collateral damage from the war on sex

This is not the first time this has happened, but it’s the first incident I’m aware of.

A young woman was arrested on prostitution charges in February. She was mentioned by name in the article (both printed and online) and apparently was lucky enough to get featured on the local evening news. Two weeks ago, she killed herself.

I don’t know her or anything about her. I heard this through the Internet grapevine. Yes, it really happened. Her obit was published online with little fanfare. The details are few and far between. It has been made clear that her family doesn’t want the story to get out, so the few details I know will not be repeated here.

I wonder if the fallout has been brought to the attention of the arresting officers to see if they feel they’ve done their job in protecting society. I’ve no doubt they would be glad her recidivism rate has dropped.

In a search for prostitution-related suicides, I found little useful information. One study by a rabid anti-prostitution activist claims that 75% of all “escort prostitutes” (her words) have attempted suicide. Possibly true. As is the possibility that 75% of all Nine Inch Nail fans have attempted suicide. Or how about comparing the prostitution-suicide study to the percentage of attempted suicide among teenagers? Or dentists?

I have yet to find studies on the rate of suicide after arrest or after being “saved” by an anti-prostitution organization. Those are the numbers I’d like to see. (If there are credible numbers on this, please send me the info!)

This young woman is not an isolated incident. I’ve since found out that another woman, a professor, committed suicide shortly before her trial for four counts of prostitution was to begin. I found an article about a young man who was arrested for solicitation, got his name published in his local paper and killed himself shortly after. I have no doubt there are others whose families keep the silence. I wish they didn’t. Society needs to know that prostitutes aren’t scary in any way, but are simply the women next door. Their clients are no different.

I understand why these families wish for silence. There’s the shame of prostitution and the shame of suicide. Yet silence is what feeds the needless shame.

Prostitution-arrest articles always include quotes by police in which an officer will state that they feel they’re doing some good in cleaning up the city and in restoring some order to these poor women’s lives. They feel the only way to “save” some of these women is to arrest them – giving prostitutes a permanent record, possibly brutalizing them and emotionally scarring them. Deeply traumatizing arrests — that’s really helping someone who may already be in desperate straits.

I’m outraged that the police who arrested the young girl in February have gotten away with murder (in my opinion). Worse, it’s likely they will never even know.

silence

As with anything, the less someone knows about something, the scarier it is. Educating the public is the only answer that will work. We’ve seen it with the Civil Rights Movement, the gay movement, the (so-called) sexual revolution and feminism. We see it with the propaganda machines of every large corporation or government. Most recently, sexual abuse victims have won great strides in the public arena simply by vowing to break the silence.

Sex workers are silent; everyone too afraid to be honest with their lovers and families, much less anyone else. The silence creates a void that is filled with false voices. Those of arresting officers, mainstream media, Hollywood, or the bad stereotypes that appear on daytime talk shows. Right now, that is our voice.1

I know those voices are not me. I’m sure it isn’t the majority of the women out there. Where will the real voices come from? From each and every individual. Society needs to know sex workers are as close as a best friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, a mother or a neighbor. We don’t exist in a void, our clients do not appear out of a void, why pretend otherwise?

Silence is shame.

Silence is death.

I don’t need either one.

1 There are activists, but there are few of them who get national attention. They are nearly always viewed as individuals instead of a group, unlike many of the other movements I mentioned.

14 thoughts on “collateral damage from the war on sex

  1. Joseph

    Well said Amanda.

    I hope, your writing here, and the other bloggers and writers like you, are the voices speaking up for those who have been silenced.

    Now will the rest of us listen?

  2. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Joseph,

    Thanks!

    We’re not speaking up loud enough. The most popular bloggers anonymous, not even linked to their work identities. Although they have a large audience, it is not the audience who is in power right now. They don’t read blogs!

    It’s not a matter of anyone else listening — yet. Enough voices will make a lot of noise, and then listening is not a matter of choice.

    At least, that’s how I see it.

    XX

  3. Amanda Brooks Post author

    JW,

    Thank you!

    Feel free to link this piece anywhere you’d like. As long as you think I’ve said something worthwhile, I don’t mind a bit.

    XX

    PS: Nice to see you back here!

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  6. Lailah

    The sad thing on things like this – when I was busted for solicitation, I considered suicide. And I’m a middle aged homemaker, very in touch with my emotions and sexuality. The reason I almost went off the deep end?

    The cops weren’t there when I was battered.

    They weren’t there when I was raped.

    But boy, I start making money, I enjoy my work, it happens to involve sex, and there they are, like the fucking Gestapo, banging down my door.

    So much for protect and serve.

    Younger people are more fragile. They don’t have the history to know that they CAN get through this. I’ve never been in legal trouble before, but I HAVE been through worse, and I’ve got the life experience and education to draw on.

    This needs to change. I didn’t want to be “saved.” I wanted to be left the hell alone.

  7. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Lailah,

    Thank you for sharing more about your experiences. I have nothing to add, except: of course. You are very right.

    I’ve no doubt the people who commit suicide are overwhelmed with the ruins of their lives. Maybe a more useful program would be to start some sort of support for those arrested by police, instead of attempting “rescue.”

    The whole system is broken and keeps grinding people into the ground. It makes me sick.

    XX

    PS: You probably have no way of knowing this, but were you arrested during one of these child-trafficking sweeps? You know, ones where cops pretend they’re out saving children forced into prostitution?

  8. Lailah

    Well, given that I’m middle aged (my ad said I was in my mid-30s) I would find it hard to believe that they were after me for child trafficking.

    No, the cops were pretending they were saving me. Despite my college degree, my life experience, etc – there’s just no way a woman can be in the adult industry because she LIKES it.

    Right?

    I think a lot of the police involvement stems from prurient interest. That’s got to be a rush – porn without any of the social stigma, with the added rush of abused power. And then they get to interrogate the sex worker about her activities that day – how many men, what positions, did you agree to sex for money , etc….

  9. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Lailah,

    When they do these sweeps to save the children, they arrest hundreds of adult women — because we’re easy targets. (And there probably aren’t as many exploited children out there as everyone thinks.)

    From a commonsense perspective, yeah, it doesn’t take an entire police squad to arrest and subdue a scared, partially-clothed woman. It disgusts me and often disgusts other people when they find out what really happens. I’ve no doubt that the cops get a sick kick out of working sex-vice units. Ugh.

    Your comments here and the George Carlin post are great. Have you thought about writing about your experience and posting it at Bound, not Gagged? I could get it posted for you anonymously via email. I think it’s very important that more people hear what their tax dollars are doing — then they can decide if they agree with these policies after being better-informed.

    XX

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