Introducing National Ugly Mugs

How NUM’s report and alert system is improving sex worker safety

The mission to end violence against sex workers isn’t easy, but it’s essential. 

National Ugly Mugs (NUM) is a UK organisation with their sights set firmly on that goal. Drawing on their lived, practitioner and scholarship experience, NUM creates technology and community education programmes that increase sex worker safety. 

The bottom line is that sex work is work. And no one should have to go to work with the fear of facing threatening messages, physical harm or rape. 

 We caught up with the people running NUM to find out:

  • Why NUM started
  • How their report and alert system works
  • Improvements they’ve seen in sex worker safety
  • How and NUM can work together to create greater change
  • How AdultWork members can join the NUM network or donate to the charity. 


AdultWork: For those who haven’t yet heard of National Ugly Mugs (NUM), what do you do and how does NUM work? 

NUM: NUM is a charity that works towards ending violence against sex industry workers. Using our online report form and contact details, sex workers report crimes they experience. Reports are then shared, warning others within their communities about potential predators.  

Reporting a crime to NUM doesn’t mean you have to tell the police, but victims who do want to make a police report are offered our continued support. We have a dedicated casework team for this, giving sex workers further access to criminal justice assistance and other services so they can cope and recover from crime.

As well as offering a report and alert service we are using data and knowledge from sex workers to inform education programmes and political advocacy. (You might like to know more about our Research & Development Team.) Through these channels, we help skill-up different services and police forces so they become sensitive to the needs of sex workers and respond appropriately to victims of crime. 

By addressing the conditions that cause or promote harm to sex industry workers we can achieve change. 

If you or a colleague experiences a crime and want to share that information with others, by logging into your NUM account you’ll gain access to the online report form. Simply fill this out and submit. Alternatively, pick up the phone and speak to a member of the NUM casework team. 

All NUM caseworkers are experienced and qualified practitioners. They give support that’s in keeping with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015). So, if you’d rather speak to someone, over the phone reports can be taken between Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Each report is reviewed by the casework team and turned into a warning alert. NUM members get the alert either by email or text (depending on their set preferences). 



AW: What’s the process after a crime is reported to NUM? 

NUM: If things do go wrong, we understand the need for non-judgemental, confidential support from an organisation that’s familiar with your industry and working environment. We also recognise the need for discretion.  

When you speak to a member of our casework team, for example, you’ll find they’re responsive to your individual needs. During your call they provide in-depth emotional and practical support (if you want it). They are there either from ‘report right through to court’ or are a listening ear when you need it most. 

Contacting NUM doesn’t mean you then have to tell the police. That’s your choice. As mentioned, victims who do want to make a police report have our continued support to get the assistance they need. 



AW: How many alerts are sent out each month and what’s in them? 

NUM: Alerts are warnings. They include information about individuals or situations that may be dangerous to you and we send out a lot of alerts. In 2018 alone we issued over 211,764 SMS text warnings to sex workers, service organisations and sex work establishments across the UK. .  

Each alert contains enough information so you, as a sex industry worker, can make informed decisions about your work safety.  

Another service you may find helpful is the NUM phone number and email checker. Members use this when they get a booking request from a new or suspicious client. 

All they have to do is run the details through the NUM checker and it tells them if that number or email has been reported to NUM before. The member can then make an informed decision about whether they want to accept or decline the booking request. 



AW: What changes have you seen in the levels of reported crimes against sex workers since NUM launched?

NUM: Currently, our caseworkers receive around 40 reports a month directly from sex workers and each individual victim of crime is offered one-on-one support from the NUM casework team. This is an increase of over 70% in the last 12 months. So, we can see that the number of reported crimes has increased. As has demand for our service. 

We can identify two main reasons for this. 

The first is positive reviews and word-of-mouth among sex workers. This has helped our network grow, which means more crimes are being reported and workers alerted to avoidable dangerous situations. 

The second reason is due to a reduction in generic and specialist support services for victims of crime locally. NUM helps to fill these gaps so sex workers have access to support after experiencing a crime.  

Over 50 percent of NUM reports come directly from individual sex workers. These are primarily from off-street workers, many of whom do not use services for street-based workers because they’re conscious of taking resources away from those who have a greater need. There’s also reluctance towards using services that focus on exiting or trafficking.



AW: How are National Ugly Mugs and working together?

NUM: This is our second month working with and we’re pleased to be able to introduce ourselves, technologies and projects to AdultWork’s sex worker members. As discussed at the start, our aim is ending violence towards sex industry workers and promoting their safety. So, we’d like to invite the AdultWork community to sign up to National Ugly Mugs

Signing up means accessing alerts and information from NUM. Or, in the unfortunate event that you become a victim of a crime, you have the support of an organisation who understands your work environment. 

As well as spreading the word about our report and alert services, NUM is also launching a series of learning exchanges between sex industry workers and Adult Services Websites (ASWs). This project includes

The aims of these sessions are to:

  • provide an opportunity for industry workers to hear about the safety features on ASWs, 
  • give members a forum to air concerns, 
  • and strengthen partnerships leading to improved online safety.  


AW: How many sex workers are already NUM members?

NUM: NUM has over 5,200 individual sex workers registered, and over 1,200 frontline support workers representing over 300 UK organisations and sex work venues.

Our membership for frontline support workers enables individuals who don’t have access to technology to submit reports and receive alerts through local services as a third party. Total it all up and our estimated reach through our membership exceeds 25,000.



AW: How can our members sign up or get more information about NUM? 

NUM: Joining NUM is free and you can click here to register. During sign up we’ll ask which area of the UK you’re in. This helps us get the right (and most useful) alerts to you, but you don’t have to share this information. It’s completely up to you how much detail you give and how you receive alerts.

If you’ve got more questions about membership or the NUM organisation, please give us a call (0161 629 9861) or send us an email.



AW: How about if people don’t fancy becoming a member or aren’t an adult industry worker, but want to support NUM’s work? What should they do? 

NUM: National Ugly Mugs is a registered charity, so we welcome extra support in our mission to end violence against sex workers. 

Visit our donate page or email us for more details. 

To give you an idea of how we can best use your gift, £10 a month pays for 100 SMS. And we know alerts are reducing crime against sex workers. Forty-six percent of sex workers using NUM avoided specific individuals as a direct result of our alerts. 

While a regular gift donation is the best way to help us achieve long-term goals you might prefer to organise a fundraiser. You could put on a comedy show in your local area with money raised going towards NUM. Or maybe you fancy jumping out of a plane in exchange for sponsored donations.



Next steps if you think NUM is for you

NUM’s work is making a difference to adult industry professionals who experience crime — in terms of support, guidance and recovery. 

If you’re not yet a member of National Ugly Mugs, but would like their assistance and access to their services here’s a recap of where to go…

  1. You can find out more about the organisation here
  2. Sign up to become a member by going here.
  3. Contact the team with any questions or concerns you may have by emailing
  4. Whether you’re a sex industry worker or an advocate for sex worker rights, you can donate to and support NUM here


How else can and NUM help you

Your safety is paramount. AdultWork has a long-established history of being the safest and most secure online platform for advertising adult services. We don’t claim to be completely risk-free but using our platform is by far the safest method when arranging to meet any clients, old or new.

You should always encourage your clients to use the AdultWork booking form to arrange any meetings. This way, you have details that you can check against the NUM database and also your own notes. The more information you have, the better informed you will be to make the right decision when accepting a request. and Insider would like to thank the NUM executive team for taking the time to speak with us.

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