Over recent years we have worked hard to diversify NUM's funding streams through regular donations and by securing funding from Trusts and Foundations who support our important work. Alongside this, we also receive financial support from some police forces as well as corporations such as Adult Services Websites (ASWs).
Some view the police and ASW sources as controversial and we want to share who we receive funding from and why this income is important for our sex worker safety agenda.
Contributions from Police Forces and Borough Command Units (BCUs)
NUM was formed in 2012 after of 10 years' of advocacy to the Home Office by members of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP). This group comprised of front-line service providers and other stakeholders who worked closely with police. They wanted to see a centralised reporting mechanism and for police to partner with NUM in supporting sex workers to report crime. Since inception and until recently, NUM received a substantial portion of its annual revenue from police contributions.
Today, NUM receives contributions from some police forces and we have a Service Level Agreement in place for fiscal year 2019/2020 that supports our engagement with and promotion of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Policing Sex Work and Prostitution Guidance' (2019) across forces.
Police resources support the operational function of our reporting and alerting system which is at the core of all the work we do. This function allows victims of crime to provide information that warn others, ensuring that sex workers have the information needed to avoid predators and protect their lives.
The generation of statistics on victimisation experiences then informs our operational goals and priorities, education programming and systemic advocacy.
In terms of advocacy and education, we acknowledge that there are discrepancies between guidance, policy and practice in most large institutions. Basically what's on paper and what actually happens can be very different. Developing learning exchanges where both police officers and sex industry workers can come together to discuss the impacts of policy and practice is our best way forward.
To this end, with the involvement of the Research and Development (R&D) Team, we are updating our community education packages to make sure we use our knowledge to practically improve safety for sex workers among all three stakeholder groups (sex industry workers, police & community services).
The experiences of sex industry workers, insights from research, as well as several years' experience as practitioners all inform our interactions with police forces and other partners.
We will continue to argue for increased police protections and responses to the needs of sex working victims of crime.
Every report we get is a record of someone being harmed. We must change the conditions that lead to or exacerbate violence against sex industry workers. Research, knowledge and insights that come from sex workers' experiences of victimisation must inform the policies and practices of police, front-line service providers, law-makers, the media and others. Influencing these groups requires partnerships where there is respect and a sharing of ideas and information directly by, for and with sex industry workers as subject matter experts.
-Dr. Raven Bowen CEO
Safety and Adult Services Websites (ASWs)
Over the past few years there has been a marked increase in the online sex working population. NUM members have transformed from mostly street-based workers who were referred by front-line services to the majority being off-street independent workers who use digital platforms and various other technologies to advertise, engage and screen customers and to network with others and share tips and strategies.
NUM has always provided digital and virtual supports because the bulk of working and middle class sex industry worker need to maintain discretion when doing industry work as they have other roles and pursuits, and they are unlikely to access resources that are not relevant to the ways that they work or those that are targeted at other populations.
Instead of assuming that all third parties are exploiters, NUM wishes to engage with those that have influence over working conditions and open dialogue between Adult Services Websites and sex industry workers to improve safety. Since sex workers do not enjoy labour rights or have any collective bargaining power, we feel that it is in keeping with our mandate to 'end violence against sex workers' by:
- providing supports to online workers through partnerships with ASWs; and
- being the mechanism for sex industry workers who use theses sites to air concerns related to their user experience (UX) to the 'shot callers' who run these sites.
NUMs role here is both as support to online industry working victims of crime and as a conduit for complaints about ASWs. The sites we've partnered with have committed to addressing the concerns of their users.
Vivastreet stated the following:
'Vivastreet is a classified advertising platform that allows users to post adverts for goods and services across a broad range of categories – including sex work. NUM began working with Vivastreet in 2015, as part of the website’s commitment to enhance user safety, and improve its capacity to detect and remove inappropriate material.
While doing business online poses risks across all industries, Vivastreet recognises that sex workers who use their platform may need additional online protection, and specific support in documenting any criminal activity and violence they may experience while working - which NUM is best placed to provide.
Vivastreet encourages sex workers who use the site to become members of NUM, thereby signing up to receive our alerts and support in documenting and reporting criminal activity. In addition, it has also introduced a wide range of measures designed to enhance user safety online. Vivastreet works closely with NUM, government officials, policymakers and sex workers to prevent criminal activity, and provide a safe platform for their users.'
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NUM models partnerships with ASWs and other corporations on the relationship established with Vivastreet in 2015. Vivastreet contribute towards NUM’s core costs, and fund a dedicated case worker who provides targeted support to their website members who need to report crime.
AdultWork.com stated the following:
'AdultWork.com operate the world’s largest online adult directory, providing a safe, secure platform for service providers to advertise personal services and utilise its webcam, content sales and phone chat facilities. AdultWork.com has over 4 million members, 9.4 million visits a month, 27,000 plus escort members, 12,000 SMS / Phone Chat members and over 6,700 British webcammers. The site itself holds over 245,000 videos and 3.3 million pictures available to be purchased by its membership.
AdultWork.com does not involve itself nor monetise any personal services provided by sex workers, this being a strictly private arrangement between the provider and client but does charge an administration fee of 30% against the sales of any digital / webcam content earned by an advertiser, a fee levied only at the time they wish to withdraw their earnings from AdultWork.com. No sales no fee.
AdultWork.com provide a safe, secure and compliant environment for the adult community. With a dedicated support staff and full Age Verification and GDPR (Data Protection) compliance already in place, we operate zero tolerance of trafficking and other forms of sexual abuse or harassment and are viewed by the UK Government as very much as part of the solution and not part of the problem regarding these issues.'
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AdultWork.com is our most recent Adult Service Website contributor (as of June 2019) and has agreed to fund some of the costs related to helping their thousands of online members receive alerts about dangerous perpetrators and report crime to NUM. We are trialling this relationship for one year and will hear from members about the UX on both NUM and AdultWork.com sites to determine next steps.