Protect Sex Workers by Punishing Pimps and Buyers

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Target: Bea Hanson, Principle Deputy Director of the Office on Violence Against Women within the United States Department of Justice

Goal: Provide resources for sex workers and punish traffickers and buyers of sexual acts.

Women that are victim to prostitution by pimps are being arrested for trying to survive. Trafficked women and girls trying to escape sexual exploitation should be able to reach out to law enforcement for help, but in about 30 states where sex work is criminalized, they are defenseless against abuse, exploitation, and rape.

Some sex workers engage in commercial sex against their will. If discovered, they are sent to jail and charged with the crime even if they are underage. However, the truth is that the adult that bought their services is the real criminal, and when the trafficked girl is a minor, she is a victim of statutory rape. Laws like New York’s 2008 Safe Harbor Law send the real criminals to jail and protect the victims. Still, about 30 states don’t have any laws in place to protect the victims and continue to send these girls and women to jail for doing what they can to survive. Disobeying a pimp or not meeting his expectations means that the victim will be raped, beaten, burned, choked or killed. The pimp is the criminal, not the prostitute. Sex work should not be a crime if we hope to protect those looking for an out.

There is an extremely flawed mentality that a young girl, acting like she enjoys selling sex, is willing and aware of what she is doing while the man purchasing the service is just “doing what guys do.” We need to change this horrendously erroneous way of thinking, and instead support laws that protect victims’ rights like the New York Safe Harbor Law. Laws can make it so that the buyers and pimps are arrested while the victims are given the resources to go back to school, find a job, and seek medical help.

Women that choose to do sex work should still have the law on their side to protect them from abuse and violence. We need laws that recognize the traffickers (pimps) and buyers as criminals. While there is a difference between someone engaging in prostitution and someone that is a victim of trafficking, resources should still be available to both. Take action now to support laws that put the real criminals behind bars.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Deputy Director Hanson,

Women engaged in commercial sex are being arrested, when in reality, they are the victims to the true criminals – the traffickers (pimps) and buyers. Disobeying a pimp or not meeting his expectations means that the victim could be raped, beaten, burned, choked or killed. The pimp is the criminal.

Laws can make it so that the buyers and pimps are arrested while the victims are given the resources to go back to school, find a job, and seek medical help. Laws like New York’s Safe Harbor Law try to protect the victims and retrieve them from forced sex work. Trafficked women, most under 18-years-old, should be able to reach out to law enforcement for help rather than fear arrest.

About 30 states don’t have any laws in place to protect these trafficked victims, and instead continue to send these girls to jail for doing what they must to survive. We need laws that recognize the traffickers and buyers as the real criminals. I strongly support laws that put the real criminals behind bars.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ira Gelb

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