Phoenix Calida's friends are preparing for death. Some are sending photos of tattoos to make it easier to identify their bodies. Others are giving instructions for eulogies.
Calida, 35, is a Chicago-based sex worker who has depended on websites that host classified ads, such as Craigslist and Backpage.com, to meet and screen clients. But the US government's recent crackdown on those platforms has abruptly eliminated many workers' primary source of income, forcing some to turn to the streets or to rely on abusive pimps, greatly increasing the risk of violence.
"Girls are going back to the streets and they are going to die in the streets, and nobody cares," said Calida, a mother of two, who said she used to do street work and fears she will have to start again to make ends meet. "Everybody is terrified."
Congress recently passed legislation with bipartisan support that purports to combat online sex trafficking by making websites criminally liable for users' content. But some say the Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta) and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (Sesta) will have the opposite effect.