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This report focuses on indoor sex work primarily because, while these sex workers are largely invisible, they face many of the same problems as the more visible street-based prostitutes. The stereotypes of indoor sex workers encompass only extremes of either wealth and glamour or coercion and violence. The true picture reveals a more nuanced reality—the majority of indoor sex workers in this study live surprisingly precarious lives, and encounter a high level of exactly the same problems faced by street-based sex workers, including violence, constant fear of police interference, and a lack of substantive support services. Finding concrete and reality-based solutions to the needs of this invisible, vulnerable, and marginalised community is imperative to helping them create safe and stable lives.

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This report examines the impact of law enforcement approaches to street-based sex work in New York City and proposes a series of policy and practice recommendations for reform based on the researchers’ analyses of the data collected. This report also seeks to promote reasoned, fact-based, and informed debate regarding street-based prostitution in New York City. Public discussion of this issue usually occurs in flashy headlines that are meant to titillate rather than to explore the consequences of policy decisions in depth. This is a special effort to give voice to the problems faced by street-based sex workers, using their own words, since this is a voice that is almost always left out of policy debates.

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This paper addresses the persistence of violence against female commercial sex workers in the United States, drawing on the experiences of the Best Practices Policy Project in conducting outreach, research, and relationship building with diverse commercial sex worker stakeholders.

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