OCTOBER 21, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Secaucus, New Jersey State advocates condemn the recent arrest of two women who have been charged with prostitution related offenses in Secaucus, New Jersey last week. “Regardless of the circumstances leading up their arrest, sexual activity that people make a choice to engage in is not a crime,” mentioned Janet Duran, the North Jersey Regional Director of NJRUA, “If people are concerned with the lack of choice available for those who trade sex, then arresting them should not be seen as part of the solution.” Evidence-based research continues to show that arresting people for engaging in sex work violates people’s right to safety and health as community members are driven further underground and must make riskier decisions in order to avoid the law. According to reports available on the State Police website, about 830 women throughout the state have been arrested for prostitution related offenses in 2013.
It is particularly deplorable that Secaucus Det. Sgt. Michael Torres found it more appropriate to leave the name of hotels where the stings were conducted out of the media’s knowledge over the names of the women they have arrested. The sentiment expressed by doing so suggests the privacy of hotels is a higher priority than the privacy of those accused to be sex workers. The right to privacy is a human right recognized by the United Nations, and both the United States and New Jersey Supreme Courts. This is a right particularly concerning for highly stigmatized communities such as sex workers and those who have been through the criminal justice system.
However, the media has played an equally distasteful part in violating sex workers’ human rights. The Jersey Journal found it relevant to release the legal names and home towns of those who have been arrested, making it publicly available online. “This has been an ongoing problem with media in the state,” explained Derek Demeri of NJRUA, “In a state made up largely of small cities and suburban districts, this public declaration of one’s accused sexual activities will follow them for life and can be extremely damaging.” Legal names, arresting photos, and sometimes home addresses are often published by various media outlets when prostitution stings are done throughout the state creating an online permanent record, even if these charges are later discovered to be under false pretense.
Advocates urge the media to respect the privacy of those suspected of engaging in prostitution, and for law enforcement to abstain from arresting sex workers and their customers for engaging in consensual sexual activity, and to end the practice of profiling people as sex workers because of their race, gender or immigration status. For those interested in learning more about appropriate media representation of sex workers, please visit the Media Training Program under the Red Umbrella Project’s website (redumbrellaproject.org) for more information.