A female sex worker in the US State of California is challenging a provision in its laws that deny rape and trauma support to sex workers. The sex worker, who was a victim of rape, was denied after-rape medical and mental health care on account of her status as a sex worker.
‘In September of 2012, Ms. R, a sex worker in Oakland, California, was beaten, robbed, and raped in her apartment by a man who had contacted her through her advertisement on Redbook,’ Slixa magazine reports. However, it emerged that she was denied medical care when she sought assistance from the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP).
CalVCP’s regulations disqualify anyone who was hurt while “involved” in sex work, Slixa said. That includes not only sex workers, but clients and support staff (e.g., drivers, bouncers, etc.). This regulation, when affected, meant that Ms R was not eligible for medical treatment or mental health care.
Slixa further reports: ‘Ms. R doesn’t have any convictions for sex work, and there aren’t any charges against her, but the CalVCP rejected her claim, based on their interpretation of the facts in the police report. The verdict was dry and bureaucratically brutal:
“We have recommended that your application be denied because: California Code of Regulations, Title 2, section 649.56(a) states that involvement in the events leading to the qualifying crime of “prostitution” by the victim may be found if the victim was “engaged in activity related to prostitution and the crime occurred as a direct result of activity related to prostitution.””
This legislation is now being challenged by Ms. R, backed by the Erotic Service Providers’ Union (ESPU), the US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a score of other activist organizations, are putting pressure on the State of California to review this policy.
‘Since the beginning of the year, they have been working to strike section 649.56 completely from CalVCP’s regulations, so that rape and assault of sex workers is treated the same as that of any other.
“I want this changed for the future so that no other victim will get a letter like I got,” Ms. R said hoping that a change in this policy will not hinder any other sex workers from getting post-trauma support.
‘The issue that Ms. R is addressing is very important, as it is a case of state-sanctioned discrimination. The fact that it is state law to deny a rape and assault victim access to victim support because that person is a sex worker is unjust and unfair,’ noted a sex worker rights activist. The California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB) is expected to meet in Sacramento to consider the future of the regulation in November 2013.
You can read the development of this story as well as get regular updates on the progression of the case here.