Urban Justice Center
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PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release:Contact:Susan Blake (212) 713-5678 pony@panix.com
Wednesday, 17 December 2003orJuhu Thukral (646) 602-5690 jthukral@urbanjustice.org

Candlelight Vigil Calls for an End to Violence Against Sex Workers

International Memorial Day Focuses Attention on Violence Against Sex Workers

(New York City, December 17, 2003) On December 17th, there will be public events around the United States and the world, in New York, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Maine, as well as Belgium, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Taiwan, to call attention to violence committed against sex workers.

In New York, a candlelight vigil and memorial will be held at 6 PM at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South. The New York memorial is being organized by PONY (Prostitutes of New York), the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, and Judson Memorial Church. In case of heavy rain, the group will gather in the Garden Room of Judson Church, which has a separate entrance at 242 Thompson Street.

The Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was conceived by the Sex Workers Outreach Project, in the wake of the recent conviction of Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, who killed at least 48 prostitutes. Ridgway said, "I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex ... I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."

This grave issue is not unique to the West Coast. This summer, a 19-year-old immigrant prostitute who worked out of her Manhattan apartment was murdered, and a transgender woman working in Manhattan was severely beaten and stalked this fall by a man posing as a customer. Serial killers have also preyed upon sex workers in New York, where Joel Rifkin killed 17 sex workers before his arrest in 1993.

Many more violent crimes against prostitutes remain unaddressed. Revolving Door, a report by the Sex Workers Project, documents reports from street prostitutes who describe difficulties reporting violence committed against them to the police. When asked about reporting violence to the police, "Carol" told researchers, "If I call them, they don't come. If I have a situation in the street, forget it. 'Nobody told you to be in the street.' After a girl was gang raped, they said 'Forget it, she works in the street.'" She continued, "I hope that never happens to your daughters. I'm human." We challenge the City to mount an aggressive campaign to ensure that all violence against sex workers is taken seriously by law enforcement authorities. The full report can be found at http://www.sexworkersproject.org/RevolvingDoor.html.

Sex workers are a marginalized and stigmatized group of women, men, and youth, including transgender persons. Violence committed against this group is a human rights issue, and this vigil serves as a reminder that the lives of these victims matter.

Information about the New York vigil can be found at the following websites:

PONY Vigil (http://www.cyntconnors.com/PONYWeb/Pages/NYC17Dec03.html)
Sex Workers Project (http://www.sexworkersproject.org/)
Sex Workers Outreach Project (http://swop-usa.org/).