Sex Workers Against Rape

I’ve been in discussions with other activists, one who came up with this great title “sex workers against rape”. I want to say her name and credit her for the title and the concept but I haven’t heard back yet for permission to quote her name. But the title is not mine. But I’m proud to be part of it.

Rape should not be an occupational hazard. But it is. Sex workers are particularly vulnerable because of social views about women being responsible for male sexuality and it is increased exponentially when the woman happens to be a sex worker because of social stigma of sex workers as asking for it, or putting ourselves in a position for it to happen or all the associated myths.

Here are some facts.

Sex Workers can be raped. Not all are but many of us have been. I was. My distrust of the legal system kept me from pursuing my legal rights when it happened. What happened to the survivor in Judge Deni’s horrible decision is exactly what I feared. What kept me silent. The legal system was as frightening a prospect as the rapist as first you live the rape, then you re-live it over and over in the justice system while every detail is analyzed to attempt to find some way to make it your fault or to prove that you are making it up, embellishing, hate men, or any of a large group of horrible myths. For all intents and purposes there was a significant time frame in my life when I was in fact captive in the sex industry. Where rape was consistent because I could not stop the process. Being a prostitute, I could not go to the police for justice, for freedom. The police are often a series of Judge Deni’s. Even if they are not and you make it to trial, now you face the likelihood of a Judge Deni, of a Jury of Judge Deni’s. I’ll come back to this point below.

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Where are you?

Feminists? Survivors? Lovers? Allies? Are you out there? Are you listening? Are you not mad as hell?

Ren’s previous post referenced Judge Deni’s infamous quote, but I really do not think that it can be reiterated enough: ” . . . [this case] minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

Now, I’ll ask again, beloved partners in defense of women’s rights, supporters of sexual freedom, revolutionaries waiting for the reverberating call to action, are you listening?

Because I don’t think you are, and it pains me. Unlike Ren, I am still shocked by the deafening silence over this case. I know people are talking, but why isn’t anyone outside of the sex worker community screaming?!?!?!

We could really use allied forces right now. We don’t even have to engage in the ‘sex work debate’. We can unite as sisters and brothers in arms against sexual violence.

Everyone, especially the revolutionaries whom so many of us call friends and lovers, should be alarmed by Judge Deni’s ruling.  It sets a dangerous legal precedent and suggests that serial rapists can prey on sex workers with  impunity.

You must ask yourselves, ‘Is there a category of person for whom  rape is part of the job description?’

Rape is a crime of violence in all cases, and should be prosecuted accordingly. Judge Deni, instead, has trivialized the crime of rape herself by refusing to acknowledge the bodily integrity of this survivor.


Gretchen asked me to post this on her behalf.

Gretchen Writes:

Hey Jill,

Can you please post this on boundnotgagged? I know how to comment on posts but know not how to post it. I worked on it especially so i hope it is able to get posted.
Thanks! Gretchen

I’m not here as a supporter of many of the positions of websites like boundnotgagged or because I think all aspects of the sex industry should be legalized. I’m against legalizing measures that allow pimps and johns to consume and trade women. I’m writing on the blog because I agree that Judge Deni’s ruling is a violation of the rights of prostituted women and because we are all concerned with the welfare of women in the sex industry. But I’m mainly here in hopes that the people of PA will vote out Judge Deni. Her ruling that a raped prostituted woman should not be considered a rape victim but instead a victim of “theft of services” because her “services” were stolen when she was not paid after answering an add in the ever dangerous Craigslist and held at gunpoint while she was gang raped by the “client’s” friends makes Deni an unsuitable judge. Please vote her out of service! This is a horrid decision that she made and literally left me up at night in shock and in sadness for the brave victim who had the courage to press charges, despite the social stigma against her. She has been raped twice – once by her attackers and again in the legal system (as Chancellor Jane Leslie Dalton rightly stated).

One statement that was especially of concern was when Judge Deni said to a newspaper that the case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped”. She claims the woman consented! What does that say about the legal systems attitudes towards prostituted women? This case makes violence against prostituted women more likely because it will make these women less likely to speak up when they are assaulted. It also sends a message that men can get away with raping women in the horrid sex industry, making them more likely to commit such crimes. It also sends a message that somehow the rape of prostituted women is different than other women who are raped. This is disturbing because women in the sex industry are more likely to be raped than any other group of women.

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Why not say what you really mean?

I mean, come on judge Deni, why not just say it.  I mean, you said (this case) minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

Why not just say it…that it minimizes cases of rape against real women.  After all, that’s pretty much the impression you’ve given, the mode of thinking you have towards the victim of this crime, that she’s lesser some how.  Not like you.  So why not just say it.

Be honest.  After all, you’re already an asshole.

Open letter to the victim/survivor

I don’t know your name.  I probably never will.  We have never met, probably never will.  But I want to share something with you in the event that you find this blog.  There are many of us worldwide that stand with you.  We believe you.  We are horrified by what you suffered first at the hands of the rapists and then at the hands of the justice system.  Judge Deni is wrong.  You were raped.

Your courage in daring to stand up to the rapists and take them into the legal system is incredible.  What every woman regardless of circumstance faces in the legal system when she is raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, etc, is horrible to go through and takes an incredible amount of courage.  With all the stigma attached to sex workers that you had the courage to fight for justice is truly heroic.  While justice was stolen from you, while a piece of you most likely was stolen by both the rapists and the legal system, your courage, your strength and your humanity can never be taken.

Even though we have never met, know that I anguish over the suffering you must have endured.  And probably still do.  I like others am here with you, we believe you, we know you were raped, we know the justice system also raped you, we are with you even if we never meet.  You are not alone.

We stand with you in solidarity,

In Contempt of Humanity, Judge Deni and definitions

rape1      [reyp] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.

–noun

1. the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic. the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

–verb (used with object)

6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.

–verb (used without object)

9. to commit rape.


Judge Deni should have to look no further than the first line in the dictionary of the definition of rape.  When physical force and/or duress became involved it became rape.  When the victim was in a position where sex was forced upon her against her will, without her consent, that was rape.  Consent is active not passive.  Unless the victim said yes to having sex with all of the men, which she did not, the answer is no.  No means no.  Anything short of yes is no.  Money means nothing if it is against a person’s will.

 

Judge Deni needs to look no farther than at herself.  If a group of thugs decides that they find her to be the person they want sexual intercourse with and take it from her and when they are finished give her money or leave money next to her as she tries to recover from brutal sexual assault by multiple perps they are rapists and she would see it in no other sense.  She wouldn’t say that it was acceptable even though it was against her will just because they chose to take it from her but gave her money.  It would all be rape simply because she did not consent and nothing changes that.  If this happened to her, she would expect law enforcement and her judicial colleagues to do their jobs and define the crime based upon consent.  That money left laying beside her is not active consent.  It isn’t even passive consent.  It is irrelevant because she did not consent.  Judge Deni looks at the victim with this contempt because she feels that as a judge and a member of societies elite that she is exempt from being raped.  She is not.  It can happen to any of us.  But because the victim was a sex worker, judge Deni places the victim in a lower category.  Judge Deni fails to realize that if she is walking to her car and an attacker forces her to have sex and forces her to say she consents, or for any given reason she does not specifically tell him no, such as fear for her life, that she can be raped.  No judicial exclusion exists.  If she says no and the rapist says yes, that is still rape.

 

Unless active consent exists, which it did not, than the victim is raped.   Sex workers face rape as an occupational hazard.  It shouldn’t be.  But it is.  No occupation, no act, nothing is valid as a reason to force anyone into sex.

 

Judge Deni can not interpret law.  She can’t even interpret line one from Webster’s.

 

Judge Deni is as guilty as any rapist because her legal determination and actions interpreted passive consent as consent.   In some ways she is worse than the rapists because she just gave a blank check to rapists.  She set a precedent.  A horrible dangerous one that puts women worldwide in danger.

 

She clearly is unfit to be a judge.  Judge Deni needs to evaluate her own humanity and whether it exists in her.

 

Each of us has to worry more when we walk alone at night, wear a skirt, wear makeup, do anything that may provoke a man to rape us because Judge Deni just made us all responsible for male sexuality and coercion through her actions.

 

Judge Deni, you are in contempt of humanity.

From Matilda at the Deny Deni! Campaign in Philadelphia

By now everyone has heard of the horrific case of Judge Teresa Carr Deni dismissing all rape charges against a young woman who was held at gunpoint and violently sexually assaulted by four men. I’m sure everyone also knows that Deni’s reasoning was based on the fact that the 20-year-old single mom who was assaulted had initially arranged for a paid sexual encounter with one of the men.

I am appalled that anyone would view this as anything other than rape and to classify the incident as consensual is a deliberate attempt to dehumanize people who engage in sex work. I don’t see Deni’s take on the situation to be much different from the argument that women who wear tight, short skirts are begging for it. Rape is about power, not sex, and I’m horrified that anyone would argue otherwise. There is that old feminist slogan, “If I hit you over the head with a frying pan, you don’t call that cooking.” That keeps springing to my mind here. 

As I’ve worked on the campaign to get Deni voted out of office on November 6th, the evidence of her contempt for sex workers has become more and more apparent. In the first place, one of her statements to Jill Porter, the reporter who originally broke the story, (which you can find here) was that the victim had taken another client before reporting the incident.

Not only is this in no way relevant—even if she had, people who experience trauma often go on with their plans before they begin to process what has happened to them and, more to the point, she still needed to make money to support herself and her child—but it actually turns out that was an outright lie on Deni’s part. Clearly she thought this would bolster her stance in other people’s eyes but it is nowhere in the court transcripts and participants who were there that day say that no such thing ever came up. 

There have also been two different court records leaked of cases involving sex workers she has presided over in which she also dismissed rape charges. It has been repeatedly been stated to me that Deni has been a pretty good judge when some women have ended up in front of her. Apparently she is considered lenient and fair in these cases. What is also readily apparent, however, is that she has a deep-seated and irrational hatred of women who engage in sex work. She clearly feels that she is justified in punishing them for their choice of employment no matter what the reason they have come before her in court.

Furthermore, she dared speak on behalf of rape survivors by stating that this case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.” I know of no rape survivors who feel anything other than complete empathy for the woman assaulted in this case, it’s absolutely disgusting that Deni would attribute such a view to other women who had experienced such a monstrous thing. 

Additionally, she also completely flouted Pennsylvania law regarding rape and consent. The law clearly states that consent can be withdrawn. Even the Philadelphia Bar Association, a very staid and apolitical organization, was offended. You can read Chancellor Jane Dalton’s statement here.

There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior. No other information about her actions make this okay. There is absolutely no justification for having her act as the guardian over a court of law. On November 6th, those of us who vote in Philadelphia have the opportunity to oust Deni by voting against her retention in the court system. We hope to be successful. If we are not—as one city official said to me a couple of days ago, “You basically have to kill your mother not to win a retention vote”—be prepared, the fight is not over and we have a lot more work to do.