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Sex worker safety

'Sex work' can be prostitution, stripping or lap dancing, performing in pornography, phone or internet sex, or any other sexual services in return for money, goods, or other agreed items.

Sex workers and the law The exchange of sexual services for money is legal in the UK (apart from in Northern Ireland where it's illegal to pay for sex).

But, these related activities are illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

  • soliciting (trying to get clients) on the street or other public place, including someone in a vehicle

  • paying for the services of a sex worker who's forced or threatened into it

  • owning or managing a brothel (any premises which is used by more than one person for sex work)

  • pimping (someone who has control over sex workers and the money they earn)

  • advertising sexual services, including putting cards in phone boxes

Abuse against sex workers

Physical and sexual abuse If you're a sex worker you may be the target of rape, physical and sexual abuse and robbery as offenders (often pimps or clients) think you won't report the crime.

But, if you say 'no,' it means no – it doesn’t matter if you're a sex worker or not. You have the same right over your body as anyone else and the same right to give or withhold consent as anyone else. Whether you work online, on the streets or in premises, learn how to keep safe with these safety tips for sex workers.

Online abuse

If you use a computer or the internet as part of your work, you could also be at risk from online abuse. Unwanted contact through email, text or social media and threatening or harassing texts, calls or emails are common. There's also the risk of images or videos of you being used without your consent. This is illegal, contact the Revenge Porn Helpline if this has happened to you. If you're being forced into any kind of sex work, this is sexual exploitation, a form of modern slavery.

Report it

999 alert Is someone in immediate danger? Is a crime taking place or has one just happened? If so, call 999 now and ask for the police. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

If you're a sex worker you have the right to report any crime committed against you. Our officers are here to listen and to support you in any way we can.

If you’re concerned about someone else and think they might be being abused we want to hear from you. You can report a crime to us online or call us on 101 at any time.

If you don't want to report it to the police If you want to remain anonymous, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Or any sex worker can sign up to National Ugly Mugs (NUM) for free. NUM is a charity aiming to end violence against sex workers.

Members can:

  • get email alerts about incidents in the area where you're working

  • use the email and number checker to check if your client has been reported before

  • report an incident online and get support

You can phone them on 0161 629 9861 or email them at They're open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Further advice and support Beyond the streets A national charity providing free confidential support for women in the sex industry. SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement) SWARM campaigns for the rights and safety of everyone who sells sexual services. English Collective of Prostitutes A national organisation of sex workers campaigning for sex workers' rights and safety. Victim Support A national charity dedicated to helping anyone affected by crime to cope with and recover from their experience. If it doesn't have an office in your area, it can point you to local help. It also runs My Support Space, a free, safe, secure and confidential space where you can choose how you want to be supported. Register for My Support Space - it's quick and easy.

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