In my time researching this case, I found that the perceptions regarding prostitution vary wildly. While many hold the belief that the oldest profession is a serious crime, others have softened on the notion, citing that, essentially, prostitution is a victimless crime. There’s a transaction, if things go smoothly, everything is fine. While there are certainly outliers when it comes to individuals taking advantage of men and women engaged in selling sex, I’d like to discuss less about the legal side of the coin and more about the societal aspect.
Conversations with those in law enforcement have been varied. Some older, retired officers view the sex trade as just a way of life. Women and men engaged in an activity to pay the bills, to survive, to feed their habits, whatever the case. Other officers, still on the job, discuss how prostitution is very much so a crime and are quick to cite the issues with its existence, yet acknowledge that when a sex worker goes missing, there isn’t a huge drive to find this person, because the general idea is that they were involved in a risky endeavor that resulted in them going missing and that because other crimes are more important, a missing sex worker isn’t at the top of the list of importance.
Of course, these are human beings like anyone else. There are numerous groups dedicated to the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK) that have threads about the case. Typically, when someone refers to the girls who went missing as a “prostitute” or “hooker,” the thread quickly dissolves into a flame war of posters taking the high road in an effort to put a human face on the victims. While this is obviously important to do, it also takes the focus on the questions and inquiry.
Having had conversations with family members and friends of the girls who were discovered the human face of this profession takes immediate shape. While yes, drugs and other addictions certainly were in play, that doesn’t make a person worth tossing to the side. Where does this stigma of non-interest from law enforcement come from, I started to ask. None of my law enforcement contacts were really able to shed light on the question, so, I had to do my own research.
From what I gathered, part of the problem is the criminalization of the act of hiring a sex worker. When one vanishes, even if a client list is found, who would be willing to share their experience with that individual or to talk about the kind of person they were when the implication is that the person being questioned is a criminal for hiring the sex worker in the first place?
Other aspects highlight that sex workers are in constant conflict with police officers. In 2011, the Suffolk County Police Department asked sex workers to come forward with any and all information regarding the LISK or the victims and their possible movements around the time they disappeared. From what I have heard, the result of this dragnet was minimal. The basic thinking at the time was that why would a sex worker out themselves to the police and face potential scrutiny at the hands of a police force who seemingly disregards them when they need them?
It's hard not to see that side of the argument against coming forward back in 2011.
Sex work and the demand for sex workers isn’t going anywhere. As long as individuals are willing to pay for sex or companionship in some form, there will always be sex workers who are taken advantage of. Whether that means more dead bodies found along beaches on Long Island, or individuals who are abused in some other form, the criminalization of sex work seems absurd. Protecting individuals engaged in sex work, building bridges between law enforcement and sex workers to better protect and crack down on malicious crime seems to be the answer, but who knows if that will ever occur.
A QUICK UPDATE:
After the recent passing of my father, the podcast was put on hold for a bit. However, in the coming weeks, once hosting is resolved, we should be up and running. I appreciate your patience, dear readers, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out!