The most conflicting aspect of feeling sorry for these women, and angry at the system that did this to them, was that I also grew up being told their job was empowering. It was liberating, as a woman, to have the agency to choose to sell your body for money, because your body is 'an asset' and yours to 'sell', if you so choose.
A Way Out wants to be part of the support that ensures our women can make this choice. Rather than succumbing to negativity, concurring with stereotypical assumptions surrounding those in sex work, and agreeing with the generally accepted inevitability that change is impossible, we believe in possibility and potential...
As it is overwhelmingly women and girls who are bought by men, any policy which is constructed out of a denial of that truth is meaningless. If we stop for a moment and imagine that that statement reads 'it is overwhelmingly black people who are bought by white people' it's clear that no Human Rights organisation would be trying to obscure that fact in any policy.
Most of us could get more money and have more resources at our disposal in the private sector or even in the public sector. We do what we do because we identify with those for whom we advocate and are disgusted at the injustices they face. Surely we are doing a profound disservice to them if we choose to remain silent rather than joining with them in calling for changes that will improve their lives.
I can see why the BDSM community are up in arms. Here is a man who stalks his victim with a degree of fortitude that it's hard not to feel some begrudging sense of awe. He knows her bank details, in fact he has a built an entire file on her and flies out to interrupt a holiday with her parents, checking in to the same hotel as she's enjoying cocktails with her mother.
The reporting of this tragedy has been almost exclusively focussed on how the two women were purportedly sex workers, although Hong Kong police have not said as much. The killings are immediately characterised as American Psycho-style murders, giving them an aura of glamour. And predictably, within hours of his arrest, there was another woman in Jutting's life to cast blame on.
Supporters of Lord Morrow's Bill eliminated from their agenda the safety of the very women they claim are vulnerable. They attempted to defame those who do not back the criminalisation of the purchase of sex as supporters of sex trafficking in order to undermine their arguments. They should have properly examined the available evidence and consulted with those to whom the legislation applies: sex workers themselves.
As a full-time journalist I'm constantly exposed to the shitty, bleak side of life. As a result, I've learned not to sentimentalise and that certainly benefits me in this role. Because there is no point in breaking down in tears while a sex worker tells you she has been raped or robbed or both. It doesn't help. What I can do is empathise. Provide a hug. Organise immediate, practical assistance such as food, clothes, medical care or arrange police intervention. Violence against sex workers is a huge problem and this is exacerbated by the fact that selling sex is, after all, illegal.
If Blackstone's Formulation is based on the principle that the state should not cause undue or mistaken harm then we need to seriously consider the harm to victims of rape and sexual assault who are subjected to an horrendous ordeal and then tragically failed by a system which allows them to be discredited and humiliated in the name of justice and all too often their courage in coming forward turns out to be in vain.