Blog Post by USF St. Petersburg student, Megan Reilly.
12/17/17 – International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers
This Sunday marks the 14th annual International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, an internationally recognized day of empowerment and remembrance for sex workers and their allies. Across the globe sex workers suffer insurmountably from society-induced stigma against their chosen profession. Tragically that stigma often results in sexual assault and other horrific acts of violence. According to a 2013 international study, sex workers have an up to 75% chance of experiencing violence at some point in their career, and a nearly 55% chance of a violent encounter annually.
This is an epidemic.
The Green River Killer
In 2003 following the capture and confession of Gary Ridgeway, the “Green River Killer” who strangled to death and then abused women and sex workers in the Seattle area, SWOP-USA founder Robyn Few and notable sex educator and advocate Dr. Annie Sprinkle established December 17th as a day to remember the victims of the “Green River Killer” and to empower sex workers on a global scale to fight for visibility, protection, and human rights.
In his confession, the “Green River Killer” explained that he targeted female sex workers because he believed the abduction of these women would go unnoticed and unreported. He believed he could get away with it. Which he did for nearly 20 years before his conviction, taking the lives away from an estimated 80 women as young as seventeen.
December 17th is a day to remember not only the young women who were targeted by the “Green River Killer” but to celebrate the lives of sex workers and their allies who were taken from us too soon.
On that inaugural International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Robyn Few and Dr. Annie Sprinkle organized an open mic vigil on the lawn of the San Francisco City Hall where sex workers and allies were encouraged to share their stories and stand in solidarity. Hundreds of people were invited to do the same worldwide and the tradition of celebrating the lives of the fallen continues to this day.
Every year SWOP-USA organizes a memorial list and slideshow in celebration of those who we have lost to violence. This year’s list can be found here with information on how to add the names and photos of other lost loved ones, along with memorials from previous years.
Everyone, everywhere is encouraged to participate in this time of reflection. Resources to hold a local vigil or memorial event can be found here.
Empowerment and Visibility
December 17th is also a day of empowerment and commitment to fighting for safer practices and policies in the sex industry. The Green River Killer targeted female sex workers knowing that their absence and death would go unreported. In a study conducted of New York street-based sex workers, an overwhelming number of sex workers interviewed described difficulty in trying to report crimes committed against them to police:
“Crimes against prostitutes usually go unpunished. There is a tacit acceptance of this form of violence, usually committed against women. The overwhelming majority of respondents did not go to the police after they experienced violent incidents”
On December 17th, 2008 hundreds of sex workers marched on Washington D.C. in the first organized march demanding reform to the policies that perpetuate stigma and violence against their industry and communities at which they intersect.
December 17, 2017
Get involved this Sunday, for a list of events happening in honor of this year’s International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers see below:
The Mermaid Tavern, Dec. 17th, 8:00pm-11:00pm
3405 Chicago Ave., Dec. 17th, 6:00pm-7:30pm CST
Impact Hub Baltimore, Dec. 17th, 6:00pm-7:30pm
Peanut Gallery, Dec. 17th, 6:00pm-7:30pm
Judson Memorial Church, Dec. 17th, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Brooklyn Bazaar, Dec. 17th, 6:30 PM – 11:30 PM
NYPD 109th Precinct, Dec. 17th, 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Bubier Park, Dec. 17th, 3:00pm
Center Stage, Dec. 17th, 12:00pm – 7:00pm