Highlighting the grave consequences of NYPD’s vice squad’s work to dismantle the unregulated sex industry in New York, this article paints a poignant picture of Yang’s life and tragic death post-raid.
It is prudent to point out that the author mentions James O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner, who revealed in early 2017 that Vice shifted its work to target the pimps and the johns instead of the service providers themselves. While this seems harm reductive, this decreases safety and increases violence against the providers. If johns are criminalized, anyone seeking pay-for-play sex will be more likely to want to break the law and push boundaries. The answer is the full decriminalization of sex work to protect the lives of all operating within unregulated economies.
Petite Jasmine (legally known as Eva-Maree) was a Swedish sex worker, activist, and outspoken critic of the Nordic model. She had known that her ex-husband was violent and stalking her. When she went to the authorities to report this worrying behavior in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, the police dismissed her because she is a sex worker. In the years leading up to her murder, her husband, already sanctioned for his violent behavior, got full custody of their children because of her sex worker status. The European sex worker and activist community held protests and memorials for Petit Jasmine and another sex worker murdered in Turkey, Dora Oezer.
Dora Özer, a 24-year-old Turkish trans woman, was murdered in her home July 9, 2013. Because the Turkish system legalizes full service work only for registered workers in legal brothels, Dora was not protected from violent clients. Anyone unregistered is only able to work in dangerous circumstances and is distanced from healthcare and law protection services.
Press release from Global Network of Sex Work Projects, July 10, 2013
Donna Castleberry Dalton
Donna Castleberry Dalton was killed by an undercover vice police officer in Columbus, Ohio. She was in a car with the undercover officer after an alleged altercation, and the police officer shot her three times (some sources say eight, but the coroner’s report lists three). It is unknown whether Dalton knew that she was in the car with a police officer but it seemed as if she was trapped in the backseat of the car with him and likely feared for her life. Mitchell, the police officer in question, was already under investigation for criminal activity on his numerous rental properties.
Splinter News online, August 27, 2018
Deborah Jeane Palfrey
Famously dubbed “The DC Madam” by media, Palfrey ran an escort agency in Washington, DC. Unable to convict on trafficking charges, prosecutors convicted her on racketeering and money laundering charges. After she was sentenced to 5 to 6 years in prison, she was found hanged along with her black book of clients and messages to her family. It was ruled a suicide, although she did not seem suicidal according to her mother. She catered to DC’s elite, including several senators.
The New York Times, May 2, 2008
Because of the stigma, marginalization, and criminalization of the sex industry, serial killers often target sex workers, knowing that they will likely be able to get away with killing people who are not valued by society or law enforcement.
Juan David Ortiz, a Border Patrol Agent, was apprehended after a woman in his captivity escaped and linked him to the four murders of sex workers working by the border of U.S. and Mexico. All four murders were committed in a short two-week span and in a similar way. Had his last potential victim not escaped, it is not clear how long it would have taken until he was caught.
Gary Leon Ridgway aka Green River Killer was convicted of murdering 49 sex workers but admitted to 80 murders although the bodies were never found. He stated that killing prostitutes was best because no one would know they were gone and they were easy to pick up.
The Giglo Beach killer targeted sex workers in Long Island in 2013.
Peter Sutcliff, the Yorkshire Killer, killed 13 women in England, some of them sex workers.
Steve Wright killed five sex workers in Ipswitch, England.
Robert Hanson killed 17 sex workers in Anchorage, Alaska. Again, he discovered that strippers and full service providers were less likely to be missed by the people around them and, as a result, reduced his chances of getting caught.
Joel Rifkin killed 17 sex workers in the New York area.
Robert William Pickton killed 49 women, most of them sex workers, in Canada.
Jack the Ripper was famous for killing full service providers in the late 1800s in Whitechapel, a low-income area of London. He was never caught, but the horrific and gruesome murders mysteriously stopped in 1888.