Sex workers face the possibility victimization when turning to police, Peers says. (File photo)

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

Nurse Vicki Niemi administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Joyce, 88, on Mar. 23, 2020 at the Terrace Sportsplex. All adults in Terrace are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccination. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
All adults in Terrace can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Community members can register by calling 833-838-2323 or visiting getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca

April 2020 to March 2021 was the second wettest year on record since at least 1969, according to Environment Canada. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Terrace records wettest spell in over a half-century

Terrace saw close to 1,500 millimetres of precipitation between April 2020 and March 2021

Terrace fire department responded to a call from Skeena Saw Mills at the early hours of Friday morning. (Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)
UPDATE: Fire crews respond to early morning incident at Skeena Sawmills

No injuries were reported as mill workers immediately alerted the fire department after seeing smoke

Terrace Tim Hortons on Keith Ave. experienced a fire during the morning of April 4, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Nature of Tim Hortons fire made it difficult to detect: Deputy fire chief

Fire likely burned undetected inside a wall, resulting in extensive damage

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read