December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Pause a moment today to consider how the stigma against the women and men called whores and sluts endangers their lives, and the ways in which those everyday insults justify violence from police, partners, clients, strangers, and family members.
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was first conceived in 2003 as a vigil to memorialize the victims of the Green River Killer in my home state of Washington. Gary Ridgeway was initially convicted of murdering 48 women and confessed to 22 more. These women, many of them homeless, suffering from chronic medical conditions, LGBT or Native/Aboriginal, are often blamed for their own victimhood, which goes unreported, unadressed and unpunished. Robert Pickton, across the border in British Columbia, was implicated the disappearance of 60 vulnerable women over a decade. And in Cleveland, Anthony Sowell killed 11 vulnerable Black women, some of whom were estranged from their families and not reported missing by anybody.
The red umbrella is the symbol of the sex worker’s rights movement – this year marks the 10th anniversary of its adoption and the Declaration on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe.
Join the movement! Donate to the Red Umbrella Fund or a local sex workers rights organization, add your voice to Amnesty International and the World Health Organization in demanding the decriminalization of prostitution. Hold local police, prosecutors, and other organizations accountable for their treatment of sex workers and other vulnerable people, and use the insults you hear in everyday life as an opportunity to raise awareness of how whore stigma hurts everybody.