Sex workers applaud changes to Victorian Sentencing Manual

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Vixen Collective, Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation
Media Release – Wednesday 19th October 2016

Sexual offenders who target sex workers no longer able to be given reduced sentences for their crimes under updated Victorian Sentencing Manual

Vixen Collective has repeatedly raised concerns about the Victorian Sentencing Manual which is written and maintained by the Judicial College of Victoria who provides education for judges, magistrates and VCAT members; as the manual had relied on cases AG v Harris 11/8/1981 CCA Vic and Hakopian 11/12/1991 CCA Vic in a topic titled “Victim is a Prostitute”. Previously this topic stated:

“..the prostitute’s experience may tend to reduce the weight commonly given in rape cases to the ‘reaction of revulsion’ of the ‘chaste woman’..”  (AG v Harris 11/8/1981, quoted in “Victim is a Prostitute”)

These cases were also quoted in a topic called Hardy Victims.

Issues with these topics had been raised as an item of concern by our community, and seen as a contributing factor in:

  • Reduced sentences for those that offend against sex workers (whether directly applied, or through influencing opinions towards our community and its members in the courts).
  • Reluctance by sex workers to proceed with charges against offenders (one among many barriers sex workers face in accessing justice in Victoria).

We are therefore extremely pleased to announce that after liaising with St Kilda Legal Service who conducted research on the issue and made submissions to the Judicial College about amending these topics, the Victorian Sentencing Manual has now been updated to acknowledge:

“..that the mere fact a victim of a sexual offence was a sex worker will, of itself, have no effect on sentence. Rather, what is relevant are the consequences of the offence for a particular victim.” (quoted from “Victim is a Sex Worker – 31.6.2.12”)

We also note that the topic “Hardy Victims” in the Victorian Sentencing Manual, which applied similar reasoning to other victims of crime – “..certain victims may be less vulnerable than the standard, and thus suffer less harm from the same conduct..” – has now been removed.

This is a significant recognition of sex workers’ human rights in Victoria and importantly an instance where sex workers’ voices have been heard and acknowledged. We want to thank St Kilda Legal Service for their work and support, the Judicial College for their work and their commitment to addressing this issue as well as Justice Connect for providing pro bono barrister advice.

These changes address discrimination against sex workers as well as problematic views about sexual assault survivors contained within the guidelines.

Sex workers in Victoria, including Vixen Collective (as Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) continue to call for improved access to police for sex workers and greater justice in the courts.  Although the changes detailed above are an important step for our community, the licensing system of regulating sex work remains an impediment to sex workers’ human rights, labour rights and safety in Victoria.

In line with the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Australia’s National HIV Strategy, Victorian AIDS Council, Living Positive Victoria, Harm Reduction Victoria, Burnet Institute, Australian Research Centre in Sex Health & Society, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, St Kilda Legal Service, multiple medical studies, and sex workers’ representative organisations across Australia and the world – Vixen Collective continues to call for the full decriminalisation of sex work – this is recognised as the world’s best practice model of sex work regulation.

It is critical that the voices of sex workers continued to be centered in all discussions on law and policy relating to our lives and work – it is only in doing so that sex workers rights can be fully recognised.

For further media information/interviews, please contact:

Jane Green, Vixen Collective Spokesperson:  0420 887 845
Email: vixencollectivemelbourne@gmail.com

Suzan, St Kilda Legal Service: (03) 8598 6630
Email: suzan@skls.org.au

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Download a copy of this Vixen Collective media release here – 20161019-vixen-rape-sentencing-guidelines-media-release

Rape and the “un-chaste” victim in Victoria

 

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On 26th March 2015 notorious rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was convicted of the rape of a sex worker.  On Wednesday 13th July 2016 the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed Bayley’s conviction, on the basis of the identification, made by the victim after seeing Bayley’s picture on FaceBook in a post relating to Jill Meagher’s murder.  Crime Victims Support Association President Noel McNamara called the decision “disgusting” and said it tells victims “they don’t get fair treatment in the courts”.

Is this really even news?  Reporting rape to police, going through the court process, is deeply unpleasant.  Name suppression should be automatic for survivors of rape – but it isn’t.  A survivor’s sexual history shouldn’t be admissible in court – but is.  Prior medical and counseling records shouldn’t be allowed as evidence – but are.

I am a current sex worker.  I have been raped.  I have never made a report to police.  In Victoria, under the licensing system, police are the regulators of sex work.  But police are not the people you reach out to for help when they regulate your work.  If we are working as street based sex workers or outside the licensing system, we can be charged for this when we report crimes committed against us.  Police continue to talk up the fact that they can “exercise discretion” over whether to charge sex workers in these cases.  Please understand, your “discretion” does not comfort us.  We need the same rights as other members of the public.  In the Adrian Bayley case alone there were at least ten other sex workers who did not trust police enough to give evidence.

In court we face being questioned about our work – judged and treated unfairly – in addition to the already traumatic questioning survivors of rape face.  When rape cases involving sex workers are reported in media, the focus will almost always be our occupation.

Even if there is a conviction, Victorian sentencing guidelines allow for judges to give lesser sentences to offenders that rape sex workers, as rape would not cause:

(the) “reaction of revulsion which it might cause in a chaste woman”

If it sounds like these guidelines date back to the turn of the century, it’s worth pointing out the cases the guidelines are based on are from 1981 (Harris) and 1991 (Harkopian) [1].

Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) has made numerous submissions to the Victorian Government asking to have these profoundly offensive sentencing guidelines overturned – the government has yet to respond to or act on these recommendations.

Each time a sex worker receives unfair treatment at the hands of police, each case where an offender walks away unpunished, every time a rapist receives a short sentence, where victims and our community are placed on trial in the media – all are another red light to sex workers telling us we cannot get justice in Victoria.

In February this year, Vixen Collective recommended that the Victorian Government decriminalise sex work – a step that would have provided better access to police and justice – but a step that was not taken.  In doing so the government ignored not only Victorian sex workers, but the policy advice of every peer sex worker organisation in Australia, the United Nations[i], World Health Organisation[ii], Amnesty International[iii] and other organisations too numerous to mention[iv].

The Victorian justice system should do better for all survivors of rape and we should fight for it to be improved together.  But right now sex workers are shut out from even the limited justice on offer to other survivors.

It’s time for the Victorian Government to start listening to sex workers and do something about it.

 

NOTE: this opinion editorial is endorsed by Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation)

 

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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Listen to sex workers.  We are the experts on our lives and work.

What can you do right now?
In late 2015 the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) ran a review into ‘The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process’.  As part of this process Vixen Collective raised the many issues sex workers face in accessing assistance from police and accessing justice in Victoria, including Victorian sentencing guidelines permitting judges to give reduced sentences to offenders that rape sex workers – guidelines that influence attitudes towards our community in the courts even when not officially applied.
NB – The Commission will report by the 1st of September 2016.
Join us in reminding the VLRC to address justice for sex workers in Victoria by:
Contacting the VLRC on twitter at – @VicLawReform
Emailing the VLRC at – law.reform@lawreform.vic.gov.au

What can you do in the future?
Sex workers peer (sex worker only) representative organisations in Australia call for the decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers health and safety, click here to see a list of peer sex worker organisations around Australia – visit their websites and follow their social media to see how to support sex workers in your local area.

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REFERENCES:

[i] The United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Fund and UNAIDS support the decriminalisation of sex work and note that legal empowerment of sex worker communities underpins effective HIV Responses.
‘Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific’, United Nations, 2012, pg.21-31. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/hivaids/English/HIV-2012-SexWorkAndLaw.pdf

[ii] Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.”, Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations, World Health Organisation, July 2014, pg.91.

[iii] Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers, Amnesty International, 11 August 2015.

[iv] Other organisations that support the decriminalisation of sex work include (for example):

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)
“NSWP membership comprises 237 sex worker-led organisations in 71 countries around the globe, including local organisations as well as national and regional networks. Our regional networks in the global south and global north represent many thousands of sex workers who actively oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work.”,  ‘Why decriminalise sex work’, Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), Open Democracy, 30th July 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/global-network-of-sex-work-projects/why-decriminalise-sex-work

Australia’s National HIV Strategy
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Sixth National HIV Strategy 2010-2013, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010 at 6.4.

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
“We know from them that the decriminalisation of sex work is the only way to ensure that sex workers are able to work in safety and be protected from violence and exploitation. … Often, sex workers and their clients are best positioned to detect and report cases of human trafficking or exploitative labour situations. This can only happen in a decriminalised environment, where neither party is afraid of prosecution.”, ‘Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women – Submission to Scotland Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work’

Global Commission on HIV and the Law
“Decriminalization is the first step towards better working conditions…”, Global Commission on HIV and the Law – Risks, Rights and Health, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, July 2012, pg.40.

Human Rights Watch
‘Human Rights Watch World Report 2014’, Human Rights Watch, 2014, pg.47.

Multiple Medical Studies
For example:
“Decriminalise sex work.  Decriminalisation can improve the risk environment..  End impunity for crimes and abuses committed against sex workers.  Advance evidence-based policies and practices in partnership with SW-led organisations.  End discriminatory laws, policies and practices against female, male and transgender sex workers.  ..  Include civil society, incl SW-led organisations, in national policy planning.  Recognise sex work as work, and develop occupational health and safety standards, mechanisms to redress violence against sex workers and other violations against labour and human rights.”  Panel 4: Calls for action for stakeholders in the HIV response for sex workers, An action agenda for HIV and sex workers, The Lancet, 22nd July 2014, pg.10.
C Harcourt, J O’Connor, S Egger, C Fairly, H Wand, M Chen, L Marshall, J Kaldor, B Donovan, ‘The Decriminalisation of Prostitution is Associated with Better Coverage of Health Promotion Programs for Sex Workers’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010, 34:5 pg. 482.

Open Society Foundations
‘Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society’, Open Society Foundations, October 2015.

The “best of times” & the “worst of times” (SlutWalk 2015)

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My name is Jane Green and I am a current sex worker.

I am speaking today, as a sex worker and also on behalf of Scarlet Alliance[1], Australian Sex Workers Association and also Vixen Collective[2], Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation.

I do not speak for all sex workers, because no one can.
I speak from my own personal experience of sex work.

This has been a difficult speech for me to write, not because there is a lack of things to say – but because there is so much.

Much like the Dickens quote, I often feel like it is both the “best of times” and the “worst of times”.

The “best of times” because as sex workers we are constantly fighting for our rights, often achieving so much, and yet it is still the “worst of times” because conservatives and anti-sex work feminists are arrayed against us trying to erase our successes and criminalise our work and lives.

To us, to sex workers, this fight is eternally visible – it is the fabric of our lives and work. But to those that are not part of our community it is often hidden and I believe this is what makes it easier for people to turn away from our struggles, rather than joining us as allies.

Sex worker organisations across Australia and across the world work ceaselessly for the full decriminalisation of sex work – this is supported by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, Human Rights Watch, Australia’s National HIV Strategies, Scarlet Alliance, Vixen Collective, sex worker organisations nationally and globally – and most recently Amnesty International. Yet we are still working, we are still fighting.

I would like to take you on a tour of what that work is like for me as a sex worker and survivor of rape, over just the last two months.

Vixen Collective, of which I am a member, recently filed a submission with the Royal Commission Into Family Violence (Victoria)[3] . Sex worker organisations across Australia work tirelessly on violence against sex workers, and laws such as the licencing system in Victoria make it much harder for sex workers to report violence to police, or to seek justice through the courts.

Imagine my depressing lack of surprise when submissions to the Royal Commission began to be published and I realised anti-sex work group Project Respect had claimed in their submission that they were the:

..leading agency addressing violence against women in the sex industry[4]

This strangely omits in Victoria – Vixen Collective, RhED[5] and Melbourne Sexual Health[6] -but also every other sex worker organisation in Australia.

Project Respect, commonly referred to as Project (dis)Respect by sex workers, also states that:

“..failing to address family and other male violence against women in the sex industry makes other women vulnerable to men’s violence..[7]
This is a shocking form of victim blaming – essentially blaming sex workers for violence against ALL women – rather than focusing on perpetrators of violence and the systemic causes of that violence.

Most important is the fact that Project Respect is NOT a sex worker organisation but rather an organisation that seeks to criminalise our work, via the Swedish Model[8] of sex work regulation, which would place sex workers at greater risk of violence.

Project Respect also publicly state that they are working towards the abolition of ALL sex work[9].

But this is common. Anti-sex work groups attempts to silence sex workers in Australia abound.

Vixen Collective held the Festival of Sex Work[10] in August of this year. There were sex worker only peer education workshops. Public events to demystify sex work. Social events for sex workers, a film night, lunches, and much more.

As part of the closing of the Festival a protest was held in Swanson Street and photos (of sex workers that were comfortable having their photo taken) were posted on social media.

We were almost immediately attacked by a member of an anti sex work group on Twitter – claiming that there were no “women of colour..but plenty of white men”.

Now I have nothing specific against white men (many of them give me money), but I only remember five or so “white men” out of about nine-five protesters, and the lead speaker was Rory – an aboriginal street based sex worker.

So either the person attacking us on Twitter was at a different protest or they just made that up to be a troll. Which is actually a common thing – harassing sex workers online.

Second only to harassing sex workers in person.

Since I’ve been involved in sex worker activism I have had my photo taken by radical feminists, been called a “cult leader” on the internet, had “pimp lobby”[11] shouted at me while speaking at an Amnesty International meeting and been called privileged so many times that as a ex-street based sex worker, rape survivor, someone who has experienced homelessness throughout my life, and member of a marginalised community subject to stigma and discrimination – that I’m frankly a little over it.

But I’m also over it because when it comes to the laws that affect sex workers lives and work – the voices of ALL current sex workers are critical. Because regardless of what anyone else says we’re the ones who have to go back to work tomorrow and live with the consequences. It is our lived experience that counts and it is our lives that will be affected.

Crowd at Slut Walk Melbourne, Sept 5th 2015

Crowd at Slut Walk Melbourne, Sept 5th 2015

Finally I want to tell you about what I experienced when speaking in Western Australia, at a forum on sex industry regulation[12], opposite Peter Abetz (a Liberal politician) and Simone Watson (current Director of NorMAC, an anti-sex work group).

Much of the rhetoric of both of the opposing speakers centered around silencing sex workers. Anti-sex work groups often like to claim that either sex workers are so downtrodden we can’t speak for ourselves (and must be rescued) or if we do speak for ourselves then it’s a sign we’re privileged (so we shouldn’t be listened to).

This is a tactic used by anti-sex work groups, designed to silence anyone who does not agree with them. But what is really telling if you listen to anti-sex work groups, is the language they use to describe sex workers:

They call us “product” not people

They say sex workers “sell their bodies”, but my body is still here, I sell a service

But most tellingly – just one day after the Amnesty International decision to endorse decriminalisation of sex work – Simone Watson, Director of NorMAC, said the following:

“…at McDonalds you’re flipping the burgers, in prostitution you’re the meat…”

Let me be quite clear.

Those that seek to deny sex workers human rights – are essentially denying sex workers are human.

Those that outright call sex workers “meat” – aren’t even trying to hide it.

So I go back to what I said at the start.

To us, to sex workers, this fight is eternally visible – it is the fabric of our lives and work.

To you, I hope it is now more visible – make a choice, make a difference – join us as allies.

(If you’re not sure what you can do, ask us how)

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Want more information on joining sex workers in fighting for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria?
Join Vixen Collective on Twitter here: @VixenCollective
Or visit Vixen Collective’s website – vixencollective.blogspot.com.au

Want to support sex worker rights at a national level in Australia?
Join Scarlet Alliance on Twitter here: @scarletalliance
Or visit Scarlet Alliance’s website – scarletalliance.org.au

You can follow me directly on Twitter at: @sexliesducttape

To find the details of other state and territory sex worker organisations – click here

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References

[1] Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association), http://scarletalliance.org.au/

[2] Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), http://vixencollective.blogspot.com.au/

[3] Royal Commission Into Family Violence (Victoria), http://www.rcfv.com.au/

[4]Project Respect is the leading agency addressing violence against women in the sex industry“, Project Respect Submission into the Royal Commission on Family Violence, pg2

[5] Resourcing Health and Education (RhED), http://sexworker.org.au/

[6] Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, http://www.mshc.org.au/

[7] Project Respect Submission into the Royal Commission on Family Violence, pg2

[8] Amnesty (again) – Statement to the AGM, https://sexliesducttape.me/2014/07/06/amnesty-again-statement-to-the-agm/

[9] From Project Respect website, ‘Our Vision’: “Project Respect’s vision is for a world where women are free from..prostitution..”

[10] Festival of Sex Work, http://festivalofsexwork.blogspot.com.au/

[11] Amnesty International: Decriminalising Sex Work – What Are the Issues?, https://sexliesducttape.me/2014/07/05/amnesty-international-decriminalising-sex-work-what-are-the-issues/

[12] Forum on Regulating Sex Work in Western Australia, https://sexliesducttape.me/2015/08/12/forum-on-regulating-sex-work-in-western-australia/

Sex workers protest ‘Ugly Mugs’ at Griffin Theatre in Sydney

Theatre goers leaving the play ‘Ugly Mugs’, now on at Griffin Theatre in Sydney, were met last night by sex workers protesting the exploitative “pity porn” narrative of the play.  Handing out leaflets titled ‘We Hope Our “Lives” Entertained You’ sex workers challenged members of the departing audience to stop and talk about what sex work is really like and to discuss the problematic nature of the play.

A sex worker who had attended the play that evening described the work as “..just another dead hooker on a slab..” and said they were “..glad to be near an exit..” due to the high levels of distress the autopsy scene caused them (NSW sex worker).

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Sex workers who came to protest stayed for more than an hour talking to departing theatre goers, answering questions and challenging the misconceptions that arise when non sex workers attempt to speak out on sex work.  More than 30 people stayed to discuss the play with sex workers after attending, some visibly moved after learning that the play was ‘inspired’ by sex workers confidential accounts of rape, violence and trauma, accessed by a non sex worker from a closed sex worker only resource.

Over the last few days sex workers have called for Griffin, Malthouse and Peta Brady to hear their concerns and respond.  Griffin, earlier this week, issued a self serving statement that dismisses rather than addresses the issues outlined by sex workers.  They are still not listening.

“..For Peta Brady to get hold of copies and use them as the title, props and content for a play, including readings from editions of the publication, is a gross abuse of the trust she gained as an outreach worker NOT a sex worker.
How is this play anything other than an insult to sex workers who have built systems of support against the barriers created by bad laws, poor policing and society’s stigma and discrimination?
The Griffin Theatre, the audience, and critics but particularly the author should see this for what it is – a gross invasion of privacy and a misguided grab for publicity through the claim of “authenticity”.
If the play were based on case notes transcribed while working at Lifeline would that be acceptable? Who is the owner of the Intellectual Property and the title? Not Peta Brady, that’s for sure.”

Maria McMahon, Editor of Ugly Mugs, Prostitutes Collective Victoria, 1993-1997, and SWOP 1997-2006

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“..I am outraged by the potential harms using this list as ‘entertainment’ might cause to sex workers. It was never ever meant for public consumption and/or ‘entertainment’ as Brady has used and abused it. Even if Brady says she hasn’t used word for word verbatim from the UGL she still asked for updates of UM Lists from NSW when her victim pawn production was coming to Sydney. ..It is not about not writing about human life experiences. This is simply about misappropriation and exploitation of vulnerable people. The author Peta Brady was in a position of trust working with very marginalised women who had experienced harm at the hands of what we in the sex industry termed all these decades ago “Ugly Mugs”. Brady has made a living off sex worker ‘tragedy’ and now she is making more money off ticket sales of her ‘victim porn’ play. We are not fodder for entertainment.

Julie Bates, Co-Founder of Ugly Mugs, Prostitutes Collective NSW circa 1985

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Sex work is work and sex worker speak for themselves.

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Join us in taking action:

Share this post and spread the word that sex workers’ confidential accounts of rape and trauma are not for entertainment or profit, click on the links at the end of this post to share via Twitter, Facebook, Google or WordPress.

Griffin Theatre Company – Facebook – posts on July 30th and Aug 5th show the autopsy scene and a post on July 28th shows a character holding a copy of the closed sex worker only Ugly Mugs publication.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Griffin Theatre – Twitter – the Griffin are using #uglymugs to tweet – I would suggest including this but also adding #rightsnotrescue

Malthouse Theatre – Facebook – post referring to “The play’s great achievement is humanizing the victim..” on June 2nd and a post detailing costume design including “working girl” on May 29th.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Malthouse Theatre – Twitter – also using #uglymugs to tweet – again would suggest including this but adding #rightsnotrescue to tweets

Griffin Theatre Company (Website) – Ugly Mugs – comments can be added at end of the page.

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Want to get more background on this? –

Read ‘Ugly Mugs: confidential accounts of rape and violence should never be ‘entertainment’’

Read ‘Ugly Mugs – I am not your victim’

Ugly Mugs – I am not your victim

Ugly Mugs is a play written by a non sex worker about sex workers lives, containing the misinformation and stigma one would expect to result from someone writing about a life they have not lived.  The main character is the nameless “working girl”, played by Peta Brady herself.  Brady in her role as a health outreach worker accessed sex workers accounts of rape, violence and trauma via a closed sex worker only publication and then used this as ‘inspiration’ for her work.  In the play itself one of the characters reads aloud onstage from the closed sex worker only publication of the same name (see picture).

Read ‘Ugly Mugs: confidential accounts of rape and violence should never be ‘entertainment’’

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So what has the response been from Peta Brady and the Griffin Theatre?

Originally when approached by concerned sex workers after the play moved from Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre to Sydney’s Griffin they asked for a copy of the local Ugly Mugs publication for “publicity purposes”.  Indicating quite clearly that they had either completely failed to listen to sex workers concerns, didn’t care, or both.

Now that sex workers have raised concerns on social media and they actually have to be accountable in public?

Griffin Theatre have posted a response failing to address most of the key points in the original blog but instead emphasizing that:

1) The “entire play is a fictional work”

2) Refering to the pamphlet the character pictured above reads from “It is not a real copy of an Ugly Mugs issue”

Well, I completely agree on count 1 and that’s what we’re complaining about – when writing about the lives of sex workers as a non sex worker you get it wrong, because you are not speaking from lived experience.  This is disturbing to sex workers as a marginalized group because we do not need our lives explained to us, we do not need or want to be rescued from our work.  What I want as a sex worker is to have my human rights, my labour rights, recognised.

On point 2, check the photo.  Your denials don’t mean much to Melbourne sex workers when we recognise what’s in his hand.

A reference is made to sex workers (in previously publicity the term “working girls” was used) seeing the play in rehearsals, but Vixen Collective (Victoria’s Peer Only Sex Worker Organisation) met with Malthouse and provided feedback while the play was still in rehearsal and our concerns were ignored.

Griffin also says in reference to Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) “suggested that if they felt the differences, or localised issues, needed to be further addressed, we would be happy to collaborate by providing a platform through the media, a public forum or online publication”.

Well it’s not every day the Australian Sex Workers Association gets suggestions on how to do it’s work from non sex workers putting on a highly problematic play..  I guess we better take that seriously then?  The meeting was for you to listen to our concerns, but obviously you missed the point of that.

You are still not listening.

You say – “We believe that this play describes violence not to glamorise it as entertainment, nor to create ‘pity’ for the ‘victims’”

Let me be clear: since you have not lived my life, you cannot describe it.

Let be be clearer still: you have no right to access the private accounts of rape, violence and trauma of my community and recycle these as entertainment, no matter how you attempt to justify it.

Listen: I am not your victim.  You do not speak for me.

#uglymugs #iamnotyourvictim

Want to read the Griffin’s excuses?

 

** Updated to include current media coverage as of 8:00pm EST 13th Aug 2014 **

Sex workers accuse Griffin, Malthouse of exploitation – Arts Hub

Sex workers accuse playwright of exploitation – Daily Review (Crikey)

Ugly Mugs & the politics of representation – ABC Arts Critic Alison Croggon (on Storify)

Sex worker union member attacks Peta Brady play Ugly Mugs (Sydney Morning Herald) this story also ran in The Age, Brisbane Times and Canberra Times.

Ugly Mugs: confidential accounts of rape and violence should never be ‘entertainment’

The following is an opinion editorial endorsed by both Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and Vixen Collective (Victorian Peer Only Sex Workers Organisation).

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Imagine this: after being raped you tell your story, in confidence, to a local organisation so that it can be collected with others and in a closed publication circulated to help prevent offenders re-victimising others.  This publication is ‘closed’ because were it generally available, predators would recognise themselves in it’s pages and be able to change their appearance and behaviours, going on to commit further crimes with greater ease.

Now imagine this: without your consent the account of your rape and those of other survivors are taken by someone who is not a member of your community, disclosed and used as thinly veiled “inspiration” for a play, while actual accounts are read out mid-scene.  A play with the same title as the closed publication meant to protect your community.  This is your rape played out on stage.  Permission not sought, nor considered relevant.

Welcome to ‘Ugly Mugs’.  The play by Peta Brady recently having finished a run at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and opening at Sydney’s Griffin on July 18th 2014.  Based on confidential accounts of assaults (rape, violence or trauma) given by sex workers for inclusion in the ‘Ugly Mugs’ publication (closed, for distribution only to sex workers), this represents both a breach of trust and an alarming low point in exploitation of sex workers through “pity porn”.  “Pity porn” is the depiction of sex workers as helpless victims without agency – a far cry from the reality of organised and motivated workers.  The ‘Ugly Mugs’ publication was established in Victoria by sex workers (Prostitutes Collective of Victoria, 1986) seeking to protect their own community in the face of barriers to justice and ongoing stigma against sex workers.

Concerns were promptly raised with both hosts of the play – Malthouse Theatre and Griffin – neither were willing to accept sex workers concerns.  Instead we were offered free tickets by Malthouse – presumably because seeing your rape played out live in front of you always makes you feel better.  Griffin asked if they could have a copy of the current ‘Ugly Mugs’ book for publicity purposes – because disclosing further accounts of rape and trauma would be great for drawing in a crowd – if less so for the health, safety and peace of mind of sex workers.

Peta Brady is quoted in publicity as saying “working girls” provided feedback on ‘Ugly Mugs’, however sex workers that did attend The Malthouse reported back that the play includes readings from an actual issue of ‘Ugly Mugs’ – a shocking breach of trust to both the community and individual sex workers.  It also opens with a sex worker attending her own autopsy, as both corpse and bystander, setting a low point from which there are reportedly still further lows.  This is what can be expected when an outsider seeks to speak on behalf of a marginalised community – you get an agenda (because you cannot get the truth when you have not lived it) coloured by stigma, personal judgement and politics.

This is not a representation of the lived experiences of sex workers.  This is the highly personal view of Peta Brady who is a Salvation Army worker, an organisation known for it’s stigmatising views of sex work. That sex workers confidentially given accounts of rape and trauma are being used as a vehicle to push the views of a non-sex worker and profit from this as entertainment is adding insult to literal injury.  This is the appropriation of sex workers stories, accounts of trauma divorced from the completeness of our lives, as if trauma is all there is.  While publicly supporting the decriminalisation of sex work the Salvation Army continues to portray sex workers as if there is nothing beyond victim hood – sex workers presented without agency or context.

So now imagine this: join sex workers in taking action, online and in person – by contacting the Griffin Theatre to indicate that using accounts of rape and trauma without permission is never acceptable. Sex workers speak for ourselves, our personal stories belong to us and it is our right if, and when to tell them.

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Join us in taking action:

Share this post and spread the word that sex workers’ confidential accounts of rape and trauma are not for entertainment or profit, click on the links at the end of this post to share via Twitter, Facebook, Google or WordPress.

Griffin Theatre Company – Facebook – posts on July 30th and Aug 5th show the autopsy scene and a post on July 28th shows a character holding a copy of the closed sex worker only Ugly Mugs publication.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Griffin Theatre – Twitter – the Griffin are using #uglymugs to tweet – I would suggest including this but also adding #rightsnotrescue

Malthouse Theatre – Facebook – post referring to “The play’s great achievement is humanizing the victim..” on June 2nd and a post detailing costume design including “working girl” on May 29th.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Malthouse Theatre – Twitter – also using #uglymugs to tweet – again would suggest including this but adding #rightsnotrescue to tweets

Griffin Theatre Company (Website) – Ugly Mugs – comments can be added at end of the page.

In attempts to raise this issue with media organisations – out of seven contacts only two responded, but as of this posting none have published on the issue.

Updates will be provided as available.

 

NOTE: it was erroneously noted in the above opinion editorial that the Salvation Army support the decriminalisation of sex work – although the Salvation Army have supported projects and publications (for example ‘Street Walking Blues: Sex Work, St Kilda and the Street’, 2006) that have endorsed decriminalisation of sex work, the Salvation Army takes no official public position on sex work regulation.
The Salvation Army do however have a long history of stigmatising sex workers, refer below:
‘Salvos use sex workers to get donations again’, Crikey (June 10th, 2016)
‘Salvation Army Continues Distributing “Prostitute” Material After It Said It Wouldn’t’, Buzzfeed (June 2nd, 2016)
‘Salvos apologise to sex workers over ads’, ABC (May 22nd, 2009)

ID2EVASW – Jane’s Speech

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.

‘VIOLENCE’

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.

STOPPING VIOLENCE

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)