Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on Recent Sex Worker Suicides

Eva Rivera is a proud lesbian Chicana, daughter, sister and sex worker who can walk in 6 inch heels and twirl naked on a pole in front of total strangers but is still viciously afraid of moths. She hails from Fresno, CA and is a poet and aspiring film maker. You can find her more personal writing on her blog.

I was gone for a few weeks adjusting to a new city so I missed some opportunities to write about issues that are important in my life. Dia de los Muertos passed and I barely had time to make my ofrenda for my Tio who passed away recently. It turned out beautifully and I'm sure he was happy to see it. I also started a part time job as a phone sex operator--one of the lower paying jobs in the industry but also very versatile and considered one of the safest. I'll be sure to post my experiences with that soon. One peice of news that I read while away kept creeping back up my mind no matter how I tried to shut it out and It's what I am going to be discussing in this post. It was news that was very painful for me to process as I have struggled with mental health issues for a long time. Being a sex worker, it also hit very close to home. I don't think this peice of news went too mainstream but it carries a lot of weight and potential for analysizing some pretty glaring social fails.

On November 1, two women who were both sex workers killed themselves with poisonious gas in a suicide pact. The women met online and found that they both had a lot in common including that they both had recently been stalked. Both had reported the stalking to local police. Both felt that the police did not address the situation which they wrote about in notes they left behind. They also suffered from mental health issues and it appears that they actually met on suicide information website.

The possibility of being stalked is something that nearly every sex worker has to face at a much higher rate than those employeed in other industries. It's something that i'm acutely aware of when I'm sometimes asked for my personal information from clients, when I hear about things like the Porn Wiki leaks that happened not so long ago which leaked porn actors home addresses and real names. Stalking isn't something to be dismissed. It has so much potential for further violence and diminshes, if not destroys, your sense of security. In the case of the victims, reporting it to local authorities did nothing to give them back thier peace of mind.

It's probably been overstated that police are known for either violent over reactions or are found at the other side of that spectrum and seem to be uselessly inactive and unsympathetic. There was an investigation into the allegations that the police did not do enough to address the stalking that these women were experiencing. In at least one of the cases, the police did nothing about the report of a stalker. In the other case, a restraining order was issued. Though we can only hope that someone who is already violating boundaries would stop because of a peice of paper.

I can't say that the suicides were the result of the anxiety and fear of being stalked, lagging and unsympathtic law enforcement or the stress of being an industry where workers must bear both the burden of social stigma and often dangerous working conditions. But couple this situation with a history of untreated mental illness and lack of support networks and the burden becomes too heavy. My sympathies go out to these women and thier families and friends. Too often we hear about the murders of sex workers, it's simply heartbreaking to see more of our sisters go this way. At times like these I become exhasperated at the lack of support sex workers--marginalized people in general--have when it comes to trying to keep ourselves safe from violence. Add to that the lack of support we have trying to live with mental illnesses. Yes, many sex workers have mental illnesses. I'm sure in some cases, the two correlate and feed each other. But in many cases we simply want someone to talk to who won't judge us based on how we pay our bills and instead focus on treatment and helping us build a support network.