The first ‘Touching Base Forum’ was held at the Mercure Hotel in Sydney on 18 February 2001. About 50 people with disability, sex workers and carers attended and many have reported the forum was a life changing experience. We were fortunate to have Dominic Davies, a visiting leading International Disability/Sexuality Specialist from the UK, to facilitate the day’s programme.
The Forum was co-hosted by the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and People with Disability Australia (PWD) and sponsored by the Australian Society of Sex Educators, Researchers and Therapists (ASSERT) NSW.
The Forum was for people with disability, their carers and sex workers to meet and frame their expectations in response to the human right to be a sexual person. We hoped the forum would assist the sharing of experiences and work through the social, economic, legal and other “grey areas” which present obstacles in the delivery and receipt of sex services to people with disability. Entry to this event was by donation in view of the economic hardship experienced by people with disability who are often on low fixed incomes.
1st Forum Aims
Our 1st forum aimed to provide an unique opportunity for these groups with converging interests to meet and discuss many of the difficulties people with disability and their carers presently face, when selecting options for obtaining professional sex services for people with disability.
- To create a safe environment for people with disability, their carers and sex workers to relate personal experiences, thoughts or concerns they may have around all aspects of working together.
- That the issues raised by the stories are work-shopped and relevant actions proposed.
- That responsibility is taken for any follow up actions proposed.
- That the findings are shared with Service Providers to promote open discussion of the issues raised and inform the development of standardised policy and procedure responses aimed at meeting the sexual needs of people with disability in a way befitting their dignity.
- That participants bring along any relevant resources, to broaden knowledge of available resources and identify the gaps where resource development is required.
- To forge on-going working relationships, locally, nationally and internationally. Because of the lawful status of sex work in NSW, we are in a fairly unique situation, and there is already international anticipation concerning what is achievable here, both at the forum and beyond.
Issues Arising from Story Telling Groups
- Choice: Adults being treated as children.
- Training: Communication skills for sex workers. Information for sex workers about the various needs of people with disability.
- Access: Gatekeepers from different groups have their own “rules”.
- Funding: The cost of sexual services for some people with a disability is an issue as prices are usually dependent on the time spent with a worker. Issue of time management during sex services.
- Privacy: Privacy in group homes.
- Consent: How do we get informed consent?
- Laws: Legal constraints around access, i.e. upstairs venues. Confusion around conflicting laws.