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Cry for the Merseyside Model: Crimes Against People in Prostitution/Sex Workers Must Be Treated As Hate Crimes UK Wide

From "Hate Crime, Harm Reduction & Social Inclusion: Addressing Violence Against Sex Workers in Merseyside" by Shelly Stoops (ISVA) Armistead Street Project, Liverpool CHT. http://www.ihra.net/files/2010/08/31/1009.pdf

From “Hate Crime, Harm Reduction & Social Inclusion: Addressing Violence Against Sex Workers in Merseyside” by Shelly Stoops (ISVA) Armistead Street Project, Liverpool CHT.
http://www.ihra.net/files/2010/08/31/1009.pdf

These very real women photographed above are dead. They were murdered, and most of their cases remain unsolved. Women in prostitution suffer higher rates of murder [the mortality rate for women in prostitution in London is twelve times the national average - Home Office 2004a], higher rates of rape [more than half have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted in the UK - Home Office 2004b], and higher rates of physical violence [at least three quarters have been physically assaulted - Home Office 2004b]. And when they are made to disappear, most of society does not care.

In 2006, Merseyside police declared crimes against sex workers* hate crimes. The results are so astounding I cried reading them. In Liverpool, in 2009, police convicted 90% of those who raped sex workers. In 2010, the overall conviction rate in Merseyside for crimes against sex workers was 84%, with a 67% conviction rate for rape. 6.5% is the national average conviction rate for rape.

Over the years, I’ve seen my friends in prostitution who have been raped, battered and robbed receive poor treatment from the police when they have reported these crimes, though mostly they did not. They did not report to the police crimes committed against them because they had been, or knew others who had been, treated like a criminal and charged with something related to prostitution, dismissed, and sadly there were some who were sexually exploited further. These are some of the reasons why most crimes against women in prostitution are not reported.

But not so in Merseyside. In Merseyside, crimes against people in prostitution are being reported, the victims are being treated like victims and not criminals, and the perpetrators are being convicted.

After speaking with an exited woman about what needs to change for those in the sex trade, Fiona MacTaggart MP demonstrated her interest to protect those in prostitution:

Having been a victim of rape more than once, I have seen how poorly this is handled by police. I know what it feels like not to get justice and to live with the knowledge the men who have raped me have been allowed by the system to continue to rape other women.

The stigma attached to prostitution perpetuates victim-blaming.  Much of society does not care for women in prostitution; they judge them, look down on them, and by some, they are deemed unrapable. My heart has broken listening to my friends tell me how it was their fault they were raped because they went to the hotel, got in the car, let the punter in their flat; there was no point in going to the police when they were to blame in the first place. Some of my friends did not recognise times they were raped until they had exited prostitution: they had frozen, unable to move or struggle; too scared to speak; and others because they’d ‘agreed’ to sexual acts due to fear of violence. This is rape. It is never the victim’s fault. There is never a reason or excuse to rape. There is no class of women who are unrapable. There are no women who deserve this.

The Merseyside model of making crimes against sex workers hate crimes allows the victim to feel safe in reporting the crime to the police. It also goes some way to reduce the stigma suffered by people in prostitution, which in turn will play a part in allowing them to realise when they have been the victim of rape, and to know that it is never, never, never their fault.

Mainly through lack of knowledge, most people do not understand women in prostitution. For anyone who would like to understand these women better, I urge you to read Voices of Prostitution Survivors freely here, or In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl, my charity publication, which is 77p here and 99c here. This will give you insight into the emotional, psychological and social issues affecting women in prostitution.

There are some wonderful people fighting for the Nordic model, like many of those I interviewed for Human Trafficking Awareness Month. There are also those fighting against it. But one thing people from these opposing groups agree on, if their stance stems from care and not moral judgement or profiteering, is that the safety of women in prostitution is of paramount importance. Whether there is a Nordic model or not, we still need the Merseyside model.

As a human rights issue, a series of interviews will be published here over the coming weeks that will discuss the need for this model to be implemented nationally. With the permission of the interviewees, some of these interviews will be republished on other blogs from current affairs through to sex worker blogs, and we hope this issue achieves coverage in the national press.

Right now, in the UK, it seems the safest place for those in prostitution is Merseyside. We need to make the rest of the UK equally as safe for this group of people who are the most vulnerable and at the greatest risk.

Myself and Kalika Gold (a sex worker who blogs at diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com) disagree on other issues, but we are putting those differences aside to focus on this most serious issue – keeping women, men and transgender people in prostitution safe. On this, we wholeheartedly agree. Kalika will be creating a new blog on which a petition can be signed to make all crimes against sex workers hate crimes throughout the UK. If this is made law here, other countries will need to pay attention.

Below is an example of how in practice this policy works. The full article from the Liverpool Echo can be read here.

“Sex worker Linda from Anfield was raped twice at knife-point in a terrifying attack carried out in 2007.

She fell into sex work despite a private education and supportive family.

She said: “The night I was raped I approached a man and asked him if he wanted to do business.

“I took him to a piece of waste land we used and we agreed on a price but when we got there he pulled a knife and told me he’d do what he wanted.

“He raped me and then told me to stay there and count to 10 while he walked off.

“I didn’t for some reason and followed him. I was about three or four steps behind whispering on the phone to the police.”

She was immediately taken seriously and as the case was put together she was referred to the Armistead Centre, who, through the Ugly Mugs scheme, warned other sex workers about him.

She said: “No-one asked any questions that weren’t relevant to the crime. Normally they ask about drug dealers and where you go to score.”

At court she gave evidence behind a screen but she had to go through a retrial after the first jury failed to reach a verdict.

Her attacker was convicted and given an indeterminate sentence.

Linda has now quit the sex industry, has her own home and now a new baby.” 

In a report commissioned by Boris Johnson, the London mayor, Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, recommends all crimes against sex workers should be treated as hate crimes. Andrew Boff speaks briefly here and his full report can be read here. His interview for this campaign can be read here.

To view the series of interviews for the Merseyside Model Campaign, and further information, click here.

Crimes against people in prostitution are not only hate crimes when they occur in Merseyside, they are hate crimes wherever they occur. The Merseyside model must be made UK wide.

Please support our petition on Change.org to make this the standard policing approach for the UK.

To read more about the success and the inner workings of the Merseyside model, please see the links below:

http://www.constabulary.org.uk/2012/03/21/merseyside-commended-on-sex-trade-initiative

http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/features/Not-Occupational-Hazard

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/dec/22/merseyside-police-sex-workers-protect

http://www.merseyside.police.uk/protecting-you/hate-crime.aspx

http://www.stophateuk.org/where/merseyside

http://www.merseyside.police.uk/media/21235/hate_crime_policy___procedure_2012.09.06.pdf

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2010/12/16/draft-treating-violence-against-workershate-crime-liverpool

http://www.ihra.net/files/2010/08/31/1009.pdf

* The term ‘sex worker’ has been used in this article where necessary, and also to respect those in prostitution who prefer this term.  

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Kindly republished on Ms. Magazine Blog.

About Ruth Jacobs (255 Articles)
Ruth Jacobs is the author of Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, a novel exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl. The main storyline is based loosely on events from her own life. In addition to fiction writing, Ruth is also involved in journalism and broadcasting, primarily for human rights campaigning in the areas of sex workers' rights, anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

8 Comments on Cry for the Merseyside Model: Crimes Against People in Prostitution/Sex Workers Must Be Treated As Hate Crimes UK Wide

  1. Thank you so much for supporting survivors in a bold and respectful manner. There is no way that NGO’s who are acutely aware of the statistics on homicides, rapes, battery, and every other atrocious act that sex workers endure can possibly turn the other cheek. Our work is to end sex trafficking and we cannot do this without giving survivors a loud and clear voice to reach legislative officials. I want you to know unequivocally you have the full support of the Humanitarian Alliance. We support fully your efforts on behalf of sex workers and applaud all others who join us in this fight. Please know you have our full cooperation and support. We are One!

    http://www.humanitarianalliance.org/

    http://humanitarianalliance.wordpress.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/236279383168916/

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Humanitarian-Alliance-Against-Trafficking/499224983443382

  2. Reblogged this on Soul Destruction and commented:

    Crimes against people in prostitution are not only hate crimes when they occur in Merseyside, they are hate crimes wherever they occur. The Merseyside model must be made UK wide.

  3. This is fantastic news. I have had friends who were raped who, when they went to the police, were then raped by the police! So of course they stopped reporting, and the men all knew that this was so, and took advantage of it. This was in America in the 1970s. I’m not sure it’s much better now.

  4. I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand how this works? Can you explain why labelling crimes against prostitutes hate crimes makes such a dramatic difference to the conviction rates?

    Do hate crimes automatically get higher levels or resources allocated to them or something? Why does labelling it a hate crime instead of just a crime make the police take it so much more seriously?

    • There’s far more involved in the Merseyside model than simply labelling crimes against people in prostitution as hate crimes, and more than the manner in which hate crimes are dealt with by police. Rosie Campbell OBE explains in her interview (which can be read in full here):

      “On the whole there is a more sex worker friendly policing operating in Merseyside than there was a decade ago. By sex worker friendly, I mean non-judgemental, respectful and officers who treat reports of crimes against sex workers seriously. They have a good attitude; they challenge and go beyond stereotypes and myths about sex workers and in the case of some officers who have had a lead role in developing sex work strategy in the city or in police liaison, I would argue they have been advocates of sex worker rights to safety and protection.

      I was managing Armistead Street and Portside sex work projects when, following Anne Marie Foy’s murder, we were working in partnership with the police to introduce initiatives to improve relations between sex workers and the police, encourage reporting and ensure a professional response. As part of that, Merseyside force introduced the hate crime policy in 2006 as the new SIGMA hate crime units were being established and very dedicated officers from SIGMA Liverpool North liaised with the project and worked on a range of investigations.

      As well as the hate crime policy a number of other progressive policies and changes took place: police sex work liaison officers were in place, our local Ugly Mugs scheme was improved, we saw a shift away from the enforcement of the laws on soliciting, we had the establishment of Merseyside Safe Place (sexual assault referral centre), the introduction of the Unity team specialist police rape and serious sexual offences, and in Armistead we got the first specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) for sex workers.

      These were all what I would describe as the Merseyside approach to treating crimes against sex workers as hate crime. The hate crime policy is a vital element, which sits alongside the others. Hence in my PhD work, I’ve described the hate crime approach as a banner for a multifaceted approach.”

      • Ah right. That makes more sense. Thanks for the detailed response. It sounds really interesting.

        • Thank you Stephen. If you’d like to know more you can watch a clip on BBC News here and if you’re in the UK there’s a documentary on BBC i-Player here. It’s really shocking that it hasn’t been rolled out across the UK when the conviction rates are so high in Merseyside.

22 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  8. Petition the Government to make the Merseyside Model compulsory across all UK police forces | Anti-Porn Feminists
  9. Arguing about the Nordic Model and family court | autocannibal
  10. BBC1 Inside Out: The Merseyside Hate Crime Model of Policing Prostitution – Monday 21 Oct, 7.30pm | Ruth Jacobs
  11. BBC1 Inside Out: The Merseyside Hate Crime Model of Policing Prostitution – Monday 21 Oct, 7.30pm | Soul Destruction
  12. My most in depth article arguing for the Merseyside model to be made UK wide – The F-Word | Ruth Jacobs
  13. Victim-centred: The Merseyside Model – Ruth Jacobs interviewed on Policing Today (Part 2) | Ruth Jacobs
  14. Staying Safe: The Merseyside Model – Ruth Jacobs interviewed on Policing Today (Part 1) | Ruth Jacobs
  15. The Merseyside Model Saves Lives – so why is it not being rolled out nationally? | Ruth Jacobs
  16. Rt Hon Mrs Theresa May MP: Make the Merseyside hate crime model of policing prostitution law UK wide | Ruth Jacobs
  17. Rt Hon Mrs Theresa May MP: Make the Merseyside hate crime model of policing prostitution law UK wide | Soul Destruction
  18. Kent Police ‘Safe Exit’ Scheme Claiming to Help Women in Prostitution Instead Caused Them Harm | The Huffington Post | Soul Destruction
  19. National Police Lead for Prostitution, ACC Chris Armitt, Discusses the Merseyside Model | The Huffington Post | Ruth Jacobs
  20. National Police Lead for Prostitution, ACC Chris Armitt, Discusses the Merseyside Model | Soul Destruction
  21. Kent Police ‘Safe Exit’ Scheme Claiming to Help Women in Prostitution Instead Caused Them Harm | Ruth Jacobs
  22. Deconstructing Prostitution | Yo Mama

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