Concerns for Sex Workers Amid Serial Killer Investigation

Sex workers are being advised to use the buddy system so that someone knows where they are.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Greg Cergol reports. (Published Monday, Apr 11, 2011)

    The investigation into a suspected serial killer who may have preyed on prostitutes, dumping their bodies near beaches on Long Island, has spawned new warnings for sex workers who advertise online.

    Police have yet to identify all the victims, or even say whether the latest six sets of remains are linked to the first four found last December.

    But the first four bodies were identified as young women who all posted sex ads on Craigslist. And that has advocates for sex workers making extra efforts to counsel the women on best practices to avoid violent clients.

    “Trust your gut,” said Maryse Mitchell-Brody, a social worker who co-founded New York’s Sex Workers Outreach Project.

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    Among the strategies the group advocates are so-called “safe calls” escorts make to friends in order to let each other know where they are and when their sessions with clients are supposed to end.

    “Tell somebody where you are going to be,” Mitchell-Brody said. “Send them a call beforehand. Say that ‘if you don’t hear from me by a certain time, call the police or tell this person who is nearby.'”

    Mitchell-Brody supports the decriminalization of prostitution. She argues that the threat of arrest  provides a disincentive for sex workers to report when they are victims of violence.

    “That’s why serial killers target sex workers. Because they know they can get away with it,” she said.