Sex Workers Rights Social Issues

Landmark Senate Bill Introduced to Better Protect Sex Workers

If passed, SB 233 will offers sex workers immunity from persecution if they contact police to report a violent crime — but a similar agreement in S.F. faces challenges.

Sex Workers at a protest fight for their rights. (Courtesy Image)

“In 2001 I was raped by a serial rapist who was preying primarily on prostitutes in the city of Oakland,” says Veronica Mamet, a former escort. “I wanted to report that rape, and I was not able to. Rachel West [of the US PROStitutes Collective] tried for about three years to get the Oakland Police Department to take my statement without threatening to arrest me, and they would not do it. And meanwhile, this man continued to rape prostitutes. Three weeks after he raped me he raped another prostitute, and he stabbed her in the face with a knife, permanently scarring her.”

It’s sadly not an uncommon story. Decades of stigma have made it nearly impossible for sex workers to report such crimes to the police without risk of persecution. Current laws are designed to make it ridiculously easy to arrest and charge them — even having condoms on one’s person can be used as evidence that someone is engaging in sex work. Because of this, the majority of violence inflicted upon sex workers goes unreported, over the victim’s not-unjustified fears that they will just be arrested and charged while their assailants walk free.

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