Legal Rights of Sex Workers

At C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, we believe that everyone deserves to work, date, and live freely without facing abuse. And that includes sex workers. Since opening the firm ten years ago, we’ve been representing individuals on the spectrum of the sex trade, whether by choice, circumstance, or force/fraud/coercion (sex trafficking). We work for clients to keep them safe to do their work and as their weapon to fight back if somebody has hurt them. If your consent has been violated or you’re under attack, we are your lawyer.


Throughout this blog, we discuss sex work and sex trafficking. It’s important to understand that these are not the same. Both exist within the spectrum of the sex trade. But sex work is consensual, and trafficking is not. “Sex work” is an umbrella term covers the selling of sexual services, including prostitution (also known as full-service sex work), online sex work, pornography, stripping, escorting, and more.


  • Stalking by your client
  • Sexual assault by your client
  • Blackmail, threats to be outed/doxxed
  • Nonconsensual sharing of images
  • Underage online trafficking (see our Omegle case)


  • Send an ironclad cease & desist letter to deter harassing/stalking
  • Safety planning & de-escalation when a privacy concern comes up
  • Obtain an order of protection for sex workers against their abusive/stalker clients
  • Liaise with law enforcement on behalf of victims in the sex trade during criminal investigations against offender
  • Negotiate a financial settlement for sexual assault that happened on the job
    • For sexual assaults that occurred in NY, the ASA has opened a one-year window to pursue expired civil claims that ends in November 2023. Explore your options IMMEDIATELY. 
  • Advocate with platforms to remove nonconsensually posted images or videos and protect Intellectual Property for unauthorized recordings on OnlyFans
  • Content removal if somebody is trying to use current or prior sex work against you online.


  • Sex workers are at the risk of arrest when reporting sexual assault or other forms of abuse.
  • Trafficking victims are often criminalized when seeking help. For more info on this, read Criminalization of Trafficking Victims from the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, City University of New York Law School Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project, Legal Aid Society of New York.
  • Sex workers are at increased risk of violence, and sex workers of color, migrant sex workers, and trans sex workers face an even higher risk of violence.
  • Some clients of sex workers are predators who feel entitled to abuse sex workers believing that the stigma of the work will keep their victim from seeking help.
  • If somebody hurt you, they must pay.

At our firm, we believe in the full decriminalization of sex work. As other human rights organizations (such as Human Rights WatchAmnesty International, and the World Health Organization) have reported, it is the best way to protect the health and safety of those in the sex trade. And it’s the only way to open the door for crime victims in the sex trade to report what they’ve been through and ask for help. It’s also a step towards destigmatizing those in the sex trade, which ultimately means those who need help are safer to ask for it.


Some activists aim to “end the demand” of sex work by criminalizing the purchase of sex work so that clients, “buyers,” are liable for criminal charges instead of the sex worker. This is known as “partial decriminalization” or the “Nordic model,” as it was first introduced in Sweden.

This effort, though it may be well-intentioned by some anti-trafficking advocates, would only push the sex trade underground and create more dangerous situations for those in the sex trade, whether by trafficking, circumstance, or choice. We disagree with partial decriminalization for several reasons, including:

  • It increases the risk of violence for sex workers by creating barriers & distrust between sex workers and clients. When clients of sex workers are liable for criminal charges, it creates a level of distrust between sex workers and their clients. Clients are less likely to provide accurate personal information necessary for the vetting of clients – which is vital for sex workers to maintain their safety.
  • It has a negative impact on sex workers rights. As the Human Rights Watch reports, partial decriminalization makes it harder for sex workers to find safe places to work, collaborate, support and protect each other, organize, and even open bank accounts. And by continuing to stigmatize sex work by criminalizing the purchase of a sexual service, sex workers are more vulnerable to violence and less likely to report when a consensual situation becomes nonconsensual.


An alternative to combatting sex trafficking that’s been proposed is the legalization of sex work. This means a set of laws and regulations would be created for when and how the sex trade may operate. And anyone operating outside of these regulations would be at risk of arrest for criminal behavior.

As many activists have argued, legalization would only create barriers for the most at-risk sex workers, especially those who are undocumented, who may well be operating outside of the law but may be victims of abuse. We believe that full decriminalization is the only way to protect everyone in the sex trade and prevent sex trafficking.

In New York State, we support the Stop Violence in the Sex Trade Act (SVSTA), which would fully decriminalize prostitution and would clear prior criminal convictions for offenses no longer criminalized. This should NOT be confused with competing bill Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act (STSJEA), which would mean the partial decriminalization of sex work, as outlined above.

In a world where sex workers continue to be stigmatized and face their rights under attack, we want to make it clear that we support and represent sex workers and believe in the full decriminalization of sex work.


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We are not your attorney. Nothing on our website, blog, or social media should be interpreted as legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on the basis of information on this site without seeking the advice of an attorney. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please keep in mind that the success of any legal matter depends on the unique circumstances of each case: we cannot guarantee particular results for future clients based on successes we have achieved in past legal matters.