I couldn’t help but bring attention to this article in the Providence Journal, which was emailed to me this morning by a Speak Up participant: Man charged with assaulting escort [link redacted to protect the escort, do a search of the Providence Journal or email me for the full link].
Here’s a snippet from the article. I’ve removed the legal name of the escort because I don’t want to make ever more search results turn up for her in this case.
Check out this serious bullshit:
Assistant Attorney General Stacey Pires Veroni contacted The Journal on Friday and said that [the victim] wanted to recant her allegation because of â€œpress involvementâ€ and urged the newspaper not to identify [redacted] as the victim. â€œIâ€™m going to have difficulty with my case, or no case at all,â€ Veroni said.
In an interview with The Journal, [redacted] vehemently objected to having her name published and said that to avoid publicity she was going to tell the police she made up the attack. The publicity â€œwill ruin my entire life,â€ she said.
The alleged robbery bears resemblance to the craigslist.com cases, where a Boston University medical student is accused of robbing women who advertised services. On Monday, the Warwick police said they had an arrest warrant for Philip Markoff, 23, on four charges for allegedly attempting to rob at gunpoint an exotic dancer staying in a hotel by T.F. Green airport.
Despite [redacted]â€™s insistence that she was recanting, â€œWe believe it happened,â€ Providence Police Capt. James Desmarais said late last week. â€œUpon reviewing everything in this case, the case is still proceeding forward.â€
To speak up and tell the Pro-Jo what you think of their journalism, send a letter to editor to firstname.lastname@example.org and email Amanda Milkovits, the staff writer at the paper who wrote the article, at email@example.com.
I also found an email address for the victim and sent her a note of support. I can supply it if you’re interested and I can identify you as someone with good intentions.
Here’s the email I sent to the Pro-Jo and the journalist:
I found your article “Man charged with assaulting escort,” published on May 5,2009 to be highly problematic. By naming and giving details about a woman who is an escort and reported a crime against her, you actively discourage people who work in the sex industry from reporting violent crimes committed against them. The recent assaults and murder of sex workers in Rhode Island and Boston only underscore the vulnerability of women in the sex industry to violence and exploitation by their clients. There is no justification for giving extensive identifying details of a victim of a violent crime. You have demonstrated a lack of concern for the well-being of [redacted] that will certainly make other escorts think twice before coming forward about exploitation. Creating a wall between victims of crime and their right to legal protection is despicable.
Vice President, Sex Work Awareness
New York, NY
And here is the response of the journalist (who wrote back as I was writing this blog post):
Thank you for writing. This story was discussed pretty extensively here before it was published.
We do not publish the names of rape victims, but The Journal does publish the names of crime victims, and interviews them, and writes about the nature of the crime. Prostitutes and exotic dancers have reported being victims of assaults and robberies, and had their names published in the newspaper, including as recently as a shooting at a strip club last month.
This article was important on several levels â€“â€“ showing the nature of violence and alleged customers that women may meet. [Redacted]â€™s profession as a lawyer is also an important ethical consideration, one that is being considered by the bar associations in two states.
I’m still grappling with the intensity of this. True, the paper treated the escort the same as other crime victims. But it seems like that was done partially as a cautionary tale. I feel like this is such an impasse. Where do we go from here? How can sex workers protect themselves when their work is so stigmatized? And remember, prostitution is legal in Rhode Island (at least for now). My head is swimming.
**EDIT** Important: indoor prostitution is NOT illegal in Rhode Island due to a legal loophole (which may soon be closing). More here about the bill to re-criminalize. See also the blog Happy Endings, by the director of a documentary of the same name about legal prostitution in RI.