Some sex workers may be sexually assaulted during their work in the industry. Sex workers are entitled to be protected from sexual assault like anyone else in the community; it is not part of our job. In this information sheet we will look at what sexual assault is, the reasons it might occur and what you can do about it.
There are several reasons why sexual assault may happen to sex workers; this doesn’t mean it is your fault or that you deserve it.
Sexual assault is never your fault.
Sex workers may be targets for sexual assault because some clients believe that when they pay for your services that they can do whatever they like, even when you have established rules and boundaries and told the client that their behavior is unacceptable.
Some clients target sex workers because they believe that we will be too scared to go to the police for fear of being outed, not being believed, or being treated disrespectfully.
Some clients target private workers because they think they are more vulnerable because they work alone.
Some clients target brothel workers because they think the brothel establishment won’t believe the worker, or will not want to get the police involved.
You can report rapists to Respect Inc, we can tell other workers about them.
It’s about consent
Both sexual assault and rape are crimes that occur because consent has not been given or is withdrawn.
The Criminal Code Act 1899 (Queensland) states that consent is not freely given if it is obtained by force, threat or intimidation, fear of bodily harm, exercise of authority, or if it is obtained by false and fraudulent representations about the nature or purpose of the act.
What about fraud?
‘False and fraudulent representations about the nature or purpose of the act’ includes where a client takes a condom off or interferes with a condom, or when a client steals back the money they paid, or pretends to pay but does not. Because these were conditions on which the service was agreed, then consent is no longer present because the condition (condom use, payment) is no longer present.
Section 349 defines rape as sex with or of the other person without the other person’s consent, or if the person penetrates the vulva, vagina or anus of the other person to any extent with a thing or a part of the person’s body that is not a penis without the other person’s consent, or the person penetrates the mouth of the other person to any extent with the person’s penis without the other person’s consent.
Sexual assault is easier to prove and is a lesser charge. It is normally what a client would be charged with if penetration cannot be provided or there is no evidence of rape.
Section 352 defines sexual assault as unlawfully and indecently assaulting another person, procuring another person, without the person’s consent to commit an act of gross indecency or to witness an act of gross indecency by the person or any other person.
“Sexual assault is not your fault and you don’t deserve it just because you are a sex worker.”
Reporting sexual assault
To report a sexual assault you need to go to hospital immediately. Do not wash—even your hands— although this will probably be your first instinct.
Biological evidence degrades very fast so it is important to preserve it and get it collected as soon as possible.
When you go to the hospital tell them immediately that you have been sexually assaulted or raped. Ask them to call the police for you if they do not volunteer to do this for you right away. This minimises the chance of the police not taking your complaint seriously.
Because the police will be there in a professional capacity and under the eye of medical staff who will be treating you professionally, those medical professionals will expect professional behaviour from the police.
The hospital will do a rape kit and collect evidence, such as semen and/or saliva swabs, public hair and skin from under your fingernails.
Where a client has deliberately torn a condom or removed it, take the condom with you in a sealed plastic bag for evidence.
Once the police have taken your statement you will be offered counselling support.
If you find that you are not being treated with respect or taken seriously, you should ask to speak to the manager of the emergency room (if you are in the hospital) or the senior police officer on duty (if you are in a police station) and make a complaint. You can also contact Respect Inc for advice on your other options.
Dealing with the police
It’s up to you if you tell the police that you’re a sex worker. If the case is pursued it is likely that they will find out anyway.
If you have a reasonable fear that the client who assaulted or raped you will try to further harm you then you can apply for a Protection order.
Discuss this with the police who take (or took) your statement. If you can get this order and then the client approaches you in person, approaches you on Internet forums, calls you on the phone, tries to book you or shows up on the doorstep of where you work, they can be charged with breaching the order. You can apply for an order even if the charges are not proven.
If an assault charge is pursued by police, you can ask the police prosecutor to request bail conditions similar to a Protection order. This then saves you having to go through two processes.
Get support from a friend
If you have been sexually assaulted or raped, you may want to ask a friend to be a support person who can be with you at the hospital and in police interviews. A support person is not an advocate, but they can still be very effective because they are there to support you and are also a witness to how you are being treated.
“If you want to pursue charges against the rapist, try and get to go to a sexual assault service as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. It is best if you haven’t showered so that evidence can be collected.”
Counselling support services are confidential and nothing you say to them will go any further. Any notes made are also strictly confidential and only to assist you. They cannot be used in court proceedings.
Sexual assault and rape are crimes and carry lengthy prison sentences.
Where a sexual assault cannot be proven, you still have the option of lodging a civil claim for battery, which is any unwanted touching without your permission. Contact Respect Inc for more information on how you can do this.
- Contact victim assistance programs in your area.
- Pay attention to your emotional needs.
- Consider getting professional counselling.
- Contact other workers in the area and Respect Inc to report it.
- Consider implementing extra security precautions while working, such as checking in and out of each booking. Call your own phone number if you need to and leave details on your own answering machine.
“A sexual assault service or crisis line can talk you through your different options and processes involved if you decide to take further action.”
The crown prosecutor decides what the client is charged with. You may not need to appear in court when the client is charged, but may be called as a witness.
If you are, the police and crown prosecutor will give you details of when to appear and what it will involve. You won’t need a lawyer; in effect, the police and crown prosecutor are your advocates.
While courts are open to the public, no evidence that identifies a complainant in a sexual assault or rape case can be used to identify them. This means that even if the media is there, they cannot take pictures of you or report your name or any identifying details.
Volunteers in the Court is a community-based organisation of trained volunteers who can help you with court processes and the stresses of not knowing what is involved in court processes.
Volunteers in the Court can provide you with information, emotional and practical support before, during and after court appearances, including information on a safe place to wait if you are being called as a witness to give evidence.
All material in this information sheet is provided for your information only and may not be construed as legal, medical or health advice or instruction.