The International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was created to call attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally conceptualized by Annie Sprinkle and initiated by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from 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 and their allies stage 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 our communities.
Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway said, he picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. “I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.” He confessed to having murdered ninety women. Sadly some Seattle prostitutes, their boyfriends or pimps, knew the Green River Killer was Gary Ridgeway for years, but were afraid to come forward for fear of getting arrested, or the police didn’t believe those that did come forward, or the police didn’t seem to care. Ridgeway’s killing spree went on for over twenty years.
Violent crimes against sex workers go underreported, unaddressed and unpunished. There really are people who don’t care when prostitutes are victims of hate crimes, beaten, raped, and murdered. No matter what you think about sex workers and the politics surrounding them, sex workers are a part of our neighborhoods, communities and families.
When Ridgeway was finally caught, I felt a need to memorialize my whore sisters that had died so horribly and needlessly. I cared, and I knew other people cared too. So I got together with Robyn Few, Founder of the Sex Worker Outreach Project, and SWOP members Stacey Swimme and Michael Fowley, and we claimed Dec. 17th as the International Day to End violence Against Sex Workers. We invited people to do memorials, vigils, and their chosen kind of events in their countries and cities. We produced a vigil at San Francisco’s City Hall. To date hundreds of people around the world have done dozens of memorials, actions, and events of all kinds, and the participation is growing. Won’t you join us? Here’s how.
TEN WAYS TO PARTICIPATE IN INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS
(EVERYONE IS INVITED)
- Organize a vigil/memorial/gathering in your town. Simply choose a place and time. Invite people to bring their stories, writings, thoughts, related news items, poems, lists of victims, performances, and memories. Take turns sharing.
- Organize or attend a candlelight vigil in a public place.
- Do something at home alone which has personal meaning, such as a memorial bath, or light a candle.
- Call a friend and discuss the topic.
- Send a donation to a group that helps sex workers stay safer. Some teach self-defense or host web sites that caution workers about bad Johns. Donate to Sex Worker Outreach Project.
- Read the Sex Workers Outreach Project’s web site, www.swop-usa.org, Do let others know about any planned Dec. 17 events by listing them on the site. (Although sadly this site is not current and I’m not sure if someone is following through on this.) There is also a wikipedia entry about Dec. 17 which you can read.
- Spread the word about the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and the issues it raises; blog, email, send a press release, forward this text to others.
- Attend a Dec. 17th Day to End Violence event/action/memorial. Everyone is welcome.
- Organize a panel discussion about violence towards sex workers. Procure a community space and invite speakers like sex workers, police, and families of victims.
- Create your own way to participate. People have done celebrations, Xmas caroling, protests at jails, lobbying at City Halls, naked women reading whore writings, performance art, visual art projects, and other creative, fun and moving things.
Each year when I attend a gathering on Dec. 17 for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers it is always a deeply moving experience. I take some moments to feel grateful that I worked as a prostitute for twenty years and came out alive and well. I remember those who didn’t survive and I fear for those who won’t until some real changes are made.
In San Francisco we are in the process of organizing a whole events for Dec. 17. A city hall press conference, a memorial ritual at Center for Sex and Culture, and “Naked Women Reading” sex worker writings (Lady Monster’s Event).
Start organizing now! You’ll be glad you did. The fact that sex workers themselves organize the Dec. 17 day creates good press interest (it has been in many papers including NY Times) and helps garner compassion and understanding of how the bad, unfair laws against prostitution hurt so many. But then sex workers of all kinds (legal sex work) can be targets of acts of violence as well.
In whore pride solidarity,
Annie M. Sprinkle
This information has been taken from http://www.december17.org/
Here in Australia
In Australia we have a similar situation. Although NSW is one of the few places in the world that sex work is decriminalised and there has never been a documented case of HIV transmission from sex worker to client and sex workers have lower rates of STI’s than women in the general community, they are still stigmatised in the media and experience assault and murder.
Recently in Melbourne a woman was brutally murdered. Her name was Tracey Connelly. Aged forty, Tracey was found dead in a van she was living in with her partner Mr Melissovas on Sunday July 21. She was a sex worker. Connelly’s brutal death was given a lot less press than the recent murder of Jill Meagher and it disappeared quickly from the headlines. Connelly seemed to get less sympathy from the press, as if her occupation meant she was less of an ‘innocent victim.’ The Age and the Herald Sun named her as a ‘St Kilda Prostitute’ in their headlines about the case. Referring to these victims of violence as “prostitutes” helps hold up a good girl/bad girl binary and the idea that those are the risks to her job and that she is somewhat deserving of them. It also props up ideas about violence towards women as ok and legitimate and predictable in certain circumstances. Calling her a ‘prostitute’ in the headlines, reduced her personhood and dehumanised her. I found the coverage pretty disappointing. There’s an interesting piece from the Kings Tribune that goes into more detail here.
Tracey’s partner of 19 years read this statement,
“First and foremost, Tracey was a human being and regardless of what she had done for a job she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, just like anyone else. Tracey is a beautiful and kind, caring, loving person who deserves justice and not to be forgotten or disrespected by anybody. My love for Tracey is unrelenting and so am I when it comes to catching and finding this person responsible for this disgusting and cruel way she has been treated. Tracey is a loved member of our community, with a partner, family and friends who love her. We have all been robbed by her senseless murder. Tracey and I both had dreams and plans for the future. I, along with Tracy’s family, are begging and pleading for any information that will give Tracey justice. Our lives will never be the same without her.”
Jill Meagher’s partner Tom Meagher was outraged when he discovered that his wife’s killer had previously assaulted sex workers and been given very lax sentencing for it. Before killing Jill Meagher, Bayley raped five sex workers and served 8 years in jail. When he was 19, he raped two teenagers in separate attacks. You can read more about his criminal past, how he was on parole for previous rape convictions when he murdered Jill and how he said the police should never have let him out here and here. He had been raping, abducting and threatening to kill women for 20 years. Tom Meagher said the way our system treats those who attack sex workers tells offenders “not don’t rape but be careful who you rape.” The system failed Jill Meagher. Bayley had breached his parole before he met Jill on the street that night, but had not been put back in gaol.
If you’d like to read more about studies conducted in Australia have a look here. This report talks about sex workers vulnerabilities to violence and assault, strategies that workers often come up with to try to protect themselves and their lack of sympathy or help from police.