In Defense of Prostitute Women’s Safety
For women who work the streets, massage parlors, clubs, in a house, as dancers, escorts, mistresses, models, on parole…it’s ok to use your working name or any other name – we respect your privacy.
We are a self-help community resource that began in 1998 to:
- Provide support for prostitute women who have been raped and/or sexually assaulted.
- Provide legal advice and support for sex workers who want to report rape and other violence, and get justice.
- Open to all women, les/bi/trans or straight, we provide a safe, anti-sexist, anti-racist supportive atmosphere, starting with those who are most vulnerable to violence: women of color, immigrant women, women who work the streets, are on welfare, have disabilities, are young, lesbian, transgender or homeless.
- Provide public awareness and education on violence against sex workers.
- lncrease all women’s safety – when prostitute women aren’t safe, no woman is safe.
- Illegality makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence.
When prostitute women aren’t safe, no woman is safe.
Prostitute women face daily attacks including rape. But police often don’t take reports from sex workers seriously. They tell women that violence is “part of the job”, and don’t bother to investigate the charges. Women working the streets face the most violence. Black women, immigrant women and women of color generally are the first to be attacked, and then face the racism of the police and courts. Attackers feel they can go after prostitutes and get away with it. Hundreds of women have been murdered in California and along the West coast over the last few decades.
In 2000 we worked to get Jack Bokin put away. He was sentenced to 231 years in prison for attempted murder, torture and rape of sex workers. During the trial the women Bokin attacked were put down, including by the media, because they were sex workers. Some said that they should not have gotten support from the Victim Witness Program, yet this is every victim’s right, prostitute or not. Meanwhile, sex workers who have been violently attacked and want to claim compensation can be denied because they are accused of being “immoral” by those in charge. This discrimination must stop.
Domestic violence, welfare reform, lack of support for women leaving prison and for relative caregivers, poverty and lack of other ways to make money, homelessness and debt force women and young people into prostitution. About 70% of prostitute women are mothers, mostly single mothers. Welfare reform has pushed 100,000 people in California off welfare, leaving many of us with few alternatives to prostitution and other underground ways of earning the money we need to afford a place to live and support our children. Also, “felons” are denied the right to welfare and subsidized housing.
Welfare benefits and other support for relative caregivers at levels that families can live on, good and affordable housing, support for former prisoners, a living wage and childcare are needed for women who want to leave prostitution, and for all women.
ln 2002, 287 young girls were arrested in San Francisco for prostitution. A criminal record can ruin lives, preventing women and young people from leaving prostitution and getting another job.
It is said that some laws, like the anti-trafficking laws, are set up to protect women who have been kidnapped, held against their will, moved long distances and forced to have sex with men. But in reality these laws are mainly used to catch and deport immigrant sex workers. They don’t protect us and don’t provide the resources we need to survive. There are already laws against rape, forcing you to work by threatening you or beating you up, blackmail, kidnapping, and fraud. These are the laws that should be used, and immigrant women should get the support we need to report violence without worrying about being deported.
In New Zealand prostitution has been decriminalized – it is no longer illegal to be a sex worker. Women have other choices than working on the street, and are able to advertise to get clients, and work with other women in homes and other indoor spaces. Attacks have gone down. Women who report rape and other violence know they can now insist on being treated like any other victim of crime, and not ignored or dismissed because they are sex workers.
Did you know that the City of San Francisco is supposed to support sex workers, not jail and harass them?
In 2000 they won a resolution “Mitigating Violence against Prostitutes” which said that the city of San Francisco should actively enforce laws against rape and other violence against sex workers, and the money, about $7.6 million each year, spent on harassing and jailing prostitutes should be used instead to provide resources and services.
USPROStitutes Collective and others played an important part in getting the resolution passed. But it has not yet been put into practice.
In Defense of Prostitute Women’s Safety with the US PROStitutes Collective and Legal Action for Women are pressing the City to do what they said they would.
Justice is a vital healer
We will respect your privacy as a sex worker in getting your rights.
We are working to get public support for stopping violence against sex workers, and for those who attack sex workers to be punished.
Help us press the City of SF to live up to its word to protect sex workers from violence, and use the money now spent jailing and harassing prostitutes for resources and services to benefit everyone!
Donations are urgently needed.
Donations can be made to
Women in Dialogue
for In Defense of Prostitute Women’s Safety
For more information call 415-626-4114 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail to: P.O. Box 14512 San Francisco CA 94114
IDPWS is partially funded by the Commission on the Status of Women