Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Light of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Sarah made me aware that today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. As such i'd like to repost a comment that a woman made, in regards to how she's been feeling post her attack.

Last week a University of Michigan Law School student sought help from the police after being assaulted by an associate professor at the university, Yaron Eliav.

Not only were the police unsympathetic to her, stating that she herself engaged in criminal activities by selling sex services, but many members of the community have spoken out, against the law student, through Above the Law, a law school online network.

Like Feministe, i think her voice deserves to be heard. She needs a safe forum to speak up and tell her story. No one deserves to be assaulted. Sex workers are human beings with human rights who deserve to be safe, in all situations, whether or not they are engaging in sex work. This is why i am reposting her comment here. I wish her all the best and truly feel for her in this difficult time:

Dear Law School,

I’m the girl who got into the mess with the professor. I posted a version of this in the comments on ATL, because using my uniquename email on lawopen means outing myself, which gives the press permission to publish my name. Fortunately, one of my classmates has offered to transmit this message to you on my behalf. Those of you who don’t know who I am yet will find out soon enough.

Most of you probably don’t know what it’s like to push a boxcutter into your own wrist and neck. Or what it’s like to walk home from the psych ward, and set to the task of cleaning a room covered in your own blood. Or how humiliating and degrading it is to be penetrated against your will. You probably read the newspaper story, but you should know that it contained factual errors, and that it omitted significant details from the police report. I had no idea what I was walking into, and I’m lucky that I’ve made it through alive.

A month after I was assaulted, I attempted suicide over the whole mess. I’ve been unable to sleep or study, for fear of this story being published. I’ve had PTSD rape dreams. Everything I’ve worked for my entire life, personally, academically, professionally, has been harmed, and I’ve spent $20,000 trying to put it all right again. And I have, in fact, been prosecuted and will be required to pay a debt to society. All I can hope is that the bar will see that this was an aberrant moment in the life of a severely depressed, suicidal, isolated person.

Reading some of your comments makes me want to go crawl under a rock and never come out. But some of your comments have made me think that maybe I can show my face again. It’s difficult reading all of these things written about me without being able to offer an explanation/defense/vignette:

I worked my way through undergrad on my own, doing crazy hours on top of a full course-load. In fact, I’ve worked every kind of menial, low-paid job since I was 15; I’ve never thought I was above any kind of work, or better than anyone else I worked with, because we were all there together. But last semester I’d been so depressed that I could barely even get myself to class, let alone keep up with my finances. In April I realized I couldn’t pay the rent for May, and my parents weren’t an option. Nor was anyone else, because there weren’t really very many people in my life at that time. The housing crisis made it so that I couldn’t get an additional loan without a co-signer. I should have found some other way, but at the time none of my thoughts were very healthy.

I love the law just as much as you do, and I like to think about the ways that it shapes the world we live in. I watch a lot of movies, and go to the gym when I can. I have dear friends at other law schools who I try to keep in touch with. I’m a quiet, introverted, sensitive person; I think I’ve read every post on lawopen and ATL, and taken them all very personally. I used to be a proud atheist, but now I know that God saved my life the night I tried to take it. I also know that God kept the man in that hotel room from killing me, because he was completely out-of-control.

I went to the police the following morning because my vision was blurred from having been hit in the face. The bruises from his belt didn’t go away for a week. I later found out that this man had targeted other sex workers, making him a serial sexual sadist. Violent men target sex workers because they know sex workers are isolated, fearful, and ashamed, and won’t go to the police.

Going to the police seems like a stupid move, as many of you have pointed out. But I was afraid for the next woman he “contracted with.” And I felt so worthless and used that I didn’t care about throwing everything I’d ever worked for. I felt so terrible, and I thought that the police would make it right… that’s what the justice system is about, right?

It’s clear to me now that the AAPD thinks this is funny. That’s why they’re not going through with the assault charge.

What I did was wrong, and I’m a criminal for having done it. But if this had been any other misdemeanor like drug use/possession, DUI, public intoxication, open container, gambling, vandalism, petty theft, or simple assault, there wouldn’t have been a two-page article in the paper. And if you got rid of all of the lawyers who had done one of the above at some point, there’d be a severe shortage.

I also feel compelled to say that despite what many of you have expressed, I am not disease-ridden; my lifetime number is still under 20. I consider myself to be well-informed in the area of reproductive rights and health, and I think everyone has a responsibility to inform their partners of their sexual history, not just sex workers. I’m recently tested, and I don’t have AIDS, herpes, Hep B, syphilis, the clap, or chancroid. And I don’t judge those people who have contracted an STD at some point, because if you’re not a virgin, you take a calculated risk every time you have sex. If you have had sex with more than one person and you don’t have a viral STD, it’s because you’re lucky.

I’m not writing because I want pity. I’m writing because the future lawyers who read this need to understand that the answer is seldom ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but often ‘it depends.’ Good people do bad things sometimes, for a variety of reasons. The reason we have ‘bright line’ rules is because there is so much gray out there. And it’s only through compassion and understanding that anyone is able to make sense of it all. My crime was a cry for help.

Finally, I wish to apologize for having brought negative attention to this prestigious law school. But I expect that every amazing thing you do will outshine my mistake- it really is an honor to be a member of such an accomplished community of people. I hope that you won’t shun me, or completely expel me from social/academic/service life at the University. Many seem to think about this as if it were some complicated hypothetical on a Torts exam. But, I’m still the same girl you knew before. And right now I’m struggling with the reality of public humiliation. I haven’t directly talked to any of you about this because I imagine some of you will want to distance yourselves from me, and I don’t wish to impose myself upon you; I don’t really know who I can still call a friend, but I’ll find out soon enough.

- That 2L Girl (’A’ & ‘384′ on ATL)


phd in yogurtry said...

So the perpetrator goes free? This is maddening and reeks of sexual discrimination. And pretty much gives free reigns to violent "johns."

Is the University taking any action against the asst prof?

I don't know much about the laws in these kinds of cases. But I was under the assumption that one is innocent until proven guilty and even criminals are protected under the constitution.

This story really saddens me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but if she wants her story told, I think she gets the right to decide where and when. Reposting her comment without her request or permission is just further exploitation.

FeministGal said...

I appreciate your concern. I received an email from her yesterday, after i put this post up, thanking me for writing it and showing my support. I also want to pass along that she wrote of planning to use her future pro-bono time to provide legal aid to sex workers, female, male, and transgendered. She also made me aware of the legal aid program, the Sex Workers' Project, that compiles statistics and offers legal assistance and training specifically for sex workers as a division of the Urban Justice Center in NYC. I wanted to make sure to put this info up here for anyone else who may need it, with her permission to quote the message she wrote to me.

I am constantly amazed by the strength and courage women possess post traumatic experiences, especially in cases of sexual assault. Not only is "2L" using her experience to speak out and help others but she plans to work for legal changes in the future. That's incredible, brave, and empowering.

meghanyea said...

FeministGal, thanks for your words of encouragement! I'm going to Ole Miss for their Southern Studies Master's program with a concentration in documentary fieldwork.

Psychology is a great field! Good luck to you as well.

Pasifik said...

Interesting article...

Happy blogging,

Female Fertility|Infertility

OMYWORD! said...

This post touched me deeply, and angered me too. I was in a similar situation in college, although I was not, at that time, a sex worker. I was humiliated by the doctor at the college hospital, and told I deserved what I got by my relatives, because of the 'way I dressed.' I did not report the crime. I am inspired by 2L's story, and will look up the organization for helping sex workers and see if I can help in some way too.

Glad I found you surfing Facebook networked blogs. :-)