Monday, December 13, 2010

Fuelled By. Not Caused By.

Red Umbrella Day is this Friday. It's a big deal. Red Umbrella Day is the march to end Violence against Sex Workers.

I've been fielding interviews for a couple of days now. I've heard it a lot: "violence is an occupational hazard in sex work" or "well you know what you're getting into when you start doing that kind of thing".

It galls me. It rankles. It makes my teeth itch.

Violence against sex workers has increased by 56% over the past three years in Victoria according to the Victoria Police Department. When I say violence I don't mean some abstract "bad things" are happening. I mean sitting with someone who is crying, scared, with angry red welts on their face. I mean someone walking with a limp because they were kicked so hard in the leg that the muscle is bruised and swollen and cramping. This is real. It is appalling.

I would like to argue that sex work is not dangerous. The work itself I mean. Instead, I'd argue that there are a tiny percentage of people (almost exclusively men) who are violent to sex workers. These particular individuals are dangerous. They are dangerous. They are dangerous to everyone. And the more vulnerable you are, the more dangerous they are to you. It seems like we're laying responsibility in the wrong direction again.

The violence many sex workers face is fuelled by, not caused by, the vulnerability of their position. Our job, as a community, as a society is to collectively come to the conclusion that we value each member of our society. Our job is to ensure that our children are well taken care of instead of blaming the families that fall while leaving them to sink or swim. Our job is to ensure that life's upsets don't end up trapping people where their dignity gets stripped away layer by layer. Our job is to explore the stereotypes we belief and the stigma we hold and our part in perpetuating both.

It is our job. Our job as human beings who care what happens to other human beings to fight against the forces that create environments where sex workers are more vulnerable, instead of less. Ridiculous laws, outdated ideas about women and sex, misunderstandings, and laying responsibility for violence at the feet of those being beaten has to stop.

There are many sex workers who won't show up to the march on Friday. The fear of being publically recognized as a sex worker is a valid one. This recognition could result in their children being taken away - even if they are fine parents, or losing a 'straight' job, losing family & friends. It saddens me that they can't show up to the march that is about making things safer for them because of fear.

Did you hear that?

"I can't go to a public march because I'm afraid of the consequences".

In Canada.

Victoria, can you hear that?

1 comment:

  1. Alright, I wrote that in like 5 minutes. I realized that there is more to add. First of all, when we're talking about vulnerability of sex workers, the violence is proportionate to the vulnerability. ie: those in the survival sex trade, or in sexual slavery are the ones that are most at risk for this violence.

    I should not have simply said "sex workers" but been more clear.

    Also, just to hammer home a point, the fact that there are quite a few sex workers who will not be going to the march out of fear are not scared of being attacked in the march. They are scared of you Victoria. Yup. Regular, upstanding citizens.