Bad date box gives Chilliwack sex workers a voice

Ann Davis Transition Society has place a locked wooden box for bad date reports inside a fitting room at Ann's Treasures and Thrift Shop

Samantha Hilliard

Samantha Hilliard

Sex trade workers are sometimes raped or assaulted by their johns.

Fear of being arrested or criminalized often keeps them from going to police.

Now there’s a way for local sex workers to make reports in Chilliwack.

Ann Davis Transition Society has put a locked wooden box, called the ‘bad date’ box, inside one of their fitting rooms at Ann’s Treasures and Thrift Shop, on Yale Road east of Five Corners.

“It’s really discreet and gives them a chance to make an anonymous report on anyone who is abusive or violent or just nasty with them,” said Samantha Hilliard, volunteer coordinator for Ann Davis Transition Society.

The forms don’t even have a space for names. They ask for a description of the incident, and any vehicle description, with logos and vehicle shapes that can be circled.

“The forms are really user-friendly. The whole purpose is to create better communication, and to allow the local worker to give anonymous feedback about these experiences to police.”

Bad date reporting is common in larger communities but Chilliwack has never had a formal way to do it.

“Everyone knows these incidents are happening. It’s not fun.”

Sometimes they’re robbed, choked, confined, or refused payment. The reports help workers protect each other.

Hilliard designed the bad date sheet based on a template used by other organizations who coordinate such initiatives, like the Bad Date Coalition or Women’s Information Safe Haven in Vancouver (WISH).

The “bad date box” has been in place in the thrift store across from the post office, right near the local stroll, for two months.

“We’re just starting to get in touch and get the word out about it,” she said. “Eventually it will give everyone an idea of the scale and frequency of these incidents, and might even lead to arrests.”

The filled-out forms will be collected and handed in to police.

“You can tell that there’s already strong interest,” she said. “But there’s also an underlying fear.”

The emphasis on anonymity is there to reduce the stress of making a report.

“I want this to work and I want it to make a difference,” said Hilliard. “These are women who’ve had terrible experiences. We want them to have an opportunity to be heard.”

The mandate of Ann Davis is to work on a number of levels toward violence-free communities and this initiative dovetails nicely. ADTS staff has helped more than 2,500 people last year involved in domestic violence, offering individual and group counselling to women, children, youth, men, couples and families, as well as providing information, advocacy and community education.

“Anything they can do to make it safer on Chilliwack streets for everyone is worth a try,” said Sue Attrill, city councillor and chair of the Public Safety Advisory Committee.

“It sounds like this initiative was well thought out. More power to them and if it can made a difference I wholeheartedly support it.”

Anyone who would rather not fill in a form can call a central Bad Date Line 416-765-6009 that will notify local agencies or check out the Bad Date Coalition on Facebook.