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  

Oak Bay Police DepartmentPEERSSaanich Police Department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

UPDATED: Some states of local emergency suspended by ministerial order

Suspension applies to regional districts but not First Nations

A letter from Bella Coola doctors on COVID-19: ‘All our lives depend on your actions now’

“None of us are invincible; we can all get it and spread it without even knowing.”

COVID-19: Bella Coola RCMP close detachment front door access

The public is being asked to call 250 799 5363 for assistance

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read