Project Respect is support for women trafficked for sexual exploitation and women in the sex industry. We assist women one-on-one, create a safe community and advocate for women’s rights. We exist because women matter. We are a non-profit, feminist, community-based organisation.
Project Respect believes that every woman who is trafficked for sexual exploitation or is part of the sex industry has the right to feel safe and respected, regardless of her views or circumstances. We understand that each woman experiences the industry differently. She could find it empowering, or deeply harmful, or somewhere in between. Our work is fundamentally about human rights - so we want to see an end to human trafficking for sexual exploitation. But we also want to see an end to situations where women feel they have no choice but to enter the sex industry. No choice but to put up with disrespectful clients. And no way to access the support they need, if they ever do want to leave. At Project Respect, we exist for the women who seek and need our support, without judgement.
Project Respect was founded in 1998 by Kathleen Maltzahn to challenge violence against and exploitation of women in the sex industry. Since 2000 the organisation has provided intensive support through activities such as outreach, counselling, education assistance, legal and financial support, and social activities to encourage peer support and relaxation. Advocacy and work for systemic change has always been at the heart of Project Respect’s work.
In 2003 Project Respect spearheaded a country-wide campaign to put trafficking on the national agenda. That campaign resulted in the end of the mandatory detention of trafficked women, prosecutions of traffickers, support for trafficked women and changes to Australia’s laws on trafficking.
Since this time Project Respect has continued its vital outreach to women in the sex industry. Additionally Project Respect has contributed to policy formation, legislative reform and research to benefit women in the sex industry, and particularly those trafficked to Australia.
Project Respect has also established a program for law enforcement agencies, government departments and non-government organisations offering training on working with women in the sex industry, including survivors of trafficking.
Project Respect's vision is for a world where women are free from trafficking, prostitution and sexual exploitation.
- Supporting women in the sex industry - through direct outreach, practical assistance, referral, ongoing emotional support, social inclusion and a sense of community.
- Empowering women who have been in the sex industry - using a strength-based, woman-centred approach, facilitating access to new education and training, and working to foster their sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
- Educating the community, informed by women from the sex industry - to bring about greater awareness of the impacts of the sex industry and trafficking, and the prevent the exploitation of women.
- Advocacy and activism, informed by women from the sex industry - to address the demand, violence and structural inequalities that maintain the sex industry.
- Research on the sex industry - to inform evidence-based practice and provide tools for social change.
- Leading the way in Australia - as experts in specialist support for women who have been trafficked into the sex industry.
At Project Respect, we believe the sex industry is deeply gendered. The majority of people in the industry are female, and the majority of clients are male. As a feminist organisation, we believe that gender based inequality exists, and that the sex industry strengthens and reinforces this inequality. We believe that everyday acts of violence committed against women in the sex industry are gender based and for this reason, the sex industry is more harmful than it is not, for the majority of women. Trafficked women in particular are exploited simply because of their gender. These are structural issues. They are complex issues. But fundamentally, they are and always will be, deep human rights issues.
Project Respect acknowledges that women's experiences in the sex industry are different - there is no clear right or wrong. Our views reflect our work and our experiences, and we deeply respect the views and experiences of others.