A look into Calgary’s sex trade

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Grace Samuel, a University of Calgary graduate student in the faculty of social work, is researching the health and safety of sex workers in Calgary through the Shift Program, which works with adults who have been or are currently involved in the sex trade.

Samuel has been compiling research to increase services and eradicate negative views of sex workers. Her work will be a part of an analytical report about 
Calgary’s sex trade released through AIDS Calgary Awareness Association this spring. 

Since May, Samuel has been working with Calgary sex workers and has found that most services available are for outdoor sex workers, meaning those who perform their services on the street, whereas a majority of Calgary’s sex workers are indoor-based, working through escort services, hotels or out of their homes.

Samuel hopes to increase services for indoor sex workers.

“When you look at research on sex work, a lot of the stats say that 80 per cent of sex work is conducted indoors and 20 per cent is street-based,” said Samuel. “One of the questions that came up was, Why don’t we see a lot of indoor sex workers and what does indoor sex work look like in Calgary?”

According to team leader of support services at AIDS Calgary Catharine van der Linden, the research Samuel is doing through the AIDS Calgary Shift Program will be beneficial to those in the sex industry by increasing effective services.

“Certainly there is a stigma attached to being involved in sex work. I think there’s also an association with sex work being an act of exploitation,” said van der Linden, who said this is not necessarily true.

“The research [Samuel] has gathered will help us increase services accurately and effectively,” said van der Linden.

Samuel became interested in this topic of research because she wanted to examine violence against women.

“It is one of my goals to raise awareness about sex workers and the issues that they face,” said Samuel.