There needs to be comity between police and sex workers. The question is: how can we achieve it? The current situation is based on fear. Within the sex industry, there is a long history of abuse and extortion by police. There are many wonderful police officers out there. There are also officers that use their badge as a shield for deplorable behavior. Historically, the relationship between police and sex workers has been contentious, at best. It has led current sex workers to avoid the police at all costs. Because of this, predators target sex workers because they can operate with autonomy and impunity in this community (see the Green River Killer). This must stop.
Several sex workers affiliated with SWOP-Sacremento developed a draft of an immunity agreement that will protect sex workers that have had crimes committed against them in going to the police. It affords them immunity from arrest for prostitution so police can focus on the greater crime – be it sexual assault, battery, etc. SWOP-Seattle has obtained a copy of this draft. I am really happy to be part of a team working on re-writing it for Seattle. Sex workers deserve the same rights as any other people. And if they are robbed or raped, they should have the same ability for criminal redress as anyone else.
In Toni Mac’s amazing TED talk, “The Laws Sex Workers Really Want” there is one line that resonated with me. She queries (I’m paraphrasing here): the questions isn’t: do you want your daughter to be a sex worker? The question is: if your daughter is working in the sex industry tonight, what can we do to keep her safe?
An immunity agreement isn’t about whether sex work is right or wrong. It isn’t about legalizing or decriminalizing sex work. It is about keeping people safe. And I truly hope that the politicians, police officers, and people of Seattle will agree that keeping people safe is a priority not to be ignored.