Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.
There have been many times I have been out at a club or music venue, out at a diner late, out walking, or sitting in one of the many Fan triangle parks. Someone has approached me to to ask me to come work for them. The first time it happened, I did not understand what the person was asking. Then I realized, the person was asking me to do sex work for them. Sometimes they just asked and walked away when I said “no”. Other times the person became persistent, not leaving the table or area I was in…..harassing me and requiring me to leave. Sometimes I was even handed a card with just a phone number on it and asked to call if I changed my mind.
The other way I was often approached was walking down the street or standing around campus and someone would yell: “How much?”
Seems pretty brazen doesn’t it? Yelling at you in public or handing you a card to call them back, asking you to do sex work.
But of course, this only happened when I was either alone or with just one or two other woman. I started realizing that it does not happen when you are in a group or have males with you.
I talked with other women and trans-women. It is not really that uncommon. Both yelling at you on the street or approaching you in public places… and being persistent about it. In fact, it happens all the time to young girls, women, trans-women, young males and trans-men.
At first, I did not know what to do and neither did many of the women and trans-women I talked to. How do you report someone who is “just offering you a job” or someone who has driven away by the time you can do something?
Is it illegal? Yes. This falls under harassment and is a human rights issue. It places women and other groups marginalized by gender, gender expression and sexual orientation at risk when they are in public. It limits women and trans-women ability to be in public as easily and safely as men.
There are legal options.
And so, what is this called legally? Soliciting Prostitution. And it is a crime in Virginia.
The law is 18.2-346 = Soliciting for the purposes of prostitution is illegal. If a street harasser solicits sexual activity from you, you can report the person.
You can also make the case that harasers who yell, “How much?!” or offers you money, or offers you anything else in trade for sex, even in jest, are soliciting prostitution.
I am not making a judgement on consensual sex work, but I do think it is inappropriate and harassing for a person to make assumptions about your sexual availability and make you feel uncomfortable. I think it is inappropriate and harassing for a person to be persistent about trying to recruit you into sex work.
There is a penalty for soliciting prostitution. Soliciting an adult for prostitution is a Class 1 misdemeanor and may result in confinement in jail for up to twelve months and a fine of up to $2500 or both.
The penalty is higher if the person is a minor.
Soliciting for the purposes for prostitution and sex work is sex trafficking. The awareness of sex trafficking has become a much larger issue now. Next week, I will talk more about sex trafficking and options to pursue.
To review: Soliciting for the purpose of prostitution or sex work is illegal and can be reported.
Need help or more information? Here are some options…
For information on how to report in the Richmond, Virginia, USA area, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace street.
For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. In Virginia, USA, to find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, hosted by The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance at 1-800-838-8238.
That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Listening from outside of Virginia? You can call RAINN (rape, abuse, and incest national network) at 1-800-656-hope.
That is 1-800-656-hope.
Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at email@example.com or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at http://www.thevword.org
The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.