In 2006 a member of our community was murdered and her remains were found in the French Broad River. Kelly Lane Smith was a much loved daughter, mother, and friend. She was also a sex worker. Her case remains unsolved.
Unfortunately, violence against sex workers is common. According to a National Violence Against Women study, the rate of violence among sex workers when compared to non-sex workers is 43% higher for rape and 13% higher for sexual assault. Predators count on the fact that victims are not likely to report crimes against them. As a result, dangerous criminals continue to perpetuate violence against members of our community. In response to this violence and stigma, Our VOICE, the sexual assault support services agency that serves Buncombe County, and other area agencies are collaborating to empower sex workers to protect themselves from assault.
This year, Our VOICE received a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission to create the Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project and Kelly’s Line.
Kelly’s Line, named in memory of Kelly Smith, is an anonymous reporting program for sex workers. Sex workers can call Kelly’s Line toll-free at 1-855-4KELLYS (1-855-453-5597) without revealing their identities to report sexual and physical assault offenses. Our VOICE records the assault information and sends it to local law enforcement, maintaining the anonymity of the caller. Reports will also be printed on a Bad Date Sheet, which will be distributed to sex workers in various settings, empowering them with information to reduce harm.
Our VOICE believes that every individual has the right to be safe from violence. We are pleased to collaborate with Homeward Bound of Asheville, Western North Carolina AIDS project, RHA Jail Diversion Program, Asheville Police Department, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Helpmate, Women’s Recovery Center, Western Carolinians for Criminal Justice – Women at Risk, NC Department of Health and Human Services – Communicable Disease Branch, and the Mission Forensic Nurse Program.
According to Asheville Police Department Vice Detective Kenneth Clamser, “The target group for which this hotline was developed are vulnerable individuals that are victimized daily and are reluctant to contact police. Kelly's Line will provide the bridge needed to help identify predatory offenders when the victim wishes to remain anonymous."
For more information, please contact Our VOICE (828) 252-0562.
In the pursuit of a community that is free from sexual violence, Our VOICE serves all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse through counseling, advocacy, and education.
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