LA has a history of serial killers that have preyed on prostitutes because they were easy targets. No one would notice they were missing, likely the killer thought police would not act upon their murders because just like the Green River Killer in Washington who killed some 48 victims. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as the pig farmer in Vancouver, Canada who literally put he says near 50 or more mostly prostitute women’s bodies from the Downtown Eastside area in the meat grinder so that their identities and numbers are still unknown but we have a few notable cases to remember on December 17th 2010:
The Hillside Strangler is the media epithet for two men, Kenneth Bianchiand Angelo Buono, cousins, who were convicted of kidnapping, raping,torturing, and killing girls and women ranging in age from 12 to 28 years old during a four-month period from late 1977 to early 1978. They committed their crimes in the hills above Los Angeles, California. Many, but not all of their victims were prostitutes.
The Grim Sleeper preyed on young Black women who lived and worked (not all were prostitutes, but many victims WERE) in the Figueroa Corridor in South Central Los Angeles, shooting them in the chest and leaving their bodies in vacant buildings or parks. He was at large for since 1985, making him tricky to track because he had not killed in 13 years. There was a large community effort with the families to find the killer, injunctions on the corridor and lots of arrests on any and every Black man who solicited prostitutes or did any other crime was done in order to gain the DNA evidence of the killer at large whom they knew was a Black male in his 40s or 50s.
On July 7, 2010, Los Angeles police arrested Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a 57-year old black man, at his home in South Los Angeles, a location they described as being “right in the heart of it all.” Authorities said the landmark use of familial DNA led them to Franklin.
Police believe 24-year-old Jesus Catalan stabbed 27-year-old Paulina Ibarra to death inside her apartment on Mariposa Ave. on August 28, 2009.
The Los Angeles Police Department planned to hold a news conference Friday to share details of the arrest.
Officer Sara Faden says the slaying was investigated as a hate crime against transgender women. The community and the police refused to acknowlege the fact that Paulina worked as a sex worker. This was a strategic move to make her sex work a non issue in the investigation of the case, as having the police move forward with a transgender hate crime was enough of a challenge.
Police identified Catalan as a possible suspect shortly after the killing with the help of gay, lesbian and transgender residents and he has been arrested and his serving time without bail awaiting trail in LA County right now.
As a sex worker activist, I have always been irked that the acknowledgement of the fact that many of the victims were sex workers was a silence and an injustice to the systematic targeting that sex workers face when they are seen as easy targets by murderers, robbers and serial killers.
As an anti-police state and prison abolitiionist I have been against police injunctions on Figueroa Corridor and the systematic arrest of johns and forced DNA samples of any Black male suspect that fit the bill. I am happy and relieved for the communities and families that at least the killer of their loved one is no longer roaming the streets.
When Paulina was murdered, I was upset that the community was silent about her life as a sex worker and upset that they did not want to think that perhaps she was not only a target because she was a transgender woman but ALSO a sex worker.
2010 saw the arrest and imprisonment of two at large killers in Los Angeles. I am supposed to rejoince that they are “behind bars” but the current choices of behind bars or not behind bars doesn’t constitute a fair choice. Like the “choice” of working or not working? Working is not a choice. Navigating as a sexual being in a rape culture is not a choice. When murderers are locked up it is a good thing for sex workers, but not when sex workers are also getting locked up in similar concrete holding cells as their killers. Keeping prostitutes and their killers off the streets is the current model of keeping everyone safe and it is NOT WORKING. As long as sex workers are seen as disposable and underground they will be targets of serial killers. The police will not protect them until AFTER they are hurt or killed because the police are not allowed to protect the best interest of criminals.
In January of 2010, I was robbed for the second time in my sex work career when I did an incall at my apartment which I rarely do, but I was feeling good that day, pressed for time, had googled this guys numbers which revealed he had something for sale in a (made up) dentist newsletter and assessed that his energy was polite and good (enough). Your “gutt feeling” only goes so far..
He rose up in the middle of his massage and demanded his money back. His sudden change of mood and demands felt threatening to me in my own home so I reached for the PEPPER SPRAY I carried in my bag and sprayed him in the face 3 times. He did not scream, flinch, cough or blink. he did walk backwards down the stairs and out the door and I stayed inside for many hours facebooking, traumatized and in shock. When I went to use my car later that night, I realized that he had come back to my house and slashed open one of my tires. I was scared that he would return. I filed a police report that night and took with me (upon the suggestion of a FB friend) to take witnesses with me to make sure that my claim was treated with dignity and seriousness. The reporting officer did not disrespect me, but he did tell me that because the man did not actually threaten me with words or a weapon and the amount stolen was less than $500 that it was “petty theft” and not robbery. It didn’t matter to me what the police call it, this was nothing new to me. The first time I was robbed, I had sex with the perpetrator first and watched him empty out my bag and take the money back. He said he had a gun but I never saw it. The police would call that, because of the threat of a weapon robbery, but they would never call it rape or even sexual assault, they would call it “theft of services” but it seems to me if I had the guts to press charges the first time, I might have a good case.
In my cynical anti-government radical whore revolutionary paradigm, it is really hard for me to say good things about the LAPD and the justice system, but it seems to be with the way that the police moved on the Grim Sleeper and Paulina Ibarra’s case, as well as my own police report that indeed if you are a victim and a sex worker, they do not hold your crime of prostitution as an excuse to NOT take your crime or report seriously and that indeed you should attempt to make a police report and not be afraid that you were engaging in illegal prostitution at the time of the crime. This is great news for sex workers in Los Angeles, not a guarantee of any sorts but a better track record than many other parts of the U.S.
I took action the second time immediately to change my life for the safer. I was not going to enter my apartment through the back door and live in fear to come home. I was not going to search for a man to cohabitate with me so that I could feel safer. I went to the self defense store and bought a high voltage stun gun in addition to my pepper spray and I enrolled in Israeli martial arts in West LA: Krav Maga. The training required a huge finnancial investment ($500) to start up but I decided it was absolutely necessary and long overdue because no driver outside, no police report, no restraining order was going to protect you inside the room with the person who wants to harm you.
Krav maga has honed my human weapons both mentally and physically. The PTSD and traumatization from the second attack was entirely minimized because of my immediate start in a rigorous training program that I have been been consistently advancing in for 11 months since the incident. I now have complete confidence that I can especially escape a strangle hold and have practiced repeatedly how to kick, defend and attack the attacker. 3-4x a week I train and on those same nights I go home take a shower and head to calls within a few hours. The techniques are fresh in my head, not from a one day workshop months ago.
Most importantly, I am NO LONGER AFRAID to show him that I am not an easy target. I think about the fact that I “only” pepper sprayed the attacker in January and that he had slashed my tire and maybe he was going to slash my throat instead. If he attacked me today would i make him pay and beat him senseless for trying to harm me and sex workers before and after me? Sometimes I fantasize that I am that superwhore. I have to think like this or I will not survive. To me, at times, it IS that serious. I DO NOT CHOOSE THE VIOLENCE. I may choose the work but these two things need NOT be mutually exclusive. I never saw or heard from him again. In fact, since January, my escort life has been relatively smooth and without much incident. I once fired my stun gun to warn a guy that I felt threatened with and the sound and presence alone of you being ready to defend yourself may be all that is necessary to save your life.
Soon, I will be advanced in my practice enough to share my skills with other sex workers and teach them how to not be victims in the best way that I know. If I haven’t already emphasized the need to constantly train as warriors in this war that is literally waging against us, though it is easy to forget because we in LA and beyond gloss over sex work and the violence that occurs against us like it doesn’t exist, but sex workers like me and others who have seen and survived it first hand NEVER FORGET.
Sex workers survive individual and community violence by reaching out to each other, by being here tonight, by saying something on their Facebook about a sex worker they love, they know, they look up to tonight, because as long as we are underground, dehumanized, not allowed to be part of mainstream society through stigma and criminalization WE ARE ALWAYS AT RISK. By attending a December 17th event you are helping to destigmatize the lives of sex workers in Los Angeles. You help protect us by saying that you are unafraid to acknowledge our safety and our fallen who could be your sister, brother, cousin or partner. LA is so fucking ass backwards about its thinking around sex workers and sex worker rights. The more people we can get to even talk about sex work as work and not child trafficking in Hollywood or even South Central the better all the sex workers in the closet can be.
As I am closing out 2010, a year that was still difficult for me but was characterized by my development as a warrior, stronger and more confident than ever and ready to defend myself, my community and all the fallen victims that no one hears or thinks about whenever I can. SWOP-LA was started in 2006, with just 3 people in Venice Beach CA. Jesse Nicole is the new director and this December 17th is her first major SWOP-LA event. It is our 4 year anniversary. This year we are decorating a 10′ UHaul with a mural that was made by a young artist Brian Lombera and I and we will be driving around projecting movies about sex worker violence and rememberance starting at 6pm in West HOllywood by Matthew Shepard triangle. If you do ONE THING for sex worker rights this year, in Los Angeles, please join us and many others in the U.S and the world on Dec 17th 2010. Bring a red umbrella if you have, a donation if you feel so moved and a warm coat. The sex workers in LA need your support and love tonight! If someone you love and respect (me perhaps?) is a sex worker, then please come out and follow our truck on our caravan through LA.
LocationMatthew Shepard Triangle
8300 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA
follow us around LA for a few miles as we stop and show sex worker rights films at spontaneous locations and educate Angelenos about Dec 17th…