17 December – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

17 12 2006

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SWOP began the annual “International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers” on December 17, 2003, the day before the conviction of Seattle’s, Green River Killer. “We wanted everyone in the world to know that because of the criminalization of prostitution it took 23 years to convict a man of killing at least 48 women,” said Stacey Swimme, SWOP-AZ.  “Police ignored vital information given by prostitutes and pimps because of stigma and discrimination.” Such deadly violence against sex workers is thought to be a recurring social pattern. Serial killers know that the criminalization of prostitution prohibits sex workers from seeking protection from police and that stigma causes the public to believe that violence is part of sex workers’ job description.

Police in our communities should prioritize addressing violence against sex workers, yet the stigma and criminalization increases vulnerability and undermines recourse. Often society views sex workers as separate and inconsequential. “When dangerous killers are on the loose, all women are at risk because the endemic sexual justification for violence does not only apply to prostitutes. It is part of a deeply ingrained misogyny in our society that condones the punishment of ‘sexual’ women. A violent crime against one woman is a crime against all women, regardless of their occupation, race, or class, and is never justified.” says Dr. Avaren Ipsen, SWOP Campaign Coordinator  and co-chair of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women.

http://www.swop-usa.org/index2.php

Green River Killer at WIKIPEDIA

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Norma Jean Almodovar, founder of ISWFACE ( http://www.normajeanalmodovar.com/mybio.html ) and Jenna Jasmine ( www.myspace.com/jennajasmine ), founder of SWOP-LA are creating a display on Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach on Sunday, December 17th from 12pm-4pm.  They are calling attention to International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.  Under their tent you will be able to donate $5 for 10 minutes of “Real Talk with a Real LIVE HAPPY SEX WORKER.”  Topics ranging from sex advice to holiday plans will all be fair game.   Donations will go towards the two local sex worker rights organizations that the two women run in Los Angeles.  Aside from educating yourself with information and advice, participants are invited to add a “whore story” to their “whore memorial” wall, a temporal installation of anonymous stories about how the word whore has negatively affected or traumatized them.   “The death of punitive stigma around words like whore and prostitute is the first step that sex workers and non sex workers alike can take in critically examine how institutionalized misogyny really operates on a daily basis.” says Jenna Jasmine who identifies as a proud whore activist. (SWOP-LA).

In 2003, the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA in California called for vigils around the country and the world to bring attention to the sentencing of Gary Ridgeway, aka the Green River Killer, who confessed to murdering 48 women. Ridgeway said during his court case why he targeted young women working on the streets – “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.” His belief that police didn’t prioritize investigating the murders of sex workers was reflected in the fact that he wasn’t caught until 21 years after his  first killing.  2006 is marked with the killings of six female bodied street prostitutes in Atlantic City, as recent as November of this year; the high profile Duke Rape Case, and this week’s new victims murdered in the UK.

The political became very personal for Jenna Jasmine when she was recently robbed by a bad client in a motel in Bell Gardens – the same week that the four women’s bodies were found in a marsh in Atlantic City.  “I now know the frustration of not being able to use the police as a source of protection from violence.  The people that prey on prostitutes are clearly aware of our inability to use the police for protection from violence as well.  The man who robbed me was taunting me about this very fact.  There are people that HATE us.  There are police codes for the deaths of prostitutes classified as NHI (No Humans Involved).  It made NO difference that I was a supposedly privileged college educated call girl.  That morning, to that twenty something year old punk, if he had decided to do anything worse than take my money, my cell phone and my palm pilot I am very aware that I would have been the latest  “prostitute found dead in a motel” headline.  Most sex workers prioritize police retaliation over standing up for their rights as human beings.

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International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Sunday, December 17th 

Where: UNLV, 5:30pm, Student Union, room 205 
What: Informational session on violence against sex workers- causes, issues, and policy exploration 

Afterwards, join us for a Vigil (location to be announced) where we remember women and transgender people who have been killed because they were sex workers. Bring a red umbrella and dress in black to show your support of eliminating violence against sex workers!  

Annie Sprinkle offers specific ways you can participate Dec. 17th. 

Ten Things You Can Do to Participate in the Fourth Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 

On December 17th, people around the world will be calling attention to hate crimes against sex workers, namely prostitutes. Here are some suggestions and options for ways to participate. Or by all means, make up your own.  

#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 (webmaster@swop-usa.org) 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 Ridgeway. 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. 

Visit www.swop-usa.org/4thAnnual.php  for more information on the cause.

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