International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

49 Women found Dead next to Green River.

17 December began to be International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in 2003 and was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. At the beginning this date was hold in memory for the victims of Green River Killer, in Seattle Washington. Gary Ridgway is a USA serial murderer. He was sentenced for life prison for killing 49 women. In 2013 he claimed in the interview that he murder 75 – 80 women.

He catch first victim in 1982. Young runaways, drug users and prostitutes began disappearing from Route 99 in south King County, Washington. Ridgway took them to his home and then raped, choked, killed, discarded and left in the woods or throw to Green River. After some time bodies start to turn up in the river. In the statement Ridgway testified to have sex with dead bodies of women he killed few days before.

Officer said:
“… What was it about having sex with a dead body that you preferred over just going out and getting another woman to kill?”

Ridgway said:
“Well, for one thing you’d have to pay for it and she was already dead. ….
That’s what… I spent hours looking, looking and looking for other women to kill and a lot of gas and everything looking for more people to kill and…”

Nobody knows why he was able to do so horrific things. Maybe it was a trauma from the childhood, maybe he become sick as an adult. Everything is possible – but I do not see any justification.

Ridgway was very proud that he murdered so many prostitutes. He said to the police officers:
“I thought I was doing you guys a favour, killing prostitutes,” he said. “Here you guys can’t control them, but I can.”

Unfortunately, at present violence against sex workers doesn’t stop. I will share with you a story which happens during outreach in London some time ago.

It was a warm afternoon – I was preparing for a brothels outreach. This time my plan was to visit 7 places, one from a list was very new. After two hours I reached to new address. Few minutes later two very tall and strong guys open doors. We talked for a very short time and they let me in.

I follow them to the living room where I found 5 people sitting on the sofa. Room was very dark, stinky from alcohol and I didn’t see their faces. I ask pimp if he could bring first women to the kitchen. He accepts it because customer was knocking to the doors.

While I was waiting I noticed drugs and lots of empty vodka bottles. It was horrible. Few minutes after one of women sit in front of me. I was surprised because she had a towel on her head and she didn’t want to look at me. After some time, she started to answer to my questions, probably she was feeling safe with me. I told her that everything what is under the towel will stay in this house; she took it off. This view has changed my life for ever.

Her face was full of scars from slashing, burning of cigarettes, bites. Her nose was broken for many times, her ear was torn. Then I saw her arms full of scars… She started to talk her story…

Eva… that was her name. She was born in Romania in 1986. She finishes high school and attends college. She wanted to become a nurse. Her family was very poor and they were addicted to alcohol – they didn’t have money to ‘feed’ daughter who want to educate. They wanted her to work but she doesn’t want to. Eva’s dream was to have normal work, husband and kids.
After few months when she back home from school her mother gave hear a piece of paper with the address and ask her to go there and pick up their cousin. Eva agreed to avoid quarrel. When she turned up to this place group of men hauled her to the car. They stopped in the big garage. One of the man said that from this time she belongs to them because her mother sold her. After these words Eva’s world collapsed and she knew nobody will try to find her.

After few days they took her to a different place. One of man dressed her of tied legs, arms and let in around 15 men. They beat, raped and left Eva with serious wounds. She doesn’t know how long they stay for because she pass out. Eva wakes up in some home and stay there for few weeks until she will fully recover. After this time a woman who was taking care of her during this period give her proposition to travel to UK to her brother. She said that Eva has only two ways – travel to UK and work for her brother or these men will be back and kill her. If she will try to escape they will harm her family. Eva agreed… she doesn’t have a choice. From this time, she started to work as a prostitute, her dreams of being nurse were dramatically interrupted…

I never met Eva again. I believe Eva’s story will not end like 49 women from Green River… and many others.

Human trafficking and violence is not a single act of crime like theft or robbery. Sometimes slavery process could take even 30 years. It doesn’t have the end… the suffering of victims does not stop. During this process victim don’t have a chance to contact family, report the crime. If person will be able to run away and go to the police station, officers require long and painful statement against people who were beat, raped and threatened her family. It’s not hard to believe that victims of human trafficking don’t want to take a part in this tough process. Most of them want to back to their family and friends – it’s understandable. Victims of violence will fight with their own shame and blame until the end of their lives.

I believe that our awareness of violence will not increase just because of good intentions. First of all we need real and personal stories. After listening them we will be able to understand the victims… No matter where they are and who they are.

17 December – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This day was created to call attention for violence, hate crime, discrimination and social stigma against sex workers. Currently most of the people are treating women involved in prostitution like a margins of society. We are talking to these women from many years and we never heard that prostitution is what they wanted – it’s what they have to.

Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.

17 December - International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.