Sunday, November 2, 2014

Josh's First Post!

I met her outside a run-down motel in the Summer of 2011. As a freshly minted outreach volunteer with the NC Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a grassroots public health group that provides direct services to sex workers and drug users in the Triangle, I was traveling around Durham by foot, passing out condoms and packets of lube to people I encountered along the way.
“I can’t take those,” she said, pointing to the Ziploc of Trojans in my hands. She explained that the last time a police officer had seen her carrying condoms, he’d confiscated them and threatened to arrest her.
Her experience is not an anomaly: over the years, I’ve heard countless stories from women who’ve faced similarly frustrating circumstances: harassment by police, inadequate access to healthcare, abuse by clients.
For my project, I would like to know more about the experiences of sex workers - the barriers they face in accessing social services, their relationships with law enforcement, the injustices they endure on a daily basis. I would like to do something akin to investigative journalism:  conducting interviews with sex workers, law enforcement, and activists to document the pervasive human rights abuses affecting this community.
This project will relate broadly to several tenets of the Beijing Platform for Action, but is especially relevant to Topic 3: Women and Health. A recent WHO report notes that sex workers and their clients are particularly vulnerable for HIV infection - a risk exacerbated by such contextual factors as stigma and poverty. Reaching sex workers is undoubtedly a critical effort for public health.
I would also like to examine the role of men in sex work, and how we can hold abusive clients more accountable for their actions. 


  1. I am honored to serve as your mentor in this research journey, Josh. Its origin in a powerful personal experience makes it particularly motivational for you and will drive you toward successful completion at a busy time in your academic career.

    I am particularly interested in where the journey will lead with regard to the issue of human sex trafficking, a growing problem in NC (we rank #8 in the nation for the number of incidents). Increased legislative and judicial actions in this area are occurring throughout our state.

  2. Josh, as you know this topic is very close to my heart. I think any lights you may shed on the issues surrounding sex trade workers will be fantastic.