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Press Advisory: Urban Institute Report

Press Advisory For Immediate Release
Tuesday March 18, 2014
Contact: Maxine Doogan 415-265-3302

Another media circus is being unleashed by the Urban Institute of Washington D.C. on Wednesday March 19th to officially release their report titled, “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities.” The non-partisan economic and social policy research firm clearly states their conclusion on behalf of their government funders: “…law enforcement requires funding to persistently enforce laws.”

“We’ve been to this movie before,” says Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project, a San Francisco based sex worker led group citing another such play on public policy. In 2010, the Schapiro Group, a private consulting firm in Georgia, and the Women’s Funding Network of California, a women’s charity, testified before Congress and the media about the scope of underage sex trafficking in the U.S. A review of their findings was called “junk science” by the San Francisco Weekly.

“These private firms always present salacious reports that include shocking statements using extreme examples and bad methodology to promote a national anti-prostitution narrative,” said Doogan.

Private firms like the Urban Institute and the Schapiro Group before them, sight fantastical numbers that only serve to misinform the public. The false data is used to prioritize funding to suppress prostitution, an adult consensual activity, and at the same time take away resources from services for victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assaults.

“We’d like to see the tens of thousands of untested rape kits in California get processed and their respective victims get some justice as a priority,” said Ms. R, a recent rape victims, who waited months before the police tested the evidence she provided and the perpetrator was apprehended.

A total of 36 women, who were identified as being involved in court ordered programs that diverted them from being criminally prosecuted for prostitution, where interviewed along with other incarcerated individuals. Law enforcement officials’ responses were also represented in this national study’s finding. The Urban Institute’s report will undoubtedly result in law enforcement again targeting adults who are consensually working in the sex industry, a vulnerable population that already suffers from social stigma, criminalization, and unequal access to protection.

News outlets and the public ought to be weary of repeating such claims made by the Urban Institute as it only serves to perpetuate the current failed policy of disenfranchising sex industry workers, our families, and larger marginalized communities.