I am Kristen DiAngelo, a survivor of sex trafficking, beatings, and sexual assault and a sex worker who uses the internet to meet clients. I first want to express my solidarity and support for Heather, the woman who courageously shot and killed Neal Falls when he assaulted her. Heather worked as a sex worker via online advertising, as many of us do. I am concerned about the ongoing safety of my colleagues as well as myself.
Neal Falls targeted sex workers because he knew that we live in quiet isolation. We keep our whereabouts and activities as secret as possible NOT because we are ashamed of this work, but because we live in daily terror that police will arrest us for the simple act of earning a living. We are driven underground and painted as either victims or as villains in the media. The laws that dictate our conditions are driven by these myths and misrepresentations. Neal Falls could have been stopped much sooner had sex workers not been alienated by from basic legal and occupational protections such as: a right to report violent crimes without fear of arrest, shared and safe workspaces without risk of committing felonies and the ability for potential clients to provide their real identities to us without fear of arrest. All rights afforded others, but not us.
I myself was held hostage, raped, beaten and strangled by a serial predator when I was working on the streets, and engaged in survival. Atrocities such as these have always happened to sex workers, but have never been paid attention to until the rise of the internet. Sites such as backpage have actually helped to keep us safe. If we want to really stop predators like this, then we have to be realistic about what helps them to flourish.
The national attention given to the Neal Falls murder has not touched on what made this man’s suspected assault and murder rampage possible. In our eyes, those who have been there, it is the stigma, isolation, societal shunning, inability to report crimes, and inability to work under safe work conditions due to criminalization that help these predators to flourish. Across the globe, sex workers are universally calling for an end to the criminalization of exchanging sex for money because it is that very criminalization that enables opportunistic predators to target us. Under the current system, the only safety resources sex workers have are each other. Criminalization does not make women and trafficking victims more safe, nor does the targeting of our advertising sites.
Today I am inviting policy-makers to join me in calling for a nationwide moratorium on enforcement of laws that outlaw the consensual exchange of sex for money. Continuing to treat sex workers like criminals in light of the Neal Falls murder only encourages more predators to target us. Let this horrific case be a tipping point in America’s misguided and deadly approach to prohibiting prostitution.
Executive Director – Sex Workers Outreach Project of Sacramento
844-796-7722 ext. 0