A sex worker experiences first hand the stigma of the trade after losing custody of 3 children when an abusive husband cries “Whore!”.
The inspiration for the film came from the eye opening experience of being a sex worker faced with a custody battle after having been a victim of domestic violence. It shocked me that a twice arrested wife beater could turn the tables on his victim by making allegations of prostitution.
No longer was he a wife beater in the courts eyes, it seemed that they had unofficially dropped the charges from “wife beater” to “whore beater” and that apparently wasn’t nearly as bad. Social workers, Guardian ad Litem’s and even attorneys took their turns throwing obstacles and delays in my direction to delay my progress through their system and provide an advantage to my husband, who immediately plead guilty and signed a case plan to voluntarily cooperate with the removal of the children into state care. I on the other hand plead not guilty to any misconduct warranting that the children be removed from my custody. I was not the abuser, and had never abused or neglected the children. This I was told made me the “hostile parent”. During my four year battle for custody I found very little support for Sex Workers in Custody disputes. In fact, I found little or no reference to any sex work related custody cases at all!
I think that the discrimination that I faced within the family court system is more prevalent than we are aware of. My project is to create a documentary film about my particular case and the battle that I wage against the Family Court interviewing key organizations such as the Guardian ad Litems office to understand their views and opinions regarding sex worker parents and their right to raise their children. It is important to recognize that it is not only Sex Worker rights at play here, but also the rights of the children of Sex Workers to have access to their Sex Worker parent in the absence of abuse or neglect. The fact that the family court has the ability to make custody decisions based on a parents involvement in the sex industry is astounding and should not be allowed. In most cases these children are not even aware of the parents involvement, all they know is that abruptly one day they are with their parent, and without warning they rarely see that parent again.
The emotional trauma of the loss of the parent far outweighs any effect of the parents occupation on the child. In my case, the children were unaware and home with their father when I left the home to go to work at night. It is critical that we begin to understand what is happening to these children. We must question a court that’s stated purpose is to protect the children, when clearly that is not the the goal when a judge can ignore complaints and descriptions of emotional abuse and neglect in their current placement with a father that has a history of Domestic Violence simply because a sex worker parent “posed no real option”. I questioned how a court could rule in such a way.
It was on my mind as I was watching television and saw several references to prostitutes on that reinforce negative stereotypes of trashy streetwalkers, drug addicts, and references to the fact that all prostitutes are worthless. This I believe to be an important factor in the attitude of the family court. Sex Workers are one of the last social groups that is still okay to depict with such intolerance. We should be offended, and demand sensitivity. It is the equivalent of “Fried Chicken, Watermelon, and a Hollywood Black Face movie”.
African Americans fought hard to be seen as human beings that deserve equality and sensitivity. Sex Workers need to stand up and demand the same.