A john in Woodstock, Illinois, is being prosecuted for sexually assaulting five women and may have attacked as many as 20. According to the Chicago Tribune, Charles Oliver responded to ads for sex on Craigslist, and he took the women from the ads back to his home where he would assault them.
This is a deeply disturbing case and, unfortunately, violence against people in prostitution is all too common. We applaud prosecutors in McHenry County for recognizing that these women are crime victims, worthy of justice against their perpetrators. It was also incredibly courageous for these women to come forward and name the attacker.
This case underscores that prostitution is not a victimless crime. People in prostitution experience tremendous levels of violence, often at the hands of johns. About 80% of women in prostitution have been the victim of a rape, and 83% of people in prostitution are victims of assault with a weapon (National Coalition Against Sexual Assault). People who buy sex are most frequently identified as the perpetrators of violence against prostituted people (Jody Raphael, “Sisters Speak Out”).
CAASE has conducted research on johns, most recently “Our Great Hobby: An Analysis of Online Networks for Buyers of Sex in Illinois.” The report examines johns’ online posts about buying sex in Illinois, and they hail from urban, suburban and rural locations throughout our state. Johns themselves say that law enforcement efforts that target customers make them think twice about buying sex, while efforts that only target people in prostitution do nothing to deter them. In fact, johns will even troll mugshots of prostituted people and comment that they will simply buy sex from that person once she is released from prison. Clearly, traditional law enforcement responses to prostitution are not working.
The End Demand Illinois campaign advocates for law enforcement to focus their attention on people like Oliver—johns and traffickers who are causing great harm in our community. We hope that this case will raise awareness among law enforcement about the harms experienced by people in prostitution and encourage police to focus their resources on holding johns accountable.