michael j. morris

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

This just came across my feed on facebook. I hope to be in San Francisco for this week in December and will hopefully be able to participate in the event Annie is organizing there. Here is a bit about the event:

“December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.”

If you would like to read more about this event/these issues, please visit the Sex Workers Outreach Program website:


Here is a list of ways to participate that Annie wrote:

“Absolutely EVERYONE is invited to participate. Here’s how:
1. Organize (or attend) a memorial in your town. Simply choose a place and time to gather. Invite people to bring their stories, writings, thoughts, related news items, poems, lists of victims, performances, and memories. Take turns sharing.

2. Hold (or attend) a candlelight vigil in a public place.

3. Do something at home alone, which has personal meaning, such as a ritual memorial bath, or light a candle.

4. Call a friend and discuss the topic.

5. Send a donation to a group that helps sex workers stay safer. For example, some teach self-defense or host web sites that caution workers about bad Johns.

6. Go to the Sex Worker Outreach Project’s, http://www.swop-usa.org, read it, and add something to the site. Do let others know about any planned Dec. 17 events by listing them on the SWOP web site.

7. Spread the word about the Day to End Violence Towards Sex Workers and the issues it raises; or blog, email, call, send a press release, or forward this text to others.

8. Go to Washington DC. This December 17, 2008 there will be a National March for Sex Worker Rights. People will converge from all over to take a stand for justice and safety. Info at http://www.swop-usa.org

9. Organize a panel discussion about violence towards sex workers. Procure a community space and invite speakers like sex workers, police, and families of victims.

10. Create your own way to participate.”


I have burgeoning ideas about the field of sex work in this country, but I don’t have time to expound upon them at the moment. The fastest summary is this: at present, laws in this country prohibit prostitution and sex work. The logic behind this seems questionable at best, but includes rational that prostitution is detrimental to the individuals that engage in the profession. Prostitution continues with or without the sanction of the law. Because of the existing laws that make sex work illegal, the violence committed against sex workers cannot be reported. The legal system that condemns sex work because of the danger it presents to those involved in it is contributing to the continuation of that violence. Of course these issues are more complex than this, and certainly this is an issue surrounded by moral controversy, but at some point I think I realize that these are individuals suffering from violent crimes (assault, battery, rape, and murder), and because they are engaged in a profession that is currently illegal, that violence continues. The logic becomes circular. And I want to see violence prevented.


Lastly, NPR’s “Intelligence Squared” did a debate show addressing the issue of paying for sex. You can read about the show or listen to the podcast here.

I hope you consider supporting an end to violence against sex workers and take some time to engage critically with this issue in our nation.

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