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.
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.