intimidate both survivors and other speakers at the event.

This type of harassment, and what I see as threats against survivors who give voice to their experiences is becoming increasingly common, in my view. Sex trade advocates are perhaps alarmed at
the rising tide of people who are coming to understand the reality of the sex trade, and the harms it causes, especially to women and children.

The sex trade lobby’s continuing aggressive attacks on survivors’ freedom of speech exposes it for the violent, abusive, manipulative and coercive trade it is, in my view as a survivor of this trade. I also find the intimation of threat to a domestic violence service absolutely unconscionable.

The Scarlet Alliance – the so-called ‘peak body’ for the sex trade in Australia – also attempted to gag Professor Sheila Jeffreys and prevent her speaking against the sex trade at public meetings in Tasmania in 2012. Professor Jeffreys’ speaking engagements went ahead despite threats received by the organisers: