Scranton, Pa

Reports of Theft in Dauphin County Exposes the Demonization of Prostituted Persons in the Media

Posted: July 21, 2020

An unidentified man was allegedly robbed in Upper Allen Township by a woman he allegedly paid for sex. Several news outlets have reported that the man arranged for the prostituted woman to come to his house, where the two allegedly engaged in commercial sex. The unidentified man paid the woman $300, which he pulled from an envelope in the bedside table that allegedly held $20,000 cash. According to news sources, the man then fell asleep with the woman in his home and when he awoke both the woman and the envelope of cash were gone.

The woman has been arrested and is being charged with promoting prostitution and theft. This case, and the many like it, demonstrate the sharp contrast between the privilege enjoyed by sex buyers and the experiences of prostituted persons.

First, and most importantly, is the disparate reaction to the victimization of sex buyers versus prostituted persons. Prostituted persons live in constant fear of arrest that prevents them from reporting the many horrific acts of violence perpetrated against them. Even when they have the courage to report such acts, they are often downplayed or ignored by police, particularly in instances of rape.

And yet, sex buyers feel no such fear when reporting crimes committed against them. This unidentified man did not hesitate to report a theft to the police, despite his criminal actions. And he was right not to hesitate; the complaint number associated with this incident shows the arrest only of the prostituted person. Buying sex is a crime in Pennsylvania, one graded equally with selling sex. But it is not equally enforced. Last year, 401 individuals were arrested for selling sex and only 172 men were arrested for buying sex.

This same bias is demonstrated in media coverage of incidents where prostituted women are arrested. Stigmatizing language fills these types of articles. We see this particularly in this case where headlines shout, “suspected hooker” and refer to the alleged theft as a “tip” for her “sexual services.” Her mug shot is included in every article, and any identifying information about the man is left out. His victimization is acknowledged and recognized by the media unlike the victimization of the countless prostituted persons who are arrested as part of so-called trafficking stings and have their faces plastered across the internet. Further, the public commentary on these articles demonstrates the lack of education and understanding regarding the trauma and exploitation of prostituted persons. The media should use their platform to educate rather than demonize.

The CSE Institute is sorry that this unidentified man’s property was allegedly stolen; no one should have to experience theft. But we cannot let instances such as this overshadow the untold violence perpetrated against vulnerable prostituted persons every day. You can read more about the disparity in criminalization between prostituted persons and those who buy sex in our 2020 Annual Report.

Category: News

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