Dec. 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

11 years ago

I’ve been spending a lot of time this month watching old episodes of Hunter on DVD. I’ll refresh your memory: Hunter was a cop show that debuted in 1984 and featured a male (Fred Dryer, former football star, played Ric Hunter) and female (Stepfanie Kramer, played Dee Dee McCall) busting bad guys and blowing up cars as they sought to make LA safe from “the garbage.” It was one of my favorite shows when I was in junior high (along with The Golden Girls and Empty Nest, both which preceded Hunter on Saturday nights). Today, I’ve found it both fascinating and depressing that the issues that Hunter and McCall tackled in the mid-1980s are still relevant today.

For example, the episode I watched this afternoon was from season two. Called “Case X,” it featured a porn photographer who often raped and sometimes killed the models sent to his studio. Some might think that this is a far-fetched scenario. Worse, others may believe that the women “deserved” it. After all, they work in the sex industry – they have sex all the time, so it’s hard to “rape” a woman who does it for money. Given the moral stigma of sex work in puritanical (yet hyper sexualized) cultures, it is easy to see how sex workers make perfect targets for violent crime. These attitudes only make the crimes harder to report to a skeptical law enforcement agency, and makes the perpetrators less likely to face recriminations.

It was with great interest, then, that I found out that today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. According to the Sex Workers Outreach Project:

This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.

The New York School of Burlesque shares tips for those who want to get involved:

Ten Things You Can Do to Participate:

1. Do something of personal meaning alone at home; take a ritual bath, or simply think about those who have died, light a candle, make a wish, have a cry, call a friend and discuss the topic, etc.

2. Write a short personal quote or a statement about violence against sex workers and send to the SWOP web site for them to post.

3. Send a donation to a nonprofit group that helps sex workers stay safer.

4. Organize a public memorial event in your town. If not, choose a place, and time, where you can gather. Make an email letter and/or flyer and get it around with news of the event. Invite people to bring writings, stories, readings, thoughts, related news items, poems, performances, etc. Make a circle at the event. Take turns sharing. This will make for a wonderful memorial and be great for consciousness raising and outreach as well.

5. Organize a panel discussion about violence towards sex workers. You can ask a church or other community space if you can do it there.

6. Send news of this event to any and all press you know, so the word gets out that there are people who care about murdered sex workers, and who are concerned with the safety of sex workers out there today.

7. Attend one of the events which is listed on the SWOP web site.

8. If you know any sex workers, send them some information about self-defense.

9. Send a personal email letter to people telling them how you feel about violence against sex workers and the women who were murdered by serial killer Gary Ridgway. Or email this letter around.

10. Read Daisy Anarchy's poem, to yourself or to friends, or at one of the public events. Or email it around.

Here’s a partial list of events:

No matter whether you think sex work is wrong or acceptable, no one has the right to abuse sex workers. Even the jizzmoppers who clean the nudie booths have a union to protect their rights and ensure that they have decent working conditions. (I know this because my friend was an attorney for their union.) Sex workers around the world are speaking up and demanding respect, thanks in part to the efforts of SWOP, Desiree Alliance, Sex Worker Action New York (SWANK), Stella, Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), Scarlet Alliance, Spread magazine, Zi Teng, Sex Workers’ Internet Radio Lounge (SWIRL), Venus Envy, and Starlight Ministries. Whenever a violent crime is committed against a woman (or anyone), it is committed against all of us, regardless of their line of work.

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants

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