A new art project in Sudbury is aiming to reduce the public stigma around the sex trade.

The Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury — or SWANS for short — is working with community arts group Myths and Mirrors on the "Storybox" project with the hope of changing people's perception of sex trade workers.

story boxes

(Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

A lot of women involved in sex work have a hard time talking about it with others, said Tracy Gregory, who is with Réseau ACCESS Network, has experience in the sex trade and is co-ordinator of SWANS. 

"The sharing that has happened since we started working on these boxes is really a gift, in terms of women sharing their experiences with service providers, their experiences with their families, their own children.”

Tracy Gregory

Tracy Gregory of with Réseau ACCESS Network says a lot of women involved in sex work have a hard time talking about it with others. The story boxes help to give them a voice. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Gregory added the stigma that surrounds the sex worker trade can affect access to medical care for some women. She said many sex workers she speaks with aren't getting regular pap tests or tests for sexually transmitted infections.

“Because when they start to try and access service, they're right away shut down,” she said.

“And if they do get service, they're not talking about the work they're doing because they're not comfortable enough to talk about the work they're doing."

Gregory said many of the women she's worked with can give specific examples when they've felt judged and revictimized when seeking medical help.

The finished Storyboxes will be shown at the SWANS Building Inclusive Communities Conference in June.

Community artist Sarah King Gold and Sudbury's Myths and Mirrors are responsible for the artistic facilitation of the Storybox project.