Alan Hamm, M. Div., has spent the past decade or so as a chaplain and crisis counselor.  He has worked as a counselor at a hospital trauma center and a domestic violence/sexual assault crisis center.  He can be reached at alan@swopbehindbars.org.

Q: Why did you begin volunteering at SWOPUSA?

A: Unfortunately, there are not a lot of mainstream resources for sex workers.  Sex workers are often dehumanized and demeaned by the institutions that everyone should be able to go to for care and resources.  On the other side of the coin, there are “white knight” organizations that want to rescue people from sex work no matter if the sex work is a choice or something one is forced to do.  SWOPUSA impressed me with their attitude on empowerment for sex workers and their dedication to providing non-judgmental support for those who are often overlooked and fall between the cracks.

Q: What does SWOPUSA’s support line do to help the sex worker community?

A: The SWOPUSA support line is there to assist sex workers with a wide variety of issues from learning about resources to offering non-judgmental support and comfort.  The key philosophy of SWOPUSA is empowerment which is what the crisis line (and other SWOPUSA resources) represent. The support line is not a place where people tell you what to do, but a place where you can be empowered to make positive life decisions and learn about resources in communities across the nation.

Q: Doesn’t being a chaplain mean that you are against sex work?

A: First, I am a multi-faith chaplain and there are several belief systems where sex (and sex work) is not as big of a deal as in religions like Christianity.  I believe that it is possible to be sex-positive and have a spiritual outlook without leaning into hypocrisy and the condemnation of people who are different. I am adamantly against people being forced into sex work (or any kind of work) and against human trafficking (the same stance as SWOPUSA).  This does not mean that all sex work is “bad” and that sex workers should be demonized by others.

Q:  Do you have an opinion on SESTA/FOSTA, the bills in Congress that are supposed to stop human trafficking?

A: The bills designated as SESTA and FOSTA may seem like a good idea; after all, most can agree that sex trafficking is wrong and should be stopped.  The problem with these bills, however, is that they cast too broad a net that would likely cause undue distress and damages to individuals and websites that are not involved in sex trafficking.  Many organizations from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) to The Garrison Center (www.thegarrisoncenter.org) have come out against these bills due to the overreaching natures of the bills.  There are smarter ways to stop sex trafficking that does not involve the harassment of innocent people and websites.  A better argument than any I can make can be found in this article by Elliot Harmon at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/stop-sestafosta-dont-let-congress-censor-internet.