Why Violence Against Sex Workers Is A Very Real & Feminist Issue

For those of you who have not yet read the long account of the terrible situation Jill Brenneman & Amanda Brooks find themselves in, get a cup of coffee and go do so.

lifetime_moviesTheir several year long ordeal reads like a Lifetime movie. It has all the sensational elements that are de rigueur in those films: betrayal, stalking, abuse, rape, bad medical diagnoses, a failed justice system, and, yes, female heroics. Unlike the made for TV movies, Amanda & Jill have not emerged victorious. While there may yet be time and help for Amanda, Jill’s sentence is sadly set. Jill is living as a murder victim on borrowed time.

The story begins with a wealthy client of Amanda’s who just happens to own his own airplane. This client, dubbed “Pig”, is a poor pilot. His bad landing results in physical injuries to both Amanda and Jill. His privilege and clout as a wealthy white man leads to poor medical help, resulting in even worse physical care. Amanda is left with permanent brain damage. This client then becomes clingy and possessive, attempting to hold Amanda hostage, proposing a trade of her services for his payment of her unpaid medical bills ~ bills he ought to be paying anyway. Pig’s fantasies of just who owes who what include his “right” to Amanda. He rapes her. More than once. Despite having a serious diagnosis and no medical insurance to assist with treatment, Amanda breaks all contact with the client. His desperate response is to seek out Jill for information on Amanda. The client sends goons ~ not just to intimidate Jill, but to physically beat and rape her. Jill does not provide the information they seek. The physical abuse Jill endures leads to injuries which do not simply threaten her life, but will end it. It isn’t a matter of “if”, but just “when” she will die. While Jill refuses to be called a hero, she withstands the continued brutal terrorism and never divulges where Amanda is. (We wouldn’t fault a trained soldier in a time of war for breaking down and confessing something; but Jill withstands her torture and confesses nothing.) Through it all, the two women seek legal recourse, including restraining orders and law suits for medical damages. None of these legal options produce anything other than more pain. The goons continue, yes; but there’s emotional abuse and betrayal as well. Amanda’s family accuses her of being “greedy” in her legal action against the client; friends, including other sex workers, cooperate with the client & his goons, providing information about their location & activities. Alone & isolated, Amanda and Jill go into serious hiding, cutting themselves off from virtually every human they knew. But because money is needed to survive (and hopefully get her much-needed surgery), Amanda, who is the only one to care for Jill, must continue to work as escort ~ despite her physical & emotional pain and further risk to her life.

While there was considerable coverage of the attack on porn star Christy Mack, Amanda & Jill’s horrific story remains largely uncovered by anyone in the media. Aside from an interview at Tits & Sass, a few tweets, etc., there’s little awareness. Sure, a porn star has more “celebrity status” than virtually every other type of sex worker, but I still believe there’s the old porn star ~ sex worker divide at work here.

international day to end violence against sex workers hashtagFrankly, the whole thing reeks of sexism. It’s more than a story to focus on today, December 17th, International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (#IDEVASW on Twitter); it’s a matter of feminism and violence against women.

For some, the story is too sensational to be believed, too far from their realities to be comprehended. Hell, it’s a hard story for anyone to digest. But it’s all too real and relatable.

If you replace the airplane incident with a car accident, if you replace the role of client with a non-paying date, you have the story of potentially any woman. From the sexist dismissal in terms of both medical treatment and legal recourse, to the slut-shamming & victim-blaming of acquaintance rape , stalking & abuse, everywhere there’s the stink of male privilege. Wealthy, white, male privilege even turned things more fantastic, allowing the domestic-violence-esque client to hire goons rather than count on his friends to do his dirty work. The inability to get proper care, protection, and even to be believed is something that any woman who has experienced domestic violence, rape, or otherwise sought justice in our very male legal system knows. This, sadly, could be the story of any woman.

The fact that they’re sex workers, with even less legal standing and protections, is just the ugly, bitter, frosting on top of this painful cluster-fuck of a cake.

don-t-keep-calm-and-stop-violence-against-womenJill & Amanda have been discredited, disbelieved, bullied, and further victimized, both by “the system” and peers alike. Yes, peers too. As a survivor, I’ve worked with a number of survivor of rape and violence and know all-too-well how folks want to believe they themselves are safe from such things. For example, women will lock their doors & widows at night, even though they know the fact is that those they lock in are more dangerous than those they lock out. In attempts to cement this reality that they are safe, they will focus on how they have insulated themselves from danger ~ and how the victims must not have. Likewise, sex workers want to believe in all the precautions they take in their work makes them immune from the dangers ~ and when stories like Jill & Amanda’s surface, some will want to see where Jill & Amanda “went wrong” or “deserved it”. To those who think this way, congrats, you’ve further solidified your faux visions of personal safety ~ even as you’ve further joined the number of asshats who would further victimize and stigmatize victims.

For those of you who want to make a real impact, there are things you can do. Yes, you can actively participate in conversations and movements to affect changes that protect the rights of women and sex workers; but you can also help Amanda & Jill directly.

donate11) You can safely & anonymously donate money to help cover their living expenses and medical costs. All you need to do is copy this email address, abrooks2014 AT hush.com, and then click to visit GiftRocket where you will paste the email address into the form. You can send a note along if you wish.

2) Spread the word about Jill & Amanda’s story ~ including information about how to help them. Make some noise! This most certainly includes any media or legal contacts you may have.

4 thoughts on “Why Violence Against Sex Workers Is A Very Real & Feminist Issue

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