It’s perfectly legal for cops to trick prostitutes into having sex with them. Meet the women behind the fight to change this
‘It’s incredibly traumatic to be tricked into having sex with someone who stops in the middle and puts you in handcuffs’
Police officers and sex workers’ rights advocates are going head to head over whether or not police officers should be allowed to have sexual contact with sex workers before arresting them.
If Alaska passes House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112, they will be the first state to make it illegal for police to have sexual contact with the people they are investigating for sex work.
Alaskan police officers say when they are undercover, they need to be able to touch the sex workers — otherwise the women will become suspicious — but the public doesn’t seem to think along the same lines.
In a survey Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) conducted, 90 percent of voters thought it should be illegal for police to have sexual contact with sex workers during stings.
Community United for Safety and Protection is a group of sex workers and allies dedicated to ensuring sex workers are safe and protected.
There is a section in the bills that would also make it illegal for police officers to interact sexually with the sex workers once they are in custody.
Anchorage Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Case said this law is “insulting to law enforcement”, because no officer would have sex with someone they were investigating.
Terra Burns, one of the founders of CUSP, told Glamour that her organization has evidence of police officers engaging in sexual activity with suspects and not receiving punishment.
Burns also said she knows many women who have experienced PTSD after being arrested in the midst of a sexual act with a police officer.
“It’s incredibly traumatic to be tricked into having sex with someone who stops in the middle and puts you in handcuffs and takes you against your will to be locked up in jail,” Burns said.
The CUSP website has multiple accounts of women who were violated by police officers during their time as sex workers.
One sex worker, who has been in the business for 20 years, said she met someone at a hotel and had sex with him until completion. Afterwards, he said she was going to be arrested. The sex worker said she never touched the money the undercover police officer tried to use to pay her so there was no grounds for arrest. She claims the police officer then praised her for being a smart woman and tried to follow her out of the hotel.
“I had to say that I wanted to do it, and therefore I did not to anything illegal,” the sex worker said. “I felt completely violated. I don’t think he should have been able to have sex with me especially until completion. It made me very uncomfortable and made me mistrust the police.”
According to CUSP, this sentiment of mistrust is common because 74 percent of Alaskan sex workers said they have not reported a crime to the police they have either witnessed or been a victim of.
Another sex worker said at 16 years old, a police officer coerced her into giving him a blow job, so she could avoid arrest.
“He said, ‘I can book you but there are ways that we can do this, and I won’t take you to jail. Being as young as you are, you don’t want to go to jail. So, you do me a favor and I’ll do you a favor,”‘ the woman said.
The police say they are simply trying to end child sex-trafficking but 60 percent of Alaskan sex trafficking victims reported being sexually assaulted by the police, compared to 26 percent of sex workers.
One victim called 911 to report she was a victim of sex-trafficking, and months later the Special Crime Investigative Unit booked an appointment with her. An officer then paid her for sexual activities, and as the activity was coming to an end the state troopers burst through the door to try and bust the woman that had called them for help months prior.
One sex worker who currently has a prostitution charge says the police are not trying to save her, they have instead ruined her life.
“Now that I have the charge, I’m not able to get a job. If they want to rescue us don’t put the charges on our records, so that we can’t get normal jobs or live normal lives,” the sex worker said.
Despite these examples, Alaska Dispatch News reports both bills are currently stuck in committee hearings, but will be reintroduced at the beginning of the next legislative season.