Today Is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Joanne Cachapero
SAN FRANCISCO — The 5th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is today, with vigils scheduled in 14 U.S. cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as eight other cities around the globe.

In New York, a candlelight vigil will be held on the steps of the Judson Memorial Church, at 55 Washington Square South at 5 p.m. Event sponsors include Sex Worker Action New York (SWANK) and $pread Magazine. Participants are requested to wear red or carry a red umbrella.

In the Bay Area, two events will take place. At noon, a vigil will take place at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way. in Berkeley, Calif.

Then, at 5 p.m., a gathering will be held at the office of San Francisco City Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, followed by a candlelight vigil in the Civic Center Plaza at City Hall, at 6 p.m.

In Los Angeles, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) will host a vigil at the Women Alive Access Center located at 5319 Venice Blvd., from 6-9 p.m. The event will feature food, video screenings and an open mic for attendees to memorialize friends who have fallen victim to crimes against sex workers.

Former adult performer/sex worker advocate Annie Sprinkle is scheduled to attend the Los Angeles event.

“I hope you will participate in some way, not just to remember those who have been victims of violence,” Sprinkle said, “but because it is a beautiful, bonding, emotional and profound experience to stand with others in compassion and solidarity.”

In addition to various events, a downloadable public service announcement about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, as well as Sprinkle's list of 10 things people can do to participate, are available at the Sex Workers Internet Radio Lounge.

Conceived by Sprinkle and SWOP, the day raises awareness about violence against sex workers, and was originally started as a memorial to the 48 women slain by Green River killer Gary Ridgway, from 1982-1998, in Washington state.

Ridgway pleaded guilty to the killings in 2003, in order to avoid the death penalty.

In his confession, he said, "I wanted to kill as many women I thought were prostitutes as I possibly could."

SWOP has cited other more recent incidents in which erotic workers were victimized.

In October, in Philadelphia, Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni refused to uphold assault charges against four men accused of forcing a woman working for an escort service to have sex with them at gunpoint. Judge Carr reportedly stated that she felt the incident was a “theft of services” and charged the defendants with robbery.

The 20-year-old victim agreed to provide services to Dominique Gindraw for $150, but after arriving for the appointment, was confronted by three other men.

"[Gindraw] said that I'm going to do this for free, and I'm not going nowhere, and I better cooperate or he was going to kill me," the victim said.

At the time, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Jane Dalton said, "I am personally offended by this unforgivable miscarriage of justice. The victim has been brutalized twice in this case; first by the assailants and now by the court." SWOP, SWANK and other sex worker advocacy groups like the Bay Area-based Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) have called for an end to anti-prostitution laws, which they feel help to perpetuate prejudice against to sex workers, as well as violence aimed at workers that remain largely unrecognized and, therefore, vulnerable to criminal acts.

"By demanding the end to anti-prostitution laws and regulations, we will end the stigma, discrimination and violence against us and the stigma against our clients," an ESPU representative said.

For a complete list of 2007 International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Day events, click here.