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What Is International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which was started in 2003 by Dr Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, an American Sex Worker’s Rights organisation. It was originally organised as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, dozens of women from the Seattle area were going missing, with some of their bodies found years later. In 2001 the Green River Killer was caught and convicted, later disclosing the location of 49 women. However, it is believed that the actual number of victims is between 75-80, with most of these women being identified as sex workers.

Before his murder convictions, the Green River Killer had been arrested twice for solicitation, meaning he wasn’t unknown to the police. In the early ’80s, a woman reported him to local law enforcement because he tried to strangle her during sex. However, police didn’t take the victim statements as seriously because they came from someone suspected to be a sex worker.

This is an issue we still see all too often; a victim’s credibility is reduced by their perceived moral worth when they are believed to be a sex worker.

With the growing popularity of true crime stories, common rhetoric has been a killer will target sex workers while refining his skills or as “target practise” before branching out into the general public. This perspective implies that the harassment, victimisation and death of a woman believed to be a sex worker are somehow less concerning than that of a woman who isn’t. Sadly, we still see this kind of victim-blaming today when sex workers try to report theft, violence or abuse to the police.

If a bank teller is held up at gunpoint, do we tell them it’s their fault for working in a bank? Or a tradie who ends up with a workplace injury. Is it said that it wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t work at a construction site?…

Since its inaugural event, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is now globally recognised and has evolved.

Not only is it a day to remember the sex workers lives lost over the last year, but it also calls attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe, who include all sexes, genders, orientations and ethnicity.

But also to draw attention to the stigma and discrimination perpetuated by criminalisation and end demand laws that have and continue to make violence against sex-workers acceptable.

In South Australia, our laws are some of the most archaic in our country regarding sex work and continue to put vulnerable people at risk. We still face violence and harassment by law enforcement; we can not be protected by the same people who prosecute us!
If you want to support our community, you can do so by writing/emailing your local member of parliament and telling them that you support the full decriminalisation of sex work and demanding that they do too. And where ever possible, amplify the voices of sex workers, standing up against the stigma and discrimination with us, in strength and solidarity.

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