Sex Work

Calif. to Open Victim Compensation Funds to Prostitutes

Will be able to get help with costs if attacked on the job

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No still means no, though
Credit: Adam Crowe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The growing trend of treating prostitutes as though they're victims of sex-trafficking even when they aren't is paternalistic and often forces women into mandatory "treatments," unwilling to acknowledge a person's free choice to engage in sex work. Cathy Reisenwitz detailed in October how this shift of treating prostitutes as victims rather than criminals doesn't necessarily result in more freedom or better lives for the women forced to participate in order to avoid criminal charges.

On the other hand, the growing trend of treating prostitutes as though they're victims rather than criminals can result in prostitutes being able to turn to the state for help when they truly are victimized. California has a Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board that, among other things, helps pay for medical treatment and certain losses that are directly connected to a crime. For example, a woman who has been sexually assaulted can turn to the agency to help pay for medical and mental health treatment to recover from the crime.

The laws, though, exempt victims who were involved in illegal activities at the time, such as prostitution. A prostitute who was raped could not turn to the state for assistance with health care costs.

Today the agency voted to change that rule. The Sacramento Bee reports:

California's three-member Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board voted unanimously Thursday to overturn a regulation barring victims of sexual assault from receiving restitution if they work in the sex trade.

The 14-year-old policy states that victims of a violent crime may be denied compensation if they were involved in the events leading up to that crime, including mutual combat, illegal drug-related activity, gang-related activity and prostitution.

Advocates for sex workers argued that the regulation was discriminatory, essentially blaming prostitutes for their own rape and putting other women at greater risk of attack.

Of course, the change comes at the speed of government. The new policy probably won't be in place until next spring.