Join us on Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in 2015

On December 17, cities across the country and the world will hold events to recognize the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This year, over 20 events are planned across the United States, and over 40 events are planned globally.

If we are missing your activities or events, please email us ([email protected]) or use our online form. If you are interested in organizing an event, we’ve created a number of additional resources–you can find them in our organizer toolkit.

Over 160 sex workers were murdered in 2015. The largest number of homicides–41–occurred in the United States. 12 of 41 sex workers murdered in the United States were trans women (29% of sex worker homicides), and 11 were trans women of color. Female sex workers in the United States are murdered at 17.7 times the national murder rate of cis women, (Source) and transgender sex workers are more likely to experience violence than cisgender sex workers. (Source).

  • Sex workers experience high levels of sexual violence. Globally, sex workers have a 45 to 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence at some point in their careers and a 32 to 55% chance of experiencing sexual violence in a given year. (Source).
  • Sexual assault against individuals engaged sex work (especially criminalized forms of sex work) in the United States is also high. In Phoenix, AZ 37% of prostitution diversion program participants report being raped by a client, and 7.1% report being raped by a pimp. In Miami, FL, 34% of street-based sex workers reported violent encounters with clients in the past 90 days. In New York, 46% of indoor sex workers reported being forced to do something by a client that they did not want to do, and over 80% of street-based sex workers experienced violence. 
  • Women who had exchanged sex for money, drugs or other goods comprised 8% of Planned Parenthood clients between the ages of 16 and 27 in Northern California. 23.5% of these women had experienced unwanted sex, compared with 6.7% of women who had not exchanged sex. (Source).
  •  In many states, sex workers are ineligible for rape victim compensation funds or receive reduced amounts. In some states, sex workers are not protected by rape shield laws. (Source).
  • Sex workers are especially vulnerable to police violence, as police officers can threaten victims with arrest or stage an arrest and sexually assault victims.  17% of sex workers interviewed in a New York study reported sexual harassment and abuse, including rape, by police. In a Chicago study, 30% of erotic dancers and 24% of street-based sex workers who had been raped identified a police officer as the rapist. Approximately 20 % of other acts of sexual violence reported by study participants were committed by the police.
 

A memorial list, compiled by SWOP-USA, lists the names of those sex workers who have died as a result of violence and is often read during local memorial vigils. The list highlights the diverse forms of violence that sex workers experience. Attacks against sex workers in 2015 included 10 women murdered and mutilated in a single month in Nakuru, Kenya, 9 women raped and murdered in San Jose, Costa Rica,  a mother in South Africa who was struck in the face with an axe, a transgender woman in Cuba who was stoned to death by a group of boys, and a migrant living in Seattle who was repeatedly stabbed during a robbery and had her apartment later set on fire.

Violence against sex workers –around the world– is tied to the criminalization of commercial sex. Sex workers frequently do not view law enforcement or hospitals as safe institutions, and often, sex workers do not not seek support after victimization because they fear arrest or further abuse. Practices of criminalizing the clients of sex workers often  result in displacement of street-based sex workers to more dangerous areas, make it more difficult for sex workers to access outreach services, result in sex workers working in isolation to avoid detection, and result in sex workers “rushing” conversations with clients to evade arrest, ultimately jeopardizing safety (Source) and increasing violence against sex workers. (Source).

“There is a word for when the government’s policies contribute to the killing of populations at such high rates — and that word is genocide,” remarked Savannah Sly, President of the Sex Workers Outreach Project’s Board of Directors, “We call on policymakers to address the conditions that allow such horrifying acts of violence to continue unabated, and insist on the inclusion of sex workers in the creation of new policies that will protect our various communities.”

Info-graphics and fact sheets can be found here: December 17th Organizer Folder.

Photographs from past December 17 events can be found here: December 17th Event Images.