Statement from Rachel West of the US PROStitutes Collective at public hearing of the California Victim Compensation program, February 28, 2013
We support compensation for all women who have been victims of rape and other violence including women who have been trafficked as proposed in your amendment to Rule 649.56, subdivision (d).
You propose that they be exempt from Rule 649.56 “Involvement in the Qualifying Crime of Prostitution” section being applied to them. The fact that you have had to highlight that women raped in the context of sex work are being denied compensation under this rule shows just how problematic this rule is.
We don’t think it is right though, as your proposal lays out, that one set of victims should be exempt from the rule and others not. Every woman who has been raped is the victim of a violent and extremely traumatic crime, and should be entitled to compensation. For the board to dismiss some victims as undeserving and deny them compensation, is to deny them the official acknowledgment of what they have suffered. It is an invitation to discrimination and corrosive of open justice.
We would like to know how will the board establish that someone is a victim of trafficking? Will it be in accordance with US law (which in practice seems to have an ever expanding definition)? Will it be based on “victims identified” as such by the police, immigration authorities and voluntary sector agencies, or will it be restricted to victims where there has been a successful prosecution and conviction of their trafficker?
State department figures show that there is a big discrepancy between these two definitions. http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2010/142750.htm#2 How can we have confidence in the accuracy of who will be deemed a victim of trafficking when the issue of trafficking is riddled with misinformation? We know of immigrant sex workers who have been falsely labeled as victims of trafficking just by virtue of being immigrants. We have seen how statistics and so-called evidence about the numbers of victims of trafficking have exaggerated, fabricated, and misreported in order to justify demands for police and immigration authorities to increase their powers and their budgets and for voluntary sector agencies to increase their funding.
Will women’s testimonies about whether they were forced into the sex industry be considered? Why is the situation of victims of trafficking who have been forced into prostitution being distinguished from that of other women who may consider that they were forced into prostitution by poverty or economic need, by violence, or to escape violence? Are young people or mothers who end up in prostitution because they are homeless or they are escaping domestic violence or they are struggling to feed their children considered fair game for rape?
Will the exemption only apply to people trafficked from other countries or will it apply to people trafficked within the US?
When rape victims are not compensated for rape or other violence they have suffered, and they don’t have redress when they have victims, their rape is downgraded.
On top of the trauma and then getting no justice, many women end up with drug problems, getting into petty crime, many rape victims end up in prison. So they are punished again, rather than getting the justice they deserved.
Compensation for rape acknowledges that something happened to you. When a rape victim is not compensated, it sends a message that rape is tolerated or even encouraged. Victims are stigmatized and it leads to more violence.
When violent men know it is ok to rape women who work as sex workers and government bodies let them off the hook, they feel free to hunt down prostitute women. Serial murderers continue to operate & kill sex workers and then they go on to kill other women. Rules that discriminate against sex workers increase all women’s vulnerability to rape and murder.
When it comes to a sex worker who had been raped and suffered great violence, surely these crimes are over and above what you expect in your line of work, over and above the so-called “crime” of consenting sex for money. This is what Rule 649.57 says.
Surely the seriousness of the crime should be the basis for judging who is eligible for compensation and not a judgment made about the person.
Denying compensation based on involvement in the crime of prostitution is blaming the victims.
Rule 649.56 is discriminatory and biased and we urge you to scrap it altogether.