Agency officials are urging local sex workers to utilize a tool in which they can report violent or criminal incidents.
The Bad Date Book, operated by the Central Alberta AIDS Network, began in 2009 with the first entry being recorded in April of that year. Since its inception there has been 30 reported incidents in Red Deer.
Bad date reports are incidents provided anonymously by victims or support workers of victims where a sex worker has been raped, assaulted or robbed by a client.
The reports are shared via ‘Bad Date Book Red Deer’ on facebook or on the web page of CAANS (www.CAANS.org) as well as through officials with the agency, in hopes of bringing awareness of the incident and warning others.
The importance of the Bad Date Book has been brought to light in recent weeks as three incidents have been reported – two of which were separate incidents, but have similar circumstances.
“Bad dates are not new to Canada or to North America, certainly there have been agencies in Alberta who have been gathering bad dates for 10-15 years,” said Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director, Central Alberta AIDS Network in Red Deer. “Bad dates by definition are anything that happens to a sex worker that is unusual – that can be rape, assault, robbery, abduction or indecent acts.”
She added the RCMP are also made aware of bad dates in the City as well.
“We share the information with the RCMP and they can actually have that on their radar. The RCMP can’t charge anybody related to bad dates unless they have a victim, but they can do some work.”
She added as an agency, the Bad Date Book is one way that CAANS can support local sex workers.
“Not all of the incidents have been women, there has been men as well and not all of victims have been over 18 years of age,” she said.
Vanderschaeghe said CAANS officials believe that not many sex workers in Red Deer are aware they can report incidents to the Bad Date Book.
“We actually think not many of them know (about it),” she said. “We of course have connections to sex workers but there are way more sex workers out there than we see.”
Eden, a sex worker who has been in Red Deer for about three and a half years, said more workers need to be aware of how to report bad dates.
“We’re so afraid that someone is going to find out what we do and be isolated and we’re going to lose family and friends (so incidents go unreported in some cases). This is another reason why some of us are victimized because we can’t tell anyone because then they will know what we do,” she said. “The Bad Date Book encourages us to look out for each other.
“I’m nervous when I meet a new client. You do not know what is going to happen whether you are going to see them, or they are coming to see you. I do a referral process before I see a new client and the Bad Date Book is one of the places I go. It would be awesome if it was used more, but it’s there and it’s helpful.”
She added a bad date is about power and victimization.
“Sex workers are vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, Vanderschaeghe said CAAN’s hope for the Bad Date Book is that it will be a useful tool to help keep sex workers safe.
“We know there are more bad dates than what we hear about. Not only do we want sex workers to be aware of the Bad Date Book, but we also want them to feel comfortable in sharing the bad date with us,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be your bad date, it can be the story you heard from a friend or from one of your clients. We don’t want any information that would breach confidentiality. We want to hear the story and we want to hear about the person who was victimized.”