All of us at SWOP-Chicago are saddened by the passing of SWOP-USA co-founder Robyn Few on September 13, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. Robyn was a huge inspiration to many of us in the sex worker rights movement and we hope to continue on with the work she started back in 2003 when she co-founded Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA with Stacey Swimme.
From the SWOP-Las Vegas website-
“… a native of Kentucky, ran away from home at age thirteen and later became an exotic dancer. After marrying and having a daughter in her twenties, she began to take college courses in the hopes of earning a degree in theater arts. She came to California in 1993 to pursue theater and become an activist. Acting and activism not being the highest paying jobs, Few turned to prostitution to pay the bills in 1996. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate and caregiver for medical marijuana and AIDS patients and has gained quite a reputation in the Bay Area activist community as an effective lobbyist for the issue. In June of 2002, the FBI arrested Few under the direction of John Ashcroft. Using the Patriot Act, Ashcroft was able to equate terrorism with prostitution and get additional funding for the very expensive investigation. She was convicted on one federal count of conspiracy to promote prostitution and received six months house arrest, which she finished serving in June 2004. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel allowed Few to continue her activism and volunteer efforts while under house arrest.
Dubbed the “patriotic prostitute,” a campaign centered on the idea that prostitution should be decriminalized to protect women from violence began in October 2003 with The Sex Workers Outreach Project. SWOP is an outgrowth of the anger and frustration that Few feels as a result of her federal bust. “Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice.”
SWOP Australia is the sister organization that the USA counterpart is modeled on, although the myriad of services that SWOP-AU provides cannot actually be put in place until prostitution is decriminalized in the U.S. “Until prostitutes are no longer criminals why would they come forward and allow themselves to become targets for law enforcement? Decriminalization is the beginning of the solution, itâ€™s not the solution itself.”
Red Light District Chicago did an interview with Robyn at the 2008 Desiree Alliance Conference in Chicago here-
Our condolences go out to Robynâ€™s family and friends…she will be missed by many of us!