US PROStitutes Collective
P.O. Box 14512, San Francisco, CA 94114
October 27, 2014
To: Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board
Re: New proposed regulations
We reviewed the new wording on the regulations and have some concerns. We appreciate that the repeal of Regulation 649.56 was an important step in the right direction towards ensuring that all victims are treated equally under the victim compensation program. However we are concerned with continued discrimination against sex workers since Regulation 649.56 was removed. We and others raised this question at the public forum on August 14 in Sacramento.
In the proposed wording of what will be Regulation 649.50 Participation in the Commission of the Crime for Which Compensation is Being Sought, it says:
(1) A victim or derivative victim of a qualifying crime who suffers injury as a direct consequence of an illegal act he or she committed shall be determined to have participated in the commission of the crime that resulted in the pecuniary loss for which compensation is being sought.
Subsection (b) clarifies that this section does not apply “if the crime is any form of rape or sexual assault, or involves domestic violence”. While this addresses the inconsistency between the statute and the regulation on this question, it does not address that sex workers who are victims of violent crimes with the exception of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence, are still excluded from compensation.
In your memo about the August 14 public forum, you asked that people address “any of our laws that have caused hardships or unfair results to victims of crime” with the purpose to “ensure that the rights of victims of crime are protected.” The fact that sex workers who are victims of violence are still excluded is a case of unfairness causing hardship and not only fails to protect these victims of crime, but implies that they somehow contributed to or are to blame for the violence committed against them.
You will remember the testimonies by sex workers at the CalVCP meetings last year where victims described not only being raped but also other traumatic and horrifying violence, such as: being attacked at knife point; attempted repeated strangulation; having their head crushed and eardrums broken; being held captive overnight; beaten; robbed. Suffering such violence will likely be the source of long term trauma and cost to the victim including the financial costs of practical security measures and psychological and health care needs. It is a travesty that victims in this situation are denied compensation to help cover those costs.
As you know during our campaign to get Regulation 649.56 repealed, there was widespread public sentiment that blaming victims is outdated and archaic, and that discrimination against sex workers in compensation should end. The continued exclusion of some violence against sex workers from compensation still perpetuates the myth that somehow sex workers are less deserving of assistance in recovery from being a victim of violent crime, are responsible for and contribute to that and they deserve what they get.
As we’ve said before, these double-standards encourage violence against sex workers by sending the message that it is tolerated: this undermines sex workers’ safety. It is widely known that violent men who attack sex workers and get away with it often go on to murder other women. This is what occurred in the serial murders case of the Grim Sleeper serial murders in Los Angeles, and other cases of serial murders. All women’s safety is at risk when violence against sex workers is not taken seriously. Any woman can at any moment be suspected of being a “whore”, in particular, but not only, if you are a woman of color.
We also want to highlight Regulation 649.4(b) that specifies that CalVCP won’t pay compensation for rape and other violent crimes “while a person is on felony probation, parole or is incarcerated.” Many sex workers are also formerly incarcerated people and we are opposed to this discrimination. Questions were asked about this at the public forum. What changes are being proposed to allow formerly incarcerated people on felony probation or parole to be eligible for compensation when they are victims of crime?
Also, the new regulations have the problematic requirement that sex workers and others have to cooperate with law enforcement in order to get compensation. The wording in Regulation 649.50(d) says:
“Significant weight may be given to the evidence from and conclusions of a law enforcement agency after investigation of the qualifying crime when determining whether the victim or derivative victim participated in the commission of a crime.”
Our experience has been that law enforcement officers are routinely dismissive and biased against sex workers. Victims may be understandably reluctant to report considering that police/law enforcement are often hostile to victims of sexual and other violence, in particular if they are people of color and/or low income; police often fail to investigate, instead launch an investigation into a rape victim, not a rape suspect. Law enforcement cooperation may also put victims at risk of retaliation from their attacker. Given the growing public concern over police harassment and brutality, particularly against communities of color, homeless and other low income people, we urge you to change this requirement. We recognize that this section does not apply in cases of rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence, creating a double standard for victims.
We look forward to a response from you to the concerns addressed in this letter. Thank you for your consideration.