The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence


April 2014

The V Word: Soliciting Prostitution

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 or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

The V Word: Upskirt Photo

Welcome to today’s edition of the V Word.


I was in court one day. I give expert witness testimony on cases of sexual and domestic violence and child abuse. That day I wore a dress. I was sitting there in the lobby waiting for my turn to testify and what do you think I notice? The Sheriff’s deputy trying to take an upskirt photo of me with his camera phone. When I got up to walk toward him, he moved into a part of the courthouse I could not get to. I considered pursuing it but at the time did not know if I could. When I got out of court the deputy was gone. So then I looked up the law.

Do you know what an upskirt or down-blouse photo is? It is when someone tries to photograph up the inside of your skirt or doWwn the front of your top, or otherwise observes, films or photographs you in an inappropriate way without your knowledge or consent.

The law has been in existence since 2005 and so I am pretty sure that deputy knows the law and knew that in fact he was engaging in unlawful filming or photography of a person.

So for you secret filming perpetrators out there with your camera phones, what that means is that it is illegal to hold you phone or camera beneath a person or between a person’s legs to film or to photograph a person’s intimate areas, yes it really is illegal to hide cameras to film someone without their knowledge and when the person expects privacy.

That also means it is illegal to photograph someone in places like public bathrooms, places where people change their clothes, hotels (as in a recent case out at a Richmond mall?

…. So no cameras in the walls and no cameras in toilets (yes that has happened, remember Rockefeller hiding cameras in the toilets of the Rockettes bathroom?).

Now, while some states are doing nothing about upskirt photos,Virginia is and it is illegal. If this has happened to you, you have legal options to pursue.

There is a law (18.2-386.1) that Unlawful Filming, videotaping, or photographing of another is a Class 1 misdemeanor and it is punishable by 1 year in jail and or a fine of up to $2500 or both.

So to review….

It is It is illegal to to place a recording device directly beneath or between a person’s legs to film or photograph the person’s intimate parts or underwear when it it would not otherwise be visible and when the person should reasonably expect privacy.

If a harasser films or photographs you someplace like public restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms and hotel rooms, you can report the person.

It is also illegal for anyone to intentionally film or photograph a non-consenting person if the image exposes the private areas of the person’s body.

If a street harasser or perpetrator takes an up-skirt or down-blouse photo of you, or otherwise observes or photographs you in an inappropriate way, you can report the person.

Need help or more information? Here are some options.

For information on how to report in the Richmond area, you can call the non-emergency line at 646-5100, that is 646-5100 or go by a local police department office.

For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

Want to share a story or ask a question, email me at or tweet me at my handle @preventviolence You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

The V Word: Street Harassment

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word


Street Harassment, has this happened to you? It has happened to me.

One day I was walking in the Fan area, heading toward Carytown. A male riding a bike comes up alongside me. He starts making sexually suggestive comments to me. I try to ignore him and keep walking. He asks me for a date. I say no and keep walking. I turn down a street and he follows me. So then, he starts yelling obscenities at me for not agreeing to go on a date with him. He continues following me several blocks until I get to a business and go into one to ask for help. Only then does he ride away.

In case you are wondering where I am going with this, I am going to talk about street harassment.  And I know I will get a resounding “YES”, from every woman and trans-woman to this question: Have you been the subject of street harassment such as forced conversations, cat calls, sexually suggestive comments and obscene gestures? Did the offender keep it up even when you said no or tried to walk away?
Some people have asked me, what exactly counts as street harassment? And is it just on the street? The advocacy movement defines it as any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing, and is motivated by gender, gender expression or sexual orientation. And no it does not just happen on the street. It can happen in stores, college campuses, concert venues, etc. Any place where a person is harassing you publicly. And to top off an already bad experience of being harassed in public, women or trans women are either told it’s a compliment and/or are often blamed for its occurrence because of their gender, their gender expression, what they were wearing, where they were walking or the time of night. And, amazingly enough, women and trans-women are often told that males cannot help themselves. Now that argument always shocks me, because if men can not control themselves, there are a lot of things we ought to limiting them from. And another thing happens, many people minimize street harassment thinking that since it doesn’t involve touching, it is therefore less dangerous. Not so. It is just as dangerous as other forms of harassment and interpersonal violence. And it can escalate to stalking and assault.

Remember my story above? The offender did not stop bothering or following me until I got to a business section and went into a store.  Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits women’s and trans women’s ability to be in public as often or as comfortably as most men.

So to review, street harassment includes:

  • Verbal harassment – like yelling sexually suggestive comments,
  • Up-skirt photos – which is taking photos up women’s clothing or down their shirts.
  • Indecent exposure – and yes you flashers listening – that means your junk specifically,
  • Following people,
  • Groping – which is grabbing, touching, fondling any part of the body.
  • Obstructing paths – which is preventing someone from getting by you so you can harass them in all the ways I just listed.

So listeners, has any of this happened to you? What can you do? Or listeners, any of you doing any of the above?

In Virginia, there are 5 laws that may apply to the various forms of street harassment.
1. Disorderly conduct (this one is rarely used but can apply in some circumstances) – and is a Class 1 misdemeanor with 12 months of jail and/or $2500 fine.
2. Profane swearing and intoxication – and since street harassers are often mixing alcohol with their abuse, this one can apply – and is a class 4 misdemeanor with a fine of $250
3. Slander and libel – This law, interestingly enough, focuses specifically on banning people from falsely and derogatorily speaking about a chaste female’s character. While evaluating women based on their chastity is outdated, this statute can be used when women are called derogatory names.
4. Soliciting Prostitution – soliciting for the purpose of prostitution is illegal. If a street harasser solicits sexual activity from you or yells “how much”, you can report him or her. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor and may result in jail time of up to 12 months and/or a fine of $2500 – the penalty is higher if the person solicited is a minor.
5. Unlawful Assembly – it is illegal for 3 or more people to gather for the purposes of doing something through force or violence that is likely to jeopardize public safety, peace or order and that makes someone else fear for his, her or their safety. So, if at least 3 people are engaging in street harassment together and they make any kind of threat of force against you or make you fear for your safety, you can report the persons. The penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $2500

Need help or more information? Local rape crisis and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you, you can call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR 97.3 LP, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.


Today is the Day to Be Silent: National Day of Silence

Today is the Day of Silence.

Do you know what the Day of Silence is? If everyone didn’t speak for a day, how would you react? If you couldn’t speak up about something, what would that feel like for you?

The National Day of Silence was formed in 1996 to bring awareness to a percentage of us who are voiceless when it comes to violence against them. Today, on April 11, is a day of silence to bring awareness to the effect of having members of our community silenced when it comes to violence against them.

The Day of Silence is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) annual day of action to protest the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their supporters. Students and supporters take a day-long vow of silence to symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters.  The national focus of the Day of Silence is specific to ending bullying and harassment of students, particularly physical violence and verbal threats.  Check out to see what people are doing to raise awareness and give a voice to everyone.

Want to participate next  year?  Check the GLSEN website for information and help to start your own Day of Silence to bring awareness to LGBTQ survivors of violence who continue to have less of a voice in our society.

ChildAbuseAwarenessOne of the focus areas in April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of child abuse and it’s impact on the individual, the family and the community.

Child abuse takes many forms – physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.

-Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposefully injured. Physical abuse can be an act of direct physical harm or an act of omission that leads to injury.
-Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, including fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse and exposure to child pornography, and includes coercion as well as force.
-Emotional child abuse includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
-Child neglect is failure to provide a child adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision or medical care.

Most child abuse is inflicted by someone the child knows and trusts, often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, either in your own child or a close contact, report the abuse to child protective services in your area and report to law enforcement. When in doubt, call – social services can help make the decision to investigate.

Red Flags and Warning signs:
A child who’s being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent or other loved one. That’s why it’s vital to watch for red flags, such as:

Sudden changes in behavior or school performance
Untreated medical or dental problems
Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or other injuries
Blood in the child’s underwear
Inappropriate sexual behavior for the child’s age
Behavior extremes, from overly aggressive to unusually passive
Nightmares or unusual fears
Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
Low self-esteem
Poor hygiene
Frequent absences from school

Sometimes a parent’s or caregiver’s demeanor or behavior also sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent/caregiver who:

Shows little concern for the child
Denies the existence of problems at home or school, or blames the child for the problems
Refuses offers of help to resolve problems at school
Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child
Describes the child with negative terms
Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so
Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
Severely limits the child’s contact with other children
Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries, or no explanation at all

Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is being abused. Again, when in doubt call social services, they can help identify if what you are seeing needs to be investigated.

Risk Factors:
Child abuse occurs across all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups. For parents and other caregivers, factors that may increase the risk of becoming abusive include:

Low self-esteem
Poor impulse control
Marital conflict
Domestic violence
Financial stress
Social isolation
Alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse
A history of mistreatment as a child

Impact of abuse:
Some children overcome the physical and psychological effects of child abuse, particularly those who have high self-esteem, an optimistic attitude and strong social support. For others, however, child abuse has lifelong consequences. For example, child abuse may lead to:

Physical disabilities
Learning disabilities
Low self-esteem
Difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships
Challenges with intimacy and trust
An unhealthy view of parenthood
Substance abuse
Eating disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Personality disorders
Delinquent or violent behavior
If a child tells you he or she is being abused, take the situation seriously:

What you can do:
Encourage the child to tell you what happened. Remain calm as you assure the child that it’s OK to talk about the experience, even if someone has threatened him or her to keep silent. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What happened then?”

Remind the child that he or she isn’t responsible for the abuse. The responsibility for child abuse belongs to the abuser. Say, “It’s not your fault” over and over again.

Offer comfort. You might say, “I’m so sorry you were hurt,” “I’m glad that you told me,” and “I’ll do everything I can to help you.” Let the child know you’re available to talk or simply listen at any time.

Report the abuse. Contact a local child protective agency or the local police department. Authorities will investigate the report and, if necessary, take steps to ensure the child’s safety.
Seek medical attention. If necessary, help the child seek appropriate medical care.

Help the child remain safe. Don’t let the child be alone with the abuser. If that’s not possible, do what you can to eliminate the abuser’s access to the child. Make sure the child knows how to call for emergency help if needed.

Consider additional support. You might help the child seek counseling or other mental health treatment. Age-appropriate support groups also can be helpful.

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