Washington’s leading organizations addressing gender-based violence denounce arrests of women in the sex trade as “gender-based violence”

After insisting that Seattle treats people involved in the sex trade as victims of “sexual exploitation” (which the City’s law calls what used to be “patronizing a prostitute”) for the past several years, Seattle Police Department has reversed its course and began arresting women working along Aurora Avenue in North Seattle in large numbers since this past July, as CrossCut reported last week.

We are working with our allies to fight against this recent move by the SPD by supporting the ongoing outreach effort on Aurora by POC-SWOP via its Green Light Project and organizing to promote policies based on harm reduction and human rights.

As part of such collaborative efforts, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) along with Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP), Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and women’s rights legal advocacy organization Legal Voice jointly issued a statement today protesting the arrests targeting women working on the street, stating: “Threat of arrest and incarceration is no way to help victims or populations vulnerable to exploitation and violence. We must be clear: the targeting of these women for arrest by police perpetuates gender-based violence.”

Full statement follows below. Stay tuned for our continuing work challenging the latest development in the state violence targeting people in the sex trade.

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Open Letter from Gender-Based Violence Organizations Regarding Sex Trade Arrests in Seattle

October 9, 2019

Dear Mayor Durkan and Members of the Seattle City Council,

We are leading organizations in Washington State working to end sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence. We are deeply disturbed by the news, reported last week, that the Seattle Police Department has apparently abandoned existing policy on prostitution enforcement and resumed the practice of routinely arresting women in the sex trade in North Seattle.

As organizations with many decades of experience supporting survivors of violence and their communities, we feel compelled to denounce this practice. Threat of arrest and incarceration is no way to help victims or populations vulnerable to exploitation and violence. We must be clear: the targeting of these women for arrest by police perpetuates gender-based violence.

We call on city leadership to meaningfully invest in services and alternatives to arrest and incarceration as responses to the sex trade, and to immediately put a stop to these arrests. The City of Seattle can, and must, do better.

Sincerely,

Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence
King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC)
Legal Voice
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP)
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV)

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