December 17, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
[Washington, DC]— Cybersex and internet porn usually involves clearing your browser history. This year, though, sex workers, activists, and allies will use the internet to promote a different kind of a conversation--one that focuses on sex worker safety.
On December 17th, local non-profit HIPS will join organizations in 21 other cities in the United States and 33 cities internationally in recognizing the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. HIPS has served Washington-area sex workers for over 20 years, providing advocacy, comprehensive social services, and “bad date sheets,” lists that describe and document sex workers’ report of violent clients. This year, HIPS is commemorating December 17th by taking the conversation of violence against sex workers and how to improve their safety to social media. Local sex workers have been asked to respond to prompts which HIPS will tweet throughout the day. The local community is asked to participate in the discussion as well by following the hashtags #dec17 and #solutionsnotstereotypes
HIPS is also releasing a infographic that illustrates the violence sex workers experience. The infographic also showcases research pulled from HIPS’ own bad date sheets. Katie Hail-Jares, a PhD candidate at American University, examined 282 bad date reports collected between 2004 and 2012. “Similar research in the United Kingdom suggests that most sex workers feel safer reporting violence to social service agencies that serve them, rather than police.”
"We should be outraged that these types of crimes go unreported, and victims of violence and abuse can't or won't reach out for help due to fear and stigma", says Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of HIPS. "Criminalization of sex work means victims of violence can't or won't report to police and abusers continue to abuse. The system is broken. If we want to stop abuse of sex workers, we need to re-direct our law enforcement resources away from stings and arresting people for sex work to responding to reports violence and abuse. That can't happen until sex workers can trust police, not run from them".
Beside stigma and fear of arrest, sex workers may not report violence because police act as perpetrators. In Hail-Jares’ study, over five percent of all acts of violence were tied to individuals who either were police officers or clients who were impersonating them. “The bad date reports indicate this is more than officers requesting sexual services in exchange for dropping an arrest. These reports were tied to brutal sexual and physical assaults. Regardless of whether the perpetrator is an actual officer or an impersonator, these acts really serve to undermine sex workers’ ability to trust police,” Hail-Jares added.
Additionally, crimes against sex workers frequently go uninvestigated. December 17th was originally organized by the national Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) in 2003 to respond to Gary Ridgway’s sentencing. Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer, confessed to murdering over 70 women in Washington state over two decades. The majority of his victims were street-based sex workers whose murders went largely uninvestigated, allowing Ridgeway’s violence to continue. This year, dozens of sex worker rights and social justice organizations around the United States and world are staging marches, protests, and public events to call attention to violence that is still committed against sex workers. According to SWOP-USA, which monitors violence against sex workers, over 160 sex workers were murdered worldwide in 2014. The largest proportion of names--34--come from the United States.
Locally, HIPS hopes that its Twitter conversation can encourage everyone to remember that sex workers are people, not problems. "In order to reduce the violence and abuse faced by individuals in the sex industry, we need to move beyond stereotypes of the world's oldest profession,” Clay urged. “We need to create effective, community based solutions that engage, not criminalize, sex workers."
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Get Involved! Join HIPS!
Information about HIPS can be found at www.hips.org.
Information about December 17th and worldwide events can be found at: www.december17.org