On Tuesday, sex worker activists will gather to mark the 11th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Vigils in New York, Los Angeles and around the world will be held to highlight the everyday violence sex workers face and to honor those who have died.
But the day is not just about remembering those lost; it’s also about acknowledging sex workers as something other than victims. It’s a chance for sex worker activists to fight for greater rights and visibility and to push for saner laws that make sex workers safer rather than pushing them further underground.
It’s is also a time for the general public to acknowledge that sex workers are not faceless victims but people who deserve more than to die violently and be forgotten.
Incidents of violence against sex workers are all too common, but two recent cases highlight the continuing importance of this day of remembrance. Last year, Deanna Ballman, a 23-year-old pregnant mother of two, was raped and killed after answering an ad on Craigslist, according to a recent court filing by a Columbus, Ohio, prosecutor. The Associated Press reported that Ballman was working as a prostitute to support herself and her two young children. Ali Salim, a former doctor who was recently charged with her killing, is alleged to have injected Ballman with a lethal dose of heroin. Her body was found in her car on the side of a rural road in central Ohio.