SPEAKER 2 – JANE/Rally at State Library – Melbourne
I am Jane Green, I am a sex worker.
I am a survivor of both sexual assault and physical violence.
I am speaking today as an individual sex worker, not as the representative of any organisation.
I do not speak for all sex workers, because no one can.
I speak from my own personal experience of sex work.
International day to end violence against sex workers can often seem to centre around either:
– talking about the violence sex workers can face, or
– talking about the fact that we don’t always or actually face as much violence as “people might think…”
TALKING ABOUT IT
Let me say this.
I should no more be pressured to talk about the violence I have faced in my work,
than to not talk about it.
I do not want to perform the details of past rapes, to get you to pay attention to my human rights.
I should not have to.
I am human, therefore I should get human rights, which as a sex worker I am denied.
I engage in labour, therefore I should get labour rights, which as a sex worker I am denied.
I should not have to make a case.
(No one should)
I should not have to win your sympathy.
And I should not have to act out a one person play of my past trauma to get it.
But neither should I be prevented from discussing violence I have faced because I feel I can only win my rights by presenting a perfect ‘happy hooker’ facade.
The violence we face as sex workers is not only what it is commonly perceived to be,
by the public, or as portrayed in the media.
Beyond sexual and physical violence – we are subject to:
State violence, laws that fail to defend our human rights, or extend to us labour rights in our work.
Police violence, both directly (as an instrument of the state in enforcing discriminatory laws, and actual harassment/violence), and in failing to take seriously crimes committed against us.
Lack of ‘justice’ when crimes against us are not pursued in the criminal justice system, because we are seen as “less sympathetic” or “less likely to be believed” as victims.
Saviour groups, who claim sex workers require rescue rather than rights.
Abolitionists, conservative & radical feminist alike, believing their views on what I get to do with my body should have greater relevance than mine.
The media, who find a story in crimes again us, even in ‘rescue’ groups that want to save us, in abolitionists who want to speak on our behalf, but not when sex workers are speaking for themselves.
Well sex workers are able to speak for ourselves, & speaking for myself as a sex worker:
These are all forms of violence, but,
violence is NOT AN INHERENT PART OF OUR WORK
violence should never be an inherent part of any work.
In cases where rape & physical violence are committed against sex workers it should always be a sex workers personal choice what to do about that violence & sex workers should always have a range of choices:
– to access peer support
– to access outreach services
– to access police assistance
– to access & receive, justice
– to do so in privacy, be treated with respect & to have their CHOICE respected
Here in Victoria the very idea of accessing police when we are victims of violent crime is confronting enough,
But if sex workers are working outside of the licensing system, in the non compliant part of the industry, then any rape or act of physical violence committed against them is doubly punitive,
Because if a sex worker in the non compliant part of the industry reaches out to the police for help:
The Victorian police will give no assurance to sex workers who are victims of rape or violent crime that they may not be charged, when reporting a crime of violence, simply because they are working outside of the regulatory system that already fails us.
No system that punishes you for reporting rape encourages you to do so.
This is simply another part of the licencing system, what is in effect – systemic violence – against sex workers by the Victorian government.
So what can we actually do to stop violence against sex workers?
We must first understand that sex work does not exist in isolation. We live in a society that is permeated by rape culture. A culture that tolerates sexual violence and blames it’s victims.
Until and unless wider rape culture is addressed efforts to address such violence against sex workers cannot succeed.
Removing police as regulators so that that the people we go to for help are not the people who target and raid our industry, that would be a start.
Full DECRIMINALISATION of sex work, the understanding that sex workers require human rights and labour rights just as other citizens, that would be a start.
Working towards breaking down stigma and discrimination against sex workers, calling it out if and when it happens, that would be a start.
And when all of that is done? What should the next step be?
ASK A SEX WORKER.
(because sex workers will be ready to tell you)