In the city where our Supreme Court of justice resides a bill is being considered to fully decriminalize prostitution in Washington, D.C. They call it “The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019,” but it will not make prostituted women safe. And legalizing sex buying, pimping, and brothel keeping of vulnerable women is not justice. It is a human rights disaster.
“Council members would do well to look beyond the progressive label that has been attached to [full] decriminalization,” shares The Washington Post. “They instead need to heed the warnings from those who actually work with women in the sex trade that a proposal to fully decriminalize prostitution in the District will end up hurting the very people it aims to help.”1
For this reason, we, survivors of sexual exploitation, are signing a letter to the D.C. City Council penned by survivor and advocate Marian Hatcher. She speaks from years of experience as a survivor and also as a human trafficking coordinator in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Her words create a united voice for us to express what we have experienced and seen.
“We, the undersigned survivors of the sex trade, have collectively experienced hundreds of years of abuse, violence, objectification, and dehumanization in the sex trade. We know first-hand that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that most individuals involved in the sex trade are not there voluntarily and have experienced long term harm as a result of being bought and sold. We STRONGLY OPPOSE pending legislation to FULLY Decriminalize the Sex Trade, the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019…”
We know first-hand that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that most individuals involved in the sex trade are not there voluntarily…”
I and many other survivors are signing this letter because prostitution is violent commercial sexual abuse that we are still recovering from. And we would never send anyone else into the hell on Earth that we have survived.
“It’s beyond comprehension why anyone would want to decriminalize an industry of abuse and violence which profits from the commodification of human beings… Let’s see prostitution for what it is—gender-based violence. It’s time to listen to survivors and demand an end to sexual violence,” conveyed Alexi Ashe Meyers and Rebecca Zipkin, former Brooklyn prosecutors of sex trafficking cases.2
Approving this bill would put a stamp of approval on the horrific injustice that millions of survivors, including myself, have suffered. And it would pave the way for millions more to be subject to the horrific trauma and abuse that we have survived.
Prostitution is not work. It is not a “job like any other.” And for most, it is not a free choice. Prostitution is violent commercialized sexual abuse and gender inequality that we want to see abolished.
“The vast majority of survivors of prostitution and trafficking want to put an end to the buying and selling of vulnerable people and know first hand that the best way to do so is to ensure that pimping and sex buying remain behaviors that aren’t encouraged or tolerated.”3 -Rebecca Bender, Marian Hatcher
The vast majority of survivors of prostitution and trafficking want to put an end to the buying and selling of vulnerable people…
Survivor and advocate Vednita Carter shared in a recent interview, “I would say to those student activists who want to perpetuate the sex trade, prostitution is not work, it is sexual abuse at its worst. Imagine having sex with your boyfriend 15 times a day, maybe more on some days, every day. Nothing can turn this into a good sexual experience even if it is with someone you love. I would say ‘try it for yourself,’ however, I wouldn’t put anyone through this kind of torture, not even my enemies.”4
“Earlier this month, I met with five local sex trafficking survivors, ages 14 to 17, all of whom were found in abandoned homes or apartments where adult men bought and sold them. Some were missing for days or even weeks before investigators found them. I asked these girls about the Council’s bill—they were furious. They said that if DC decriminalized brothels, there would be “more missing girls” with less hope of being found. “Why stop there?” one of them asked. “Why not just decriminalize our murder?”5
The stakes are high. We know that better than anyone. The full decriminalization of prostitution in Washington, D.C. would endanger the safety and health of prostituted women across the city.
Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson
- 1. Board, Editorial. “Opinion | D.C.’s Bill to Decriminalize Prostitution Would Hurt the People It Aims to Help.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Sept. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dcs-bill-to-decriminalize-prostitution-would-hurt-the-people-it-aims-to-help/2019/09/02/228b5d06-cb56-11e9-a1fe-ca46e8d573c0_story.html.
- 2. Meyers, Alexi Ashe, and Rebecca Zipkin. “Opinion: Legalizing Prostitution in NYS Would Ignore Its True Costs.” City Limits, 6 June 2019, citylimits.org/2019/05/31/prostitution-new-york-legal/.
- 3. Hatcher, Marian, and Rebecca Bender. “An Open Letter to All Presidential Candidates.” Exodus Cry, 26 June 2019, exoduscry.com/blog/changinglaws/an-open-letter-to-all-presidential-candidates/.
- 4. King, Colbert. “Opinion | D.C.’s Bill to Decriminalize Prostitution Has a Big Blind Spot.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dcs-bill-to-decriminalize-prostitution-has-a-big-blind-spot/2019/08/30/7d81190e-ca7e-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html.
- 5. Vafa, Yasmin. “OPINION: DC Council Bill Would Turn Our Nation’s Capital Into a Capital for Sex Tourism and Trafficking: Washingtonian (DC).” Washingtonian, 17 July 2019, www.washingtonian.com/2019/07/16/dc-council-bill-would-turn-our-nations-capital-into-a-capital-for-sex-tourism-and-trafficking/.