Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I feel it hardly needs introduction anymore, thanks to social media and a lot of sex workers starting to have an interest in activism, or at least interest on social media.
This year the December 17 memorial site has short bios for some of the victims. It’s about time. Credit to whomever implemented the idea. Humanizing and properly memorializing the victims is so very important.
Accessing justice is very difficult for sex workers living and working under US laws.
Violence against sex workers is legally-sanctioned here in the US. Unless you get really lucky and find someone who is willing to help you and has the power to do so (and that someone likely won’t come from a sex work org), you’re going to end up dead. I’m not trying to derail this day to make it about Jill and I because we’re alive and I can’t complain about that. But it was perfectly clear to us through the last six months that the system was willing to let us be killed rather than take minimal measures to protect us. It wasn’t just that we were fighting an enemy entrenched with the legal system (Pig), a large part of it was that we were women, and sex workers.
How much harder is it for women who know they’re in danger but don’t have any help at all? The news is filled with women killed by former partners or men they’ve rejected but never had a relationship with. Some of those women have been sex workers. Legal protections rarely extend to sex workers. Their surviving loved ones have almost no hope of justice. Someone tell me I’m wrong and that most of the men who killed sex workers in the US this year were apprehended. I’d be thrilled to know that and make a correction.
I’m not down on sex work orgs — they do vital outreach and education in the US. The one thing they really have no ability to offer is legal protection or access justice. Legal referrals are difficult to get because there are very few people in the system who are okay with helping sex workers. Very few. (The one sex work org referral I got ended up being a vice officer who was skeptical that Pig had broken any laws — yeah, that’s a big help.) It’s far easier to find a doctor willing to treat sex workers because we’re seen as disease vectors who need monitoring. Far harder for someone in the legal system to see us as anything but ready-made criminals.
US sex work orgs are severely hampered by the laws, obviously, which makes their ability to offer protection or justice slim. Changing the laws is the answer. Always. That hasn’t changed and will never change.
The best protection any victim, or potential victim, could have is to be viewed as a citizen of equal worth to anyone else. That their life is worth defending, their death worth preventing. Not regulating them to criminal, non-human status is a huge start in getting to that place.
Jill had the idea of a lawsuit brought by victims’ families holding the people who make these laws responsible. It’s a unique idea, and worth exploring. (You can hear Jill and I discuss this, and a few other topics, on a brief radio show.)
In the same vein, the Vancouver police department issued a video statement of how sex workers are to be treated. Basically, like humans and citizens with rights. Revolutionary.