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Calif. prostitutes may gain victim compensation


Associated Press


SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> California officials are considering whether to change a decades-old anti-crime regulation and allow prostitutes to receive money from a victim compensation fund if they're raped or beaten by a john or pimp.

Under the current system, those harmed in violent crimes can be paid for medical costs and related expenses, but prostitutes are excluded because their activities are illegal.

California is the only state in the nation with such a provision, said Jon Myers, deputy executive officer of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

"We're kind of all alone on that," he said. "The idea, back in the late '90s, was to get tougher on crime."

The American Civil Liberties Union and organizations representing sex trade workers want the rules changed.

The current system feeds the perception that sex workers are "a substandard type of victim," said Maxine Doogan, who described herself as a working prostitute and an organizer for the Erotic Service Providers Union in San Francisco. "It institutionalizes sexual assaults against our class of worker."

Changing the rule has the support of district attorneys in Alameda, Santa Clara and Sutter counties, along with the victim-witness program director for Santa Barbara County's district attorney's office. They say sex workers often are coerced into their trade and so should not be denied benefits if they are harmed.

The conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation says its goal is to "assure that crime does not pay," but in this case agrees with changing the rules.

"Prostitution is a crime, but it's a minor one," said Kent Scheidegger, the foundation's legal director. "If someone's been a victim of a major crime like rape or battery, it shouldn't disqualify them from restitution."

Also, there was no opposition in writing or at public hearings on the proposed rule change from more than 20 law enforcement officials, mental health providers, victims and advocates who commented, Myers said.

The board will meet Thursday morning to consider the request. Board members could do away with the rule or make changes. It currently applies to any activity related to prostitution, including pimping or soliciting.

California created the nation's first victim compensation program in 1965, and formal rules barring payments to those involved in criminal activity have been in place since 1999. Such rules also bar reimbursement for those injured as a result of their involvement with illegal drugs, gang activities or consensual fights.

The program gets its money from fines and restitution paid by criminals, along with federal matching funds. It reimburses victims of violent crimes for expenses including medical care, counseling, lost income and increasing home security.

"Whether someone is engaged in prostitution shouldn't have anything to do with whether they've been beaten or raped," said Kimberly Horiuchi, an ACLU attorney. "Anytime we walk down the road that ‘the victim deserved it,' it sends the wrong message."

Though victims can be reimbursed for up to $62,000 in expenses, the average compensation is just under $2,000. Last year the board denied 28 claims because the victims were deemed to have been involved in prostitution-related activities.

This year the board amended its regulations to comply with a new state law that allows reimbursement for human trafficking victims regardless of their activities.

"Whether there was prostitution or not, if they were deemed to be involved in trafficking then they can qualify for our program," Myers said.

Doogan said it is common for sex workers to face threats or assaults from pimps or customers. Yet, they are often reluctant to report crimes because they themselves are involved in an illegal activity.

"I have been in a lot of situations where I needed to call for help and police protection," said Doogan. Yet, "I have to think about risking my economic circumstances in order to report crimes when I've been a victim. Those are really tough calls that people who are in the sex industry have to weigh every day."

None of the three board members would comment in advance of Thursday's meeting. They are Marybel Batjer, secretary of the California Government Operations Agency and the board's chairwoman; state Controller John Chiang; and San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos.

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lwandcah wrote:
How about taking care of the poor drug dealers when a deal goes bad and one of them gets shot? Or when fellow bank robbers shoot each other over the split? Surely they should get support fromt the victims fund.
on December 12,2013 | 07:08AM
richierich wrote:
If prostitution were legalized many of the social ills that often accompany it would no longer. It's a victimless crime. Legalize it. Regulate it. Tax it.
on December 12,2013 | 07:15AM
false wrote:
Same goes with legalizing gambling in Hawaii. Out with the overzealous religious bozos. Even kids with their kendama learn the art and thrill of chance.
on December 12,2013 | 09:03AM
Ronin006 wrote:
It makes no sense to compensation someone for being assaulted while committing a crime. And exactly what constitutes rape of a prostitute after she has been paid to provide sex?
on December 12,2013 | 07:29AM
false wrote:
Next they will offer workman's compensation for back injuries.
on December 12,2013 | 09:41AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Or to the guy who takes Viagra and has an erection lasting more than four hours.
on December 12,2013 | 12:24PM
loquaciousone wrote:
In our justice system is a proviso of "CLEAN HANDS". In other words, the justice system is not set up to reward illegal behavior. California needs to just drop off into the ocean and separate itself from the rest of the United States....oh I forgot Hawaii already did that.
on December 12,2013 | 08:33AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Are they FN kidding? No wonder California is broke.
on December 12,2013 | 08:55AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
This is really a tough call for officials. On the one hand they cannot condone criminal activities but at the same time they cannot turn away from a victim. Yes, prostitutes put themselves in the situation but at the same time no man or woman has the right to beat or rape another human being for any reason. It is also against the law and is considered a whole lot more serious than the offense of prostitution. One thing that I do not buy is that prostitution is a crime. Women, or men, who choose to sell their bodies are not criminals. That is their body and they have every right to sell their services as long as they do not break laws that protect others from crimes such as rape and abuse. Many service industry workers "prostitute" themselves through other means. Take masseurs and other massage therapists. As soon as they touch a customer's body they have sold themselves to a client. Even though it is not seen as sexual it can be taken as sexual sensations by the client. The massage therapist has every right to use his or her hands to make a living. Prostitution can never be eradicated as this is considered the oldest profession on the planet. Further, what separates these prostitutes from women who get married to rich men just so that they can gain financially? Many of these token wives simply are used for sex and escort by many of these rich men. Women should not have to walk in dark alleys just to make a living. As long as we see them as criminals we will continue to allow these johns to abuse women. In one state, brothels operate that allow women to have a safer place to conduct their business and at the same time the state collects taxes on their income. Further, these women are required to take tests to help reduce the passing of sexually contracted diseases. Of course, no one wants such a facility anywhere in their communities as it brings a lot of negative connotations. Yes, it degrades women. But isn't forcing them to lead lives in dark alleys just as degrading and even more dangerous? If we are going to go that route than we should make strip clubs illegal also as it degrades women. Further, we should make it illegal as these strip clubs often offer lap dancing which is "prostitution" in every sense of the word.
on December 12,2013 | 09:28AM
false wrote:
This is hilarious. Did this come from the National Enquire? I can't believe it. California has gone nuts.
on December 12,2013 | 09:40AM
konag43 wrote:
this is redicules. they know what is instore for them when they peddle prostitution what happends to them is their own fault. and they will only use the money to buy more drugs and get high or give it to their pimps. what should tax dollars be used for those purposes. the only bozo is you false.gaming creates unsafe enviroments for kids and famiies . so right ronin006
on December 12,2013 | 10:16AM
Ronin006 wrote:
This story reminds me of the prostitute who had an appendectomy and started making money on the side after the doctor sewed up the wrong hole.
on December 12,2013 | 12:27PM
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