Sex workers face the possibility victimization when turning to police, Peers says. (File photo)

Victimization of sex workers by police ‘not irregular,’ B.C. advocacy group says

Peers Victoria Resource Society said less than five per cent of workers will report abuse to police

Power control issues between sex workers and police officers are not uncommon according to Peers Victoria Resource Society, a sex worker advocacy group.

“When we’re talking about sex workers reporting sexual violence to police, sometimes sex workers, not irregularly, face power control issues with police,” said Rachel Phillips, executive director of Peers. “Sometimes that means they are further sexually victimized by police.”

Phillips said this is a general trend for sex workers and not just a local occurrence.

READ MORE: Saanich police fired over corruption, relationship with sex worker was a constable

Recently, a report by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner revealed that an officer from the Saanich Police Department had been retroactively fired following 11 substantiated misconduct allegations in regards to an “inappropriate” relationship with a sex worker, including failing to conduct an adequate investigation into the complaint of a sexual assault and robbery

The officer was also found to have sent and received sexual text messages and images from a victim of a crime (though it was not specified if this person was a sex trade worker).

ALSO READ: Report shows Saanich police officer retroactively fired over corruption, deceit, relationship with sex worker

In the same report, two Oak Bay officers faced discipline, with one being dismissed, after allegations of using services of sex trade workers, possibly while on duty.

“To me it’s not a problem that an officer might have a relationship with someone in the industry,” Phillips said. “The problem is if there’s a conflict of interest with their role or abusing their power.”

READ MORE: Oak Bay police officer retires before being fired for hiring sex trade worker, watchdog says

Phillips said that because of power struggle issues, as well a legality issues around sex work, most workers will not go to police if they are facing problems.

“Of all the bad date and aggressor reports, probably less than five per cent of workers are willing to meet with police,” Phillips said. “People in the sex industry are structurally at odds with police because of criminal codes which say that sex work is wrong, so there’s a distrust amongst police services.”

Phillips said there’s also the problem of stigma against sex workers, as well as societal prejudice and racism.

“Some of our more marginalized people experience criminalization and poor treatment from police on multiple angles,” Phillips said, adding it was particularly bad with Indigenous workers. “Within certain sub populations, it’s a cultural problem.”

Phillips did note, however, that Peers and the Victoria Police Department are trying to foster a healthier relationship between officers and sex workers by utilizing two liaison officers who are women. While sex workers are still hesitant to speak with the officers, Phillips said there’s room for education and growth with that outreach.

“I think liaison relationships have to be grounded in a philosophy of support,” Phillips said. “Maybe Saanich in particular should consider getting liaison officers of their own.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Vedder Rotary trail network in Chilliwack will be closed for five days on the south side

The upgrade will take until Friday so trail users asked to take alternate routes

Chilliwack encouraged to commemorate liberation of Holland

Planning already underway to mark the 75th anniversary of the event

UPDATE: RCMP confirm body of missing Chilliwack senior found

Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk had severe dementia

RCMP urge caution for back to school drivers

Police are asking drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians

UPDATE: Police response on Cheam First Nation a ‘non-event’, RCMP say

More than two dozen RCMP and ERT vehicles were at the First Nation looking for a known fugitive

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Memorial to deceased teen stays in place through Labour Day

Hundreds of tributes have been left at the Walnut Grove skate park

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

Most Read