Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers:
WHY AN INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END VIOLENCE TOWARDS SEX WORKERS?
By Annie Sprinkle
In 2003, Green River Killer
confessed to having strangled ninety women to death and having
sex with their dead bodies. He stated, I 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 picked prostitutes
because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted
without getting caught.
Sadly some Seattle area prostitutes, their boyfriends or pimps,
knew the Green River Killer was Gary Ridgeway for years. But
they were either afraid to come forward for fear of being
arrested themselves, or when they did come forward the police
didnt believe them over the upstanding family man Gary
Ridgeway. It seemed as though the police werent working very
hard to find the Green River Killer. If the victims had been
teachers, nurses or secretaries or other women, I suspect--as
Ridgeway did-- that the killer would have been caught much
sooner. Ridgeway remained at large for twenty years.
From working as a prostitute myself for two decades I know that
against sex workers often go unreported, unaddressed and
unpunished. Also there are people who really dont care when
prostitutes are victims of hate crimes, beaten, raped and
murdered. They will say: They got what they deserved. They
were trash. They asked for it What do they expect? The
world is better off without those whores.
No matter how people feel about sex workers and the politics
surrounding them, sex workers are a part of our neighborhoods,
communities and our families and always will be. Sex workers are
women, trans people and men of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages,
classes and backgrounds who are working in the sex industry for
a wide range of reasons.
When Ridgeway got a plea bargain in 2003, he received a life
sentence in exchange for revealing where his victims bodies
were thrown or buried. As the names of the (mostly seventeen to
nineteen year old) victims were disclosed, I felt a need to
remember and honor them. I cared, and I knew other people
So I contacted Robyn Few, the founder of the Sex Worker Outreach
Project based in San Francisco and we made December 17th as the
to End Violence Against Sex Workers. We invited people
everywhere to create and attend memorials and vigils in their
countries and cities. Robyn co-produced an open mic vigil on the
lawn of San Franciscos City Hall. Since then (2003) each year
hundreds of people in dozens of cities around the world have
participated in this day to end violence-- from Montreal (they
marched with red umbrellas), to Hong Kong (protested
to Vancouver (they did a
to Sydney (held a memorial ritual), to East Godavery, India (a
dance was organized to overcome pain and trauma.) More events
are planned for this, the sixth year.
The concept for the International Day to End Violence Against
Sex Workers is simple. Anyone can choose a place and time to
gather, invite others to gather and share their stories,
writings, thoughts, poems, and memories of victims, related news
and performances. Read lists of names of those who have been
murdered. Or people can do something personal alone at home,
such as lighting a candle or taking a ritual memorial bath. We
encourage discussions among friends, by email, on blogs.
People are encouraged to list their events at the SWOP web site http://www.swopusa.org/dec17/ so people that want to can
attend them, and to share the power of their actions. People can
also participate by making a donation to a group that helps sex
workers by teaching them about dangers and how to best survive.
Two such non-profits are
Infirmary and AIM Healthcare.
This December 17, 2008 many sex workers will converge in
Washington, D.C. on for a National March for Sex Worker
Rights where marchers will
take a stand for justice, and the freedom to do sex work safely.
We are calling for an end to unjust laws, policing, the shaming
and stigma that oppress our communities and make us targets for
violence. People are encouraged to join SWOP and other
activists in Washington and to endorse this March. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to support or attend this event.
Every year when I create or attend a gathering on December 17,
it is a deeply moving experience. I take some moments to feel
grateful that I worked as a prostitute for so many years and
came out alive. I remember those who didnt survive and I fear
for those who won't unless real changes are madenamely safer
working conditions and the same police protection other citizens
get without recrimination.
ANNIE M. SPRINKLE, Ph.D.
Artist Sexologist Author Teacher Student
Post Porn Modernist Faculty Wife Feminist
Pioneering Film Director/Producer/ Performer
Utopian Entrepreneur Thespian College Lecturer
Former Porn Star/Stripper/ Pin-Up/Prostitut e/Dom
Performance Artist Photographer Tantrica