From Swop Chicago – Decriminalize/Legalize Prostitution Before More Women Die

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, October 14, 2011

Contact: Serpent,

 (312) 252-3880

CHICAGO – Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-Chicago) were saddened by the recent tragedy in a Chicago hotel which resulted in the senseless violence against and murder of Sarai Michaels, of Wisconsin. As fellow sex workers and allies, SWOP-Chicago extends its sympathies to the family of Sarai Michaels.

The Chicago Police Department are to be commended for their quick work in catching the perpetrator so that he can be brought to justice. Additionally, the high bail set by the Cook County Prosecutor’s office and the presiding judge appropriately express that violence against sex-workers should not be, nor will not be, tolerated.

“When prostitution is criminalized, sex workers become alienated from law enforcement and as a result, vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, assault, and murder. Because sex workers fear entrapment and arrest by law enforcement, they come to fear law enforcement representatives and also, perhaps, to feel that while engaging in sex work, they do not have the same right to police and law enforcement protection and support as all American citizens.” says Hannah Talos-Roddam, an organizer with SWOP-Chicago. “Thus, when a sex worker feels threatened by a client, when confronted with violence or threats of violence, sex workers often weigh these perceived threats against the threat of legal repercussions, and, as a result, do not seek aid from police or other law enforcement representatives.”

“We believe that recognizing the legitimacy of sex work and working to building alliances between particularly vulnerable populations in sex work and law enforcement officials would greatly reduce the amount of violence against sex workers, as has been sufficiently demonstrated in areas where such efforts have been made.” adds Jeffery Walsh, SWOP-Chicago member. “Decriminalization would create a safer environment for sex workers, free from stigma and discrimination.”

It is important to remember that sex workers are human. They are someone’s daughter, son, parent, sister, brother, wife or husband. Like most working Americans, many sex workers are trying to survive these tough economic conditions and provide for themselves and, often, families as well. Criminalization of prostitution dehumanizes the sex worker and makes them unprotected targets of violence.

Sex workers are not targeted because sex work is inherently dangerous. Sex workers are targeted because perpetrators know prostitutes are afraid of law enforcement and won’t seek the aid of law enforcement until it’s too late. They are targeted because of the stigma surrounding sex work. This stigma is constantly regenerated in the way politicians, end-demand advocates, and media representatives talk about prostitution.

On December 17, 2011, SWOP-Chicago will be participating in the annual “International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.” Sarai Michaels will be remembered in this year’s events.

For more information on this event, please contact SWOP-Chicago at