The fearless New Orleans organization Women With A Vision, a group that’s done considerable work for sex worker rights, suffered an arson attack at the end of last week. Their outreach resources—condoms, educational materials, HIV rapid test kits, and anatomical models to demonstrate self-care—were destroyed. This act was one of domestic terrorism; it’s on par with attacks on abortion clinics, and the headline “Arson Attack On Women’s Health Organization” does a great job of summing up the issue at hand. Poor women, trans women, and women of color disproportionately suffer the enforcement of anti-prostitution laws, and an incident this unconscionable should cause prohibitionists to sit up and take notice of the type of company their “sex work is evil” message invites.
What’s truly incredible in all of this is the strength and composure exhibited by WWAV Executive Director Deon Haywood, who says “more than anything, I’m concerned about our clients—but the work will continue.” Below the video you can find the entire text of the letter they sent out explaining the situation and asking for donations of funds or needed items. Please take a moment to read it.
Dear friends, colleagues and family,
Today we reach out to express our gratitude for your support and to let you know that everyone in the Women With A Vision family is safe.
Thanks to the fast response of all of our supporters across the country, many of you have already heard that our office was broken into last night and set on fire. The worst damage was concentrated in our community organizing and outreach office where we store all of the resources we use to educate our community. We lost everything. We do not have an office to operate out of right now. Most of our office equipment and all of our educational resources were destroyed. Because of the targeted nature, we can only assume that this was intentional.
We are shaken to be sure, and deeply worried about how we will provide for our members while we are rebuilding. But the work will continue. This cannot and will not stop us from speaking out for people who do not have a voice.
Please know that your thoughts, your prayers, your kind words and your positive energy are felt. Your care for WWAV is what is giving us the strength to make sure that we reopen, bigger and better than before, as soon as possible.
But we will literally be starting from scratch, so donations and in-kind contributions are critical right now.
Immediate Meeting Spaces for WWAV Events. We are in the process of finding a new permanent home, but also need immediate assistance with space. We have several coalition meetings that were to be held at the WWAV office next week, and our new micro-enterprise program is scheduled to launch early next week. New Orleans friends, do you have conference room space you can lend? Member programming will need to accommodate 10-15 people. Coalition events will bring together 20-25 people.
Donations to Replace our Health Education Materials. We lost all of our health education materials, including harm reduction supplies, condoms/dental dams/lube, reproductive health models, educational brochures, hygiene kits and OraSure HIV tests. Replacing these will cost thousands of dollars. If you are able, please make a tax-deductible donation through our website.
- $50 will buy a case of male condoms;
- $100 will cover a month supply of harm reduction kits,
- $250 will replace one of our reproductive health models;
- $500 will enable us to make a month’s supply of hygiene kits;
- $1000 will buy a case of female condoms; and
- $2000 to replace our two cases of OraSure rapid HIV tests.
Suits/Dresses/Shoes to Restock our Clothing Bank. We have lost all of the professional clothing that was donated to WWAV for our women to go on job interviews. Please contact us if you have suits, skirts, dress pants, dresses and shoes to donate. Women’s clothing 8 to plus-size and shoe sizes 7 to 12 are most needed.
Donations to Replace our Office Furniture & Supplies. When we are ready to move into our new office, we will need to replace most of our office furniture, all of our office supplies, and all of our decorations for WWAV member holiday events and women-centered programming. Desks, desk chairs, and furniture for our drop-in space will all be incredibly costly. And we all know how quickly copy paper and post-it notes can add up. Any donation will help us to open as quickly as possible. Gift cards to office supply stores like OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples are welcome. In-kind contributions of women-centered art, social justice posters, and holiday decorations will all be deeply appreciated when we are nearer to our re-opening date.
Donations to Replace Computers & Printer(s). One desktop computer, one laptop and one printer were completely destroyed in the fire. We are in the process of testing our remaining computers and printer to see if they have been permanently damaged by smoke. At this point, our technology replacement costs are unknown. Again, any donation will help us to reopen as quickly as possible.
We will continue to post updates to our website as our rebuilding process continues. Please keep checking back!
For now, we thank you for your love and your support. We are truly humbled to be on this journey with such an incredible community of allies. And the work continues…
Deon Haywood, WWAV Board of Directors, WWAV Staff
and the women we support