Violence against prostitutes
Violence against prostitutes deals with the violence suffered by prostitutes, who are predominantly women, including in extreme cases murder. It also includes sex trafficking of women, the selling of women for the purpose of prostitution.
Licensed brothels vs street sex workers
In 2004 the homicide rate for female prostitutes in the United States was estimated to be 204 per 100,000, although this figure mixes illegal work with legal work. This figure is considerably higher than that for the next riskiest occupations in the United States during a similar period (4 per 100,000 for female liquor store workers and 29 per 100,000 for male taxicab drivers). However, there are substantial differences in rates of victimization between street prostitutes and indoor sex workers who work as call girls, or in brothels and massage parlors.
Women who work legally in licensed brothels are much less likely to be victimized. However there are rare attacks or murders of sex workers in licensed brothels. For example, in June 2003, a Thai sex worker was murdered with a knife by a customer in the Pascha brothel in Köln, Germany. She managed to press the alarm button in her room and security personnel caught the perpetrator. Violence against male prostitutes is less common.
Violent clients, pimps and police officers
Perpetrators may include violent clients, pimps, and corrupt law-enforcement officers. Prostitutes themselves often take their clients to out of the way places where they are less likely to be interrupted, which is very convenient for their attackers. Being outside the law in most jurisdictions, prostitutes are less likely than the law-abiding citizens to be looked for by police if they disappear, making them favored targets of predators.
According to a study conducted on one hundred and thirty people working in San Francisco as adults in prostitution, 82% had been physically assaulted, 83% had been threatened with a weapon and 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes.
Prostitutes (particularly those engaging in street prostitution) are also sometimes targeted by serial killers, who may consider them easy pickings and less likely to be missed, or who use the religious and social stigma associated with sex workers as justification for their murder.
The unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper killed at least five sex workers in London in 1888. Due to the frequent murders of prostitutes at that time and place, however, it is difficult to be certain of the number killed by Jack the Ripper. These particular murders are distinguished from other murders of sex workers during the same time period due to the post-mortem mutilations that occurred, and it is for that reason that other murders of prostitutes are not usually attributed to the Ripper, or are disputed.
Joel Rifkin confessed to killing 17 prostitutes in the New York area between 1989 and 1993, without there having been a missing persons report filed on any of the women during that time.
More recently, Robert Pickton, a Canadian who lived near Vancouver, made headlines after the remains of numerous missing prostitutes were found on his family farm. He has now been convicted of the murders of 6 women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and is suspected by police of killing at least twenty more (though no charges have been filed in relation to their deaths). In December 2007 he was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
- Potterat et al., 2004
- Castillo et al., 1994
- Weitzer 2000, 2005
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- CNN.com Retrieved on 10-27-07
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