Stepping Stone’s executive director, Rene Ross, points out that every time a prostitute is killed—sex workers have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the Canadian national average—media accounts emphasize that the victim was a prostitute, but not that she (or he) was also a mother, daughter, friend or, for example, animal lover. By thinking of sex workers only in terms of their stigmatized occupation, we don’t have to care about them as people.
In New Mexico, where I live, the remains of eleven women (and the unborn fetus of one) were found buried on a mesa outside of Albuquerque in 2009. The women had disappeared between 2003 and 2005, and most, according to police, were involved with drugs and/or prostitution. Why did it take the police so long to find the bodies of these women, and why do their murders still remain unsolved? Some observers have suggested that because the women were—or were alleged to be—prostitutes, there was less pressure to find them after they went missing, or to solve their murders once their bodies were found. As long as the victims were sex workers, then the non-sex worker public can feel safe in the knowledge that they are not at risk. We know that prostitution is dangerous, so it’s expected that some of them will die grisly deaths, and be buried like trash on a mesa outside of town.
Source: Sociological Images
Yeah, it's really important to portray sex workers as people. Not just because they're actually people but because enough people seem to think they're not people that a) some people think it's really ok to rob, rape, assault, or murder them, and b) waaaaay too many other people who don't actually commit those crimes seem to agree that, yeah, it's ok to do that stuff to them. Because, as Green River serial killer Gary Ridgway put it, "I thought I was doing you guys a favor, killing, killing prostitutes ... Here you guys can't control them, but I can."
While researching this post I learned that Ridgway dumped the body of one of his victims near the parking lot of the hospital where my daughter was born -- just a nine minute drive from my neighborhood.
If that victim had been the only one, and if Ridgway was the only criminal who calculatedly chose sex workers, then maybe this wouldn't be a big deal. But as DeMello says in her article being a sex worker is 40 times more dangerous than the average job -- more dangerous than coal mining, more dangerous than crab fishing in the Bering Sea. They're people. They should be treated like people, not garbage.