San Francisco

New Bill Proposes to Protect Sex Workers Who Report Crimes

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announced Monday he introduced a statewide bill last week aimed at protecting sex workers from being arrested when they report serious and violent crimes.

According to Wiener, Senate Bill 233 ensures that sex workers who witnessed or are victims of crimes like sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion or burglary won't be criminalized.

Additionally, the bill would prohibit the possession of condoms from being used as probable cause to arrest someone for sex work.

"This legislation is about protecting victims and increasing public safety. Too many sex workers are victimized, and the last thing we need is for sex workers to be further victimized by being arrested when they report a crime. If sex workers risk arrest for reporting a crime, they simply won't come forward, and violent criminals will go free," Wiener said in a statement.

"We also need to make it easy and safe for workers to access condoms. Using condoms as evidence of sex work creates a huge incentive for sex workers not to carry or use them. Criminalizing possession of condoms undermines our efforts to reduce HIV prevention," he said.

According to Wiener's office, a study conducted by the University of California at San Francisco and the San Francisco-based organization St. James Infirmary, 60 percent of sex workers experience some form of violence while working. Among those, 32 percent reported being physically attacked and 29 percent reported being sexually assaulted on the job.

"Predators view sex workers as easy targets because the illegality of their work makes the police a natural threat; abusers know most sex workers will never go to the police, and they take advantage of that," St. James Infirmary deputy director Pike Long said in a statement.

The San Francisco District Attorney's Office has already adopted the practice and committed to not use condoms as evidence when prosecuting sex workers. The San Francisco Police Department has also set guidelines to prohibit the arrest of sex workers who report crimes, according to Wiener's office.

A hearing will be set for SB 233 in the coming months, Wiener's office said.

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