Bodies in Long Island Chill New York's Sex Workers

Fearful of a killer and police, women continue to struggle to make a living in their trade

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The bodies found on Long Island since last December point to at least one and maybe more serial killers of prostitutes, and New York's sex workers are feeling that pressure as they continue to struggle to make a living in their trade. But in a New York Times story today, many said they felt uncomfortable reporting their own suspicions to police, even though, as one pointed out, "If 20 women identified a really whacked-out stalker type, then there could be reason to put surveillance on him."

The women interviewed in The Times said they didn't want to report their concerns to police because they had no way of knowing if they would be arrested for prostitution or not. "Whether they are out there to protect you, or out there to lock you up, you didn’t want to find out," one said. The result is that  some are feeling the effect on their earnings here. The Times pointed out one woman who had come to town from Chicago to do a week's sex work but was "so unnerved" she returned the next day.

But many are also working among themselves to increase safety without involving the police. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has said sex workers can file reports in this case without risking arrest. But for those for whom the word of this one police commissioner isn't enough, there are plenty of support and services groups in New York for sex workers to find legal and safety advice, as well as social support. The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center provides legal services with staff attorneys and consultants. Two related groups, the Sex Workers Outreach Project of New York City (SWOP NYC), and Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), both provide social support and safety tips through meetings and online resources. There's also Providers and Resources Offering Services to Sex Workers (PROS Networ), an online forum for sex workers.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.