A 10 month campaign led by sex worker organizations won an exciting victory on December 12, 2013 when discriminatory regulations in the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) were overturned. At a CalVCP Board meeting in Sacramento, the three Board members voted to scrap Regulation 649.56 which excludes sex workers from compensation for rape and other violent crimes. Another discriminatory regulation (649.4(b)) highlighted in the campaign, which denies compensation for rape to formerly incarcerated people, is still to be removed.
The Victims Compensation Board heard deeply moving testimony from victims which chairwoman Marybel Batjer described as “compelling”. She concluded the regulation was “repugnant”. Board Member Michael Ramos recognized that “we want to send a message that this Board is not going to stand for this.” Board members’ unanimous vote was met with loud applause. The proceedings were witnessed by numerous media outlets which gave it wide coverage across the US, in Canada and New Zealand. (see link below).
The statewide campaign led by the US PROStitutes Collective and the Erotic Service Providers Union got broad based support from church; victims’ rights groups; women’s organizations; veterans organizations; LGBTQ groups; prisoner’s rights; lawyers and legal groups, and others. Supporters expressed concern that if some victims are discriminated against in this way then any victim can be judged unworthy and refused. A common experience expressed in the testimony by sex workers was how their rapists went on to attack other women.
The ACLU submitted a legal challenge to the regulation and attended hearings in Sacramento with campaigners. Politicians and city agencies also weighed in on the side of repealing the regulation: California Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner wrote a strong two page letter to the Board; San Francisco Supervisor David Campos and the SF Department on the Status of Women sent in letters.
Before the Board meeting, sex workers groups and supporters held a press conference at the Capitol building in Sacramento to draw legislators’ attention to the regulation and other discrimination faced by sex workers.
The campaign sees this victory as an important step on the road to ending discrimination and violence against sex workers and the criminalization of sex work.