Violence against women in prostitution is a daily reality, not a rare threat. The New York Times portrayed the serial killing of prostituted women as exceptional cases of violence (Discovery of Bodies on Long Island Is Stoking Fear, May 30, 2011). Unfortunately, many women in prostitution have experienced violence at the hands of pimps, johns, traffickers and even the police. These murders are horrifying, but equally disturbing are the reporter’s assumptions about the lives of prostituted women.
In the opening paragraphs, the reporter blames women for not being more careful and assumes that women can exit the trade at any time:
The discovery of bodies on Long Island has cast a light on the illicit sex trade, forcing many women to rethink what they do and broaden whatever precautions they may take.
Most women don’t choose to stay in prostitution, but instead are faced with no other options. A study in Chicago revealed that most women would exit the sex trade if other opportunities were available to them. Another group revealed that their average age of entry into prostitution was 16. When prostituted women are controlled by violent pimps, poverty and addiction, they have no viable way to leave.
It’s time for reporters to seek the truth about women and girls who are exploited in the sex trade.
The NYT reporter’s description of a woman dialing her pimp on speakerphone for “protection” during a date with a volatile john is absolutely heartbreaking. Any discerning reader would recognize that this tactic offers a woman no real protection from rape or murder. As the pimp is listening in, his thoughts are undoubtedly on one thing—his expectation that she bring home the money. If she doesn’t deliver, there will certainly be consequences. Does this sound like a choice to you?
Instead of blaming women for their experiences of violence, we must examine a system that leaves them without any choices. In Illinois, CAASE and our End Demand Illinois campaign are proposing a network of resources for prostituted people and refocusing law enforcement’s attention to the people who create a demand for the sex trade—pimps, johns and traffickers. Demand that our media take a closer look at the demand side of the sex trade. To learn more, visit www.enddemandillinois.org