Murder as an occupational hazard

I wrote this piece – Murder as an Occupational Hazard – in 2007 when 5 women’s bodies were found in Atlantic City, NJ.  I really wanted to stress how misogyny plays a role in serial killers who target women. Certainly, there are other “vulnerable populations” that these killers could target: runaways, drug dealers on the street, the elderly, the disabled, male prostitutes, etc. — but all too often the common denominator is gender, and profession, although clearly a factor, is secondary.

Recently, the bodies of 10 female sex workers were discovered in NY. Hopefully, it will spur more debate about legalizing (or not) prostitution, a culture that ‘permits’ gender-based violence, devaluing people (for whatever reason), impunity, and making heroes out of serial killers. I just want to add that in this discussion/debate, people need to address the prostitution of minors (johns that use them) and sexual trafficking.

Lust murder: Prostitutes as victims of throwaway capitalism

This is David Rosen’s take:

Many of the female victims of these horrendous murder sprees have been prostitutes. They tend to be young women in their 20s, lost to their birth families and community, and often on drugs. They seem like lost souls who have nothing left but their bodies to sell. They are throwaway living commodities of capitalism.

Getting away with murder on Long Island

This is Nancy Goldstein’s take:

It’s not yet clear whether one killer or multiple killers are responsible. No suspects have surfaced. But that’s not what makes this story really tragic. Some of those 10 people might be alive today if it hadn’t been for the lackluster response of law enforcement and the press coverage of the case — much of it sensationalist and dehumanizing — all because of the first victims’ sex-worker status.

Selling and abusing children on the streets of America

This is another national shame…minors being prostituted.

What it’s like to be 17 and having sex for money

“Do you know how many times I got raped?” she says. “Do you know how many guns I got put to my temples? How many times I had knives to my throat? How many times I got beaten — with hangers, brooms, whips, and belts?”

What?! You mean it’s not a glamorous life like MTV and HBO would have us believe?

The 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking issued by Shared Hope International put Las Vegas at the top of ten cities it surveyed for the Department of Justice. Shared Hope estimated there were about four hundred young girls being trafficked in Vegas every year thanks in part to what it called a “hyper-sexualized entertainment industry.”

It’s not just an industry that hyper-sexualized, it’s the entire society – no small thanks to porn culture.

The city’s Yellow Pages directory boasts eighty-nine pages of listings for “escort services.” The section starts with a full-page ad for a “barely legal teen hotline” offering “hundreds of choices” of blonds and brunettes. The next page offers “college teens” and “naughty school girls,” and promotions for “teen cheerleaders” and other youthful offerings go on for dozens of pages. Nevada, after all, is a notorious tourist destination because it offers legal prostitution, with close to forty licensed bordellos. It all helps lend what Shared Hope calls a “veneer of legitimacy” to illegal sexual activity with youth.

All I can say is, Ewwwww. A pedophile’s paradise…right here in America.

Abused victims become accused victims

Women in prison for killing pimp gets clemency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A woman who was 16 when she ambushed and killed her former pimp in a Southern California motel room has been granted clemency by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sara Kruzan, now 32, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the 1994 shooting death of George Gilbert Howard. Prosecutors said Kruzan was no longer working for Howard when she killed him.

Calling it “excessive,” Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s life sentence to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Her clemency petition to the governor, approved Sunday, cited years of abuse and psychiatric reports saying she suffered from battered women’s syndrome.

Sen. Leland Yee, who advocated for Kruzan, said she had turned her life around in prison and could be a role model for abused kids if released. Her case was the centerpiece of Yee’s failed bill to allow reduction of life sentences for minors.

Read more:

16 years old when she was a sex worker?! Where is the outrage when minors are being pimped?! The media is not helping by glamorizing pimps’ attire, pimping rides, etc.

Sentencing disparities

The news article Crack Cocaine and Powder Cocaine Punishments Modified, which discusses sentencing parity, got me thinking. First, let’s start with a snippet from the article:

The sentencing disparity was viewed as unjust because everything about the two drugs is pharmaceutically the same, except the demographic who buys them. African Americans accounted for 82.7 percent of crack cocaine convictions in 2007. Powder cocaine tends to be purchased by upper class suburban youth, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though the new law only applies in federal courts, which only hears a small fraction of cocaine possession cases, many states have significantly lowered the sentencing disparity already. Virginia, for instance is 2-to-1.

I knew of this disparity for some time, so I was quite happy to see that it will be resolved. I’m sure there are a lot of other sentence disparities involving race & ethnicity (rape comes to mind – I believe minorities receive  longer sentences). But, it made me think about the gender disparities in sentencing. I’ve often seen comments by men (and some women) that women receive shorter sentencing for killing a man or that female teachers get off easy when they sexually abuse their students. I’ve certainly seen some cases like this, but why don’t people recognize the gender disparity when women get charged more often than men or have longer sentences than men?

Failure to protect” laws come to mind. Here’s a paper posted on the Liz Library about how mothers are more often charged with failure to protect than fathers. I’ve often seen these cases in the news.

Who’s failing whom? A critical look at failure-to-protect laws by Jeanne A. Fugate

I’ve also seen news articles where women are charged with false allegations – but are men? Research (Bala & Schumann) finds more men make false allegations than women in family court.

I’ve seen articles about women being gagged from talking to the media about their family court cases – but are men? 

And from:  Defending justice

Women can be charged with child abuse or drug trafficking if they test positive for drugs during pregnancy. It is estimated that at least 200 women in 30-40 states have been “arrested and criminally charged for alleged drug use or other actions during their pregnancy,” the majority of them being poor women of color.22 This criminalizes a medical problem, violates women’s privacy rights, and undermines the doctor-patient relationship, without doing anything to help women to have healthy babies.

Or, how about testing positive for alcohol during pregnancy? This seems Taliban-esque, don’t you think?

…laws that have been passed in five states that make it legal to place a woman under “civil confinement” if she drinks while pregnant. She’s not confined to prison but to an institution where workers can monitor what she imbibes. The rationale being that drinking–as we all know–is not good for a fetus. (From: ABC News)

And, why do incarcerated mothers more often lose their children than fathers?

Prison shouldn’t be a bar to motherhood

Most women in prison are mothers, and they are five times as likely as imprisoned fathers to have children in foster care. (When a father goes to prison, the children are most likely to live with their mother; when a mother is in prison, the children are most likely to live with a grandparent, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports.)

And females can be further punished if they served time for drug use:  Out of jail, mothers struggle to reclaim children

A federal law signed by former President Bill Clinton prohibits people with a drug felony from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program that provides temporary assistance for five years or less to families living below the poverty line.

“The ban singled out drug offenses, but not rape or murder or other kinds of offenses that one might consider much more heinous and you’ve singled it out for lifetime punishment,” says Jacobs.

Prostitution also comes to mind. More prostitutes are charged with crimes than are Johns, or even pimps.

Incest, although it’s more traumatic to victims, also results in shorter sentences for men than stranger-perpetrated sexual assaults. Is there a patriarchal reason behind this (ie. that fathers “own” their daughters or that men are more prone to stranger-perpetrated crimes)?

Here’s a case in Iowa, with lots of facts interspersed:  Case shows frustrations of proving allegations of incest 

Here’s a PDF on differences between stranger and non-stranger crimes: Violence between lovers, strangers, and friends

Look at the royal treatment incestuous adults are given in California: Child sexual abuse and the state

And, of course, there’s virtual impunity in rape cases: US Senate Committee to hold hearing on rape investigations

Modern-day slavery

Despite laws, reports the NY Times, few perpetrators of sexual slavery are arrested. Some police officers aren’t digging for information when they arrest prostitutes and some are making arrests for prostitution rather than trafficking in order to push their caseloads through.

Despite tough laws, few are arrested for sex trafficking

 A federal law passed in 2000 with life prison penalties has resulted in 196 cases with convictions against 419 people, according to the United States Department of Justice.

The scale of those numbers contrasts starkly with the 14,500 to 17,500 people the State Department estimates are brought into the United States each year for forced labor or sex.

Now that we’ve got the laws (not all countries do), we must enforce them. It’s an outrage that slavery exists again in the ‘modern’ world.