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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Lee & Sex Work Stigma’

Justice is what…feminists want from others, not what they do to others.  –  Scott Greenfield

Imaginary Victims 

Concern for “child sex trafficking victims” vanishes when there are no adult whores to oppress:

The Ohio Supreme Court…upheld the murder conviction of a [young] woman whose forced prostitution as a teenager was cited as a factor leading to her involvement in the fatal shooting of her pimp during a robbery…that prosecutors [claim] Alexis Martin helped plan…she…was 15 at the time of the slaying…[of] Angelo Kerney…and his brother.  The girls were having sex with the victims to distract them when the robbers entered a house and the victims were shot…Martin is not accused of firing a gun.  The juvenile court judge should have determined that Martin was covered by a 2012 Ohio law that protects children whose crimes are related to their status as trafficking victims…Had the judge determined that the so-called Safe Harbor law applied, a court-appointed guardian for the teen could have been named…

As I’ve pointed out many times, “safe harbor” laws only protect “perfect victims”, not real ones.

Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark 

Did anyone not know this already?

Men have better sex with women who are emotionally unstable…and women prefer men who are less agreeable but pay attention to detail, according to the German survey of a thousand people…Julia Velten and her colleagues interviewed each volunteer about their sex lives, personality and sexual function…

False Target (#42)

Though most of this is just typical racist anti-migrant bullshit, one part reveals a deeper sickness:

An 18-year-old Afghan native seeking asylum in Austria may have had his application denied because he didn’t act gay enough…Homosexuality is against the law in Afghanistan and many other Muslim-majority countries…But…an Austrian official…[wrote] “The way you walk, act or dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual…You appear to be capable of a level of aggression which would not be expected among homosexuals”…He had said he became aware of his sexuality when he was 12 years old, but the official found that was “rather early” and so not likely, particularly in a society such as Afghanistan “where there is no public sexual stimulation through fashion and advertisement”

The idea that all queer people “act gay” (even if they come from a place where doing so might be fatal) is bad enough, but the notion that young people are asexual tabulae rasae until they are “sexualized” by society is much worse; this dehumanizing dogma is the foundation for “conversion therapy” and “john schools”, because if sexuality is learned one who fails to conform to enforced norms can be “re-educated”.

Monsters 

Given the very large queer population of West Hollywood, the attackers were probably looking for someone to beat up:

Gay porn star and comedian Wesley Woods has opened up about a brutal…assault he and his best friend endured on 8 August when out walking in West Hollywood….in a video posted on his Twitter account….where scars on his face are visible…

Lower Education

This is what feminists call “equality”:

When…feminist superstar Judith Butler’s disgraceful and flagrantly hypocritical letter defending her sister superstar, NYU prof Avital Ronell…was sent around for signatures, threatening NYU with the wrath of scholars if Ronell wasn’t exonerated, the university had already found Ronell responsible…one of the university’s brightest academic lights had sexually harassed a gay male student under her care.  This wasn’t one of the faux Title IX cases of post-hoc regret, but the real deal.  Ronell was grad student Nimrod Reitman’s doctoral adviser…And…she turned him into her boy toy upon the implicit threat of destroying his career.  And it continued throughout his graduate studies, as proven by Ronell’s emails…Yet, these scholars sought to coerce a university into silence…to conceal Ronell’s conduct…”Diane Davis, chair of the department of rhetoric at the University of Texas-Austin…said she and her colleagues were particularly disturbed that…Reitman was using Title IX, a feminist tool, to take down a feminist“…Forget the jargonized rhetoric about power dynamics and oppression.  To these feminist scholars, Title IX is just a bludgeon to beat men into submission, and they fought to protect one of their own from facing the consequences of her sexual abuse.  And largely succeeded…

If Men Were Angels 

Isn’t it strange how sex workers are blamed for sexual abuse of kids when cops & clergy are the worst offenders?

Willow Creek Community Church [in Illinois] agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle lawsuits over the sexual abuse of two developmentally disabled boys by a church volunteer…The second and largest of the settlements, for $1.75 million, was made in February, before the Chicago Tribune revealed [supposedly] unrelated claims that the evangelical megachurch’s founder, the Rev. Bill Hybels, engaged in inappropriate conduct with women, eventually leading to his early retirement and, this month, the resignation of the church’s two leading pastors and its entire board of elders.  The influential…church also agreed last year to pay $1.5 million to another victim of former volunteer Robert Sobczak Jr…[who] is serving a 7-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy with special needs at the church and an older boy who was not connected to Willow Creek.  In 2013, Sobczak pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another disabled boy, around age 9, at the church…

The Widening Gyre (#716) 

These silly stories have been common on Facebook for some time, but now I’m starting to see them on Twitter; this one popped up in my timeline last week, and naturally my mockery of it attracted a number of “You can’t prove it isn’t true!” idiots.  They’re beautiful examples of The Law of the Instrument: “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”  And if you’re a not-very-bright young woman who’s been told that “sex traffickers” are lurking behind every bush waiting to abduct you, naturally you start to see everything in your environment, up to and including litter, as a “sign of sex trafficking”.  I’m not sure how much more ridiculous this hysteria will get before it implodes, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long to find out.

Legal Is as Legal Does (#811)

Under a “legalization” regime, sex workers are still persecuted using idiotic and arbitrary nonsense like “illegally subdividing a building”:

Hong Kong police arrested scores of suspected sex workers after launching new anti-vice raids in a residential building where nearly 100 prostitutes…were [arrested] in a [raid] earlier this year…the 80 [new] arrests…at the 15-storey King Hing Building…were…on suspicion of breaching their conditions of stay…Inspector Timothy Cheung Chun-long said…“Investigations showed criminals arranged sex workers to work in subdivided flats in the building”…

Pyrrhic Victory (#824)

When it comes to mass surveillance, fascism beats communism hands down:

Back in March, as it investigated a spate of armed robberies across Portland, Maine, the FBI made an astonishing, unprecedented  request of Google…to find all users of its services who’d been within the vicinity of at least two of nine of those robberies…the request covered a total space of 45 hectares and could’ve included anyone with an Android or iPhone using Google’s tools…The FBI then  demanded a lot of personal information on affected users, including their full names and addresses…Google account activity…[and] all affected users’ historical locations…Google didn’t provide the information…[but] the FBI’s remarkable attempt…[should] worry all who…[realize that] Google continue[s] to track people even when they turned location features off…the FBI believe they have a right to that location data too…

Laura Lee, Sex Work Stigma, and the Limits of #MeToo (#863)

Brooke Magnanti on the re-opening of Laura Lee’s case:

…you probably know the outlines of Laura Lee’s story by now.  How the vivacious and outspoken campaigner for rights was (in her words) abused by a man who interviewed her, then she reported him, then she died.  How he has gone to great lengths to cover up his misdeeds since. Including demanding apologies out of Senators and journalists, simply for sharing what I wrote.  How he leans on Twitter to disappear my tweets…How he does anything but face justice.  This week, a mote of light shone through a chink in the brick wall of denial.  Gardaí have reopened their investigation into Laura’s accusations.  This includes interviewing witnesses who saw Laura and Olaf on the night in question, who offered information to the police before but whose evidence was never followed up…We see a pattern in all of this:  that an assent, or an apology, or public acceptance wrung out under the threat of legal proceedings says very much about the man who tries to bend women to his will, and very little about the women — for it is only women — he has tried to silence.  How he systematically uses their fear of humiliation and harassment to get a superficial approximation of what he wants…

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If America had a civil death penalty, putting people on sex registries would be it.  –  Guy Hamilton Smith

Elephant in the Parlor 

The idea that politicians paying for sex is “unprofessional” tells me these people are living in a fantasy world:

…Westminster’s first code of conduct…introduced after a sex harassment scandal in parliament, ban MPs from paying for sex while…engaged in any activity connected with their role as an MP, whether in the UK or abroad…The new complaints and grievance policy states: “Although it might not be illegal to pay for sex, in line with best practice it is considered unprofessional, inappropriate and a breach of the behaviour code”…

A Broker in Pillage

Watch for the definition of “unexplained” to expand dramatically over the next decade or two:

Criminals who can’t explain how they got their money will be [robbed] under a national scheme that allows the government to sweep up their assets.  A Senate committee unanimously recommended the “unexplained wealth” legislation be passed…despite concerns being raised by the Law Council and Civil Liberties Australia.  The legislation will force people convicted of crimes to prove that their wealth was derived from legitimate sources, rather than the onus being on prosecutors to establish that it came from the proceeds of crime…Banks will be forced to hand over any information they have on the unexplained wealth of a convicted client.  The Police Federation has been lobbying for the…scheme for more than a decade…

Election Day (#332)

How many political scandals must Davis embroil herself in to get her name in the news again?

Kristin Davis, also known as the “Manhattan Madam”, will testify before a grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation…Davis [previously] met with Mueller’s team…It is not clear what the focus of that interview was or how Davis may fit into the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination between Trump associates and the Russian government.  But investigators have been very interested in Roger Stone, with whom Davis has a close personal relationship and has worked for in the past…

Everything Old is New Again

This absurd Victorian language is even funnier because it’s meant to be dead serious:

…It’s not a profession.  It’s not about the sex, and there’s certainly no erotic aspects about these encounters.  It’s purely a financial interaction, business deals that involve blood, sweat, tears and semen…women wait…for dark to descend.  Then the hunters begin to approach…Slowly they cruise by, headlights blinding the women as they search for their prey.  The hunters feel a sense of control as they strip the victims of their dignity, their humanity…

I was also tickled to see a link to this previous article about the “dangerous cycle of prostitution”, which is presumably a used Harley bought with whoring money.  After that one I wrote, “As far as I can make out, this dude’s pearl-clutching tone is dead serious.  Do you amateurs really believe this kind of shit?”

To Molest and Rape 

Would any non-cop have gotten only probation for this?

Madison County [Alabama cop] Roland Campos pleaded guilty to a [molesting a young girl]…and was sentenced to a year’s probation.  Campos…must also [register as a] Sex Offender…the judge suspended the jail term and ordered Campos to serve a year’s probation…Campos was arrested in August 2017 after a middle school student…told a school official Campos had sexually abused her…

Monsters (#730) 

The US only prosecutes people for sex worker “propaganda”, which is obviously completely different:

The first minor has been found guilty of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” laws.  Maxim Neverov was found guilty of “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” despite being only 16-years-old himself.  The teenager from Biysk was fined 50,000 rubles on 7 August for publishing photos on social network site Vkontakte [Russian Facebook]…the teenager was not allowed to consult a lawyer.  This led him to refuse to testify…

Banishment (#798)

Another good essay by Guy Hamilton Smith on the torture the US hides under the euphemism “registration”:

…Recently, a major court decision lambasted registries as ineffective at promoting public safety, while noting that they rendered those on them “moral lepers” who are forced to reside at the margins of society on the sole basis of a conviction.  Another decision, currently on appeal in the…10th Circuit…called registries cruel and unusual punishments in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution — an almost unheard-of legal conclusion for American courts to reach outside of death penalty litigation…in my view, it is the right one.  I know, because of the nearly million people on America’s sex offense registries, I am one of them.  In describing his experiences with solitary confinement — a practice widely regarded as torture — Nelson Mandela concluded that there is nothing more dehumanizing than isolation from human connection…Being labeled a sex offender, you carry your solitary with you, in your heart, and in your mind…The indelible electronic mark you carry threatens to turn your own thoughts against you, unless and until you can find a way outside of the prison your own mind begins to construct for you.  Until then, you die slowly, suffocating in shame.  I have written more fully about my story and experiences elsewhere, but I have spent the last eleven years living on America’s sex registry.  More than simply punishment, in my opinion, it is most fairly characterized as torture…

Laura Lee, Sex Work Stigma, and the Limits of #MeToo

Looks like Olaf isn’t going to be able to hush this up as he wanted to:

Gardaí have reopened an investigation into a complaint made by [the late] Laura Lee…friends of Ms Lee have been contacted by officers reopening an investigation into an alleged sexual assault.  Ms Lee, a law graduate, had made a statement to gardaí in Dublin about the…incident last November.  [Accused rapist Olaf Tyaransen] has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.  The garda investigation was closed when Ms Lee died of undisclosed causes this year at the age of 44 but gardaí are now in the process of taking statements again…

For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea (#858)

Indian sex workers’ fight against a terrible new “anti-trafficking” bill is drawing international attention:

…“No one has forced me to do this…it pays better than being a maid or factory worker,” said Sanjana Murali…“But with this law, if the police raid a kotha [brothel], I will be taken into police custody and sent to a rehabilitation clinic.  What about my freedom to choose?…If the state thinks I should be ‘rescued’ and trained to sew clothes or make papar (papadams) to survive, it is wrong.  That kind of work will never pay enough”…When MP Shashi Tharoor raised this point in parliament, he was assured by minister for women Maneka Gandhi that the bill would not target voluntary sex workers.  “That’s just her word,” said Dr Smarajit Jana of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee…“Why isn’t there a single sentence in the bill stating that?  All the bill does is empower the police to harass sex workers and disempower the women themselves.”  Jana said…that most…sex workers…are…the “heads” of their extended families.  Their income pays for food, rent, a relative’s illness, and the school fees of their children, and those of their siblings…“When you put them into a rehabilitation clinic, who is going to look after their children?”…the bill is based on paternalistic assumptions about rescuing sex workers…no…organisation was consulted in the drafting of the bill, even though sex workers are well organised…

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[Prohibitionists] would rather see [sex workers]…dead than listen to what we have to say.  –  Bristol Sex Workers Collective

Where Are the Protests? 

Middle-class American women don’t give a shit about this, because it doesn’t involve sex:

Almost 500 people…gathered…for a candlelight vigil…for victims of human trafficking…they also demanded justice and voiced outrage over…the death of Adelina Lisao, a domestic worker in Penang,  reportedly following torture by her employer…Lisao…died on February 11 of multiple organ failure just a day after being rescued by a migrant workers’ protection group.  She reportedly faced torture for more than a month and was forced to sleep outside with her employers’ dog…[Eni Lestari of the International Migrants Alliance] said…“Both Malaysia and Indonesia…have to recognise us as workers”…she said banning the export of Indonesian workers to Malaysia would not solve the problem.  “In fact, it makes it worse.  Because of the poverty, people are forced to use illegal channels.  It increases the smuggling and trafficking of people”…

Cops and Robbers

In which poor women trying to earn a living are described as “ridiculous”:

…While most residents have already retreated to their beds for the night, [politician Martin] Meyer, together with about a dozen other residents, has taken to the streets of Morningside…Donning bright reflective vests the group, made up largely of [white men], have decided it’s time to “take back the streets”.  They have formed a street patrol to try to “deter or hinder” [mostly black sex workers] in the area, which, they all agree, are out of control…Percival Gumede, who’s lived on Lilian Ngoyi Road for eight years, calls the…prostitutes “ridiculous…It’s like a cancer that’s eating at our society, right in the suburbs”…Phil Tribe…says he worries about property values, and is not certain whether to invest more into upgrading his home…Ariff Saib [said]…“We want the riff-raff out of the area”…

When you see quotes like this from South Africans, it becomes more clear how apartheid happened.

The Day of the Dead (#532) 

Less chauvinistic question:  “Why don’t Western funerals include strippers?

…China renewed a clampdown on strippers performing at funerals, wedding and temples, calling it “obscene and vulgar”…It’s just the latest in a series of campaigns over the years by the Chinese government to end the practice of funeral strippers [which originated in Taiwan].  China’s Ministry of Culture has deemed such performances “uncivilised” and announced that anyone who hires a stripper to entice people to a funeral will be “severely punished”…The Ministry of Culture’s new campaign will target in particular the Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces.  The government has also set up a hotline for the public to report any “funeral misdeeds” in exchange for a monetary reward…

I’m sure the practice’s origin in a place that’s a continual embarrassment for Beijing has nothing to do with this.

Negative Secondary Effects

These “objections” are hilariously petulant:

…the owner of both Central Chambers and Urban Tiger strip clubs has applied to renew its Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licences with Bristol City Council.  Several [prohibitionist] groups want Bristol City Council to reject the applications on…grounds [such as]…“I am unable to avoid seeing Urban Tiger whenever I go to the city centre area…it is not appropriate to have strip clubs…close to areas used by families with young children.” [And]…“Central Chambers promotes harmful attitudes towards women…This is not because it is a sex-related business”…women who work at the club [correctly] say these objections come from a small group of closed minded “so called feminists” and they should not be punished for choosing to do a job which some find distasteful…[one] dancer…said the flexible hours allow her to care for her son and she is sick of being thought of as a “victim of degradation” or “some sort of social deviant”…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do (#783) 

Abusive men often try to gaslight their victims, but this cop’s trying to gaslight other cops:

A Bronx cop accused of having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute refused to admit that he knew his victim — even when he was shown pictures of the two of them in bed together…Raul Olmeda wouldn’t admit that he was the man…in the…photos…[even though they] were found on his computer and cellphone…The department trial will determine if he should get kicked off the force.  Rape allegations for having sex with the minor, identified in court only as SG, will be adjudicated in…criminal court at a later date.  Advocate Anna Krutaya said Olmeda…claimed he couldn’t identify the furniture in his own home when confronted with the photos, which were taken in his bedroom and living room.  Yet, when cops executed a search warrant at his address, the furniture in the photos was inside…Olmeda made his bold denials after he was confronted with an audio file of a recording [from his computer] where[i]n he tells SG to “lay low” because Internal Affairs was investigating him.  “Technically you are a minor,” Olmeda told the teen on the recording, according to Krutaya…

Yeah, a 15-year-old is “technically” a minor.  And we all know how cops hate “technicalities”.

R.I.P. Laura Lee

Standard Operating Procedure (#814)

Hey NGOs: About 70% of sex workers’ clients are married, and most have kids.  Pleasant dreams.

Jan Weuts, a humanitarian adviser at Caritas Belgium, says the NGO has a way to avoid its staff engaging with sex workers in developing countries.  “Ninety percent of our representatives in the field nowadays are women or couples…we go for relatively young women, or men in a stable family situation…you make an analysis, and one of the analyses is ‘how will this person behave in an environment where there is a lot of prostitution?’”…A spokesperson for Caritas Belgium confirmed this…“it kind of guarantees that there is more stability and you don’t have a bunch of guys with a lot of testerone [sic] living together in a compound”…

To Molest and Rape (#814) 

This will continue as long as cops have power over peaceful individuals:

…The case looked weak, Detective Michel Toro of the Miami Police Department warned M.B. in a pair of text messages on Feb. 4, 2016, five days after he’d taken her statement accusing her ex-fiancé of sexual assault.  Then, his tone shifted.  “Well I can’t lie, your [sic] such a beautiful and attractive woman…I just wanted to let u [sic] know that I’m someone u [sic] could trust”…[t]he text…[was] the first of many…increasingly suggestive messages…Three days later, shortly after midnight, Toro showed up outside M.B.’s apartment after texting that he wanted to see her…M.B. went outside to sit in his unmarked squad car, and…Toro made his move, leaning over to kiss her and eventually putting his finger inside of her.  She was shaking in fear, so much so that Toro stopped and asked if he’d done anything wrong, M.B. said, but she was afraid to tell him to stop…[he forced] two more sexual encounters over the next nine days…during his shift in the middle of the night wearing a suit, with his radio, gun, and badge still on his belt, she said.  M.B. couldn’t ignore him, given his role in investigating her case, but she felt increasingly stuck…So on Feb. 27, four weeks after she’d reported being raped, M.B. told police that Toro pressured her into a sexual relationship…Toro wasn’t charged with a crime.  He wasn’t even fired.  Instead, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office let Toro resign.  M.B.’s ex-fiancé also wasn’t charged.  By the time prosecutors informed M.B. about the dismissed cases, she was living in a homeless shelter…35 states have loopholes that allow cops to evade sexual assault convictions by claiming that a..[rape] was consensual.  Florida isn’t one of them…but it does not specifically say that a [cop] is forbidden from having sex with a witness or an alleged victim in a case they’re investigating — another major loophole that exists in all 50 states…

Laura Lee, Sex Work Stigma, and the Limits of #MeToo

I wonder when Olaf’s lawyer will tell him Irish defamation judgments are unenforceable on US citizens?

Scientist and author Dr Brooke Magnanti…alleges Hot Press journalist Olaf Tyaransen drugged, sexually assaulted and beat the late Dublin-born sex workers’ rights campaigner Laura Lee.  Mr Tyaransen, who denies the allegations and has promised unspecified legal redress, interviewed Ms Lee at a Dublin hotel in October 2014 for Hot Press magazine, where he serves as a staff writer…Hot Press said…Tyaransen would be stepping down from the magazine by “mutual agreement” while “he deals with these allegations”…Tyaransen sent us the following statement:  “It’s completely untrue. I will be taking legal action”…

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Though Laura Lee is gone, her friends will not let her be forgotten; there were many awful people who hurt her for her work, from Catholic nuns to “feminist” crusaders to pompous politicians.  But there is one we have kept silent about for years; no more.  Brooke Magnanti obtained permission from Laura’s surviving family to write this; she published it on Medium, and asked me to mirror it here as a signal-boost.

I first met activist Laura Lee at a signing for my book The Sex Myth in 2012.  We became friends instantly, united by our belief that no activism is more powerful than being honest to people about sex work.  That showing our faces is the only way to speak truth to power.  Both of us experienced the ups and downs of going public with our pasts.  From Laura Lee’s grilling in Stormont, or how we were spoken about and treated by the press, it’s safe to say that being known as a sex worker invites vicious criticism, to the extent that we both received threats of death and violence.  We bitched and bonded over it behind the scenes, but got on with life, because some things were more important than cowering while cowards raged.  Laura was always keen to show as full a picture of sex work as possible.  She had worked at almost every level of the industry and knew the business inside out.  As she liked to say, she’d been everywhere from chicken sheds to five-star hotels.  Laura had a knack of telling her story in a way that was relatable, especially to other single mothers and concerned parents.  She had a gift.

Unfortunately that producer was not successful in developing a show featuring Laura, so the plans were put on the back burner.  But he did have other media connections, and it was his acquaintance with a music journalist in Dublin that convinced Laura to give an in-depth interview to well-known Irish writer Olaf Tyaransen.  You already know the kind of man Olaf is:  middle aged but refuses to wear ties, brags about going backstage with Bono, tweets “edgy” comments about drugs.  But he was the friend of a friend, so we figured he was probably alright.  The interview happened in October of 2014.  With so much interest in Laura’s activism, I hardly paid attention to what surely would be just one of the many positive and impactful interviews she gave that year.  When she messaged me shortly after, I was stunned by what she said.  After the interview, Laura told me, Olaf had invited himself back to her room for more chat.  And it was there he drugged her, beat her, and sexually assaulted her.  Now, for those who didn’t know Laura: she was not only formidable in activism, she was just as formidable in person.  A tall, strong woman whose physical presence served her well in domination — the part of sex work that comprised the majority of her appointments.  She was no meek submissive, and experienced enough to follow her instincts on who was potentially dangerous.  In a business that is never risk-free, she handled herself.  He still beat her black and blue.

Laura was not the kind to throw around false accusations.  I believed her as soon as she told me.  But she even shared pictures of a chat with another friend describing what he had done.  She didn’t report it, not right away.  Sex workers know that feminist solidarity rarely if ever applies to us.  Laura was a strong person but also realistic.  What power does a sex worker, even a well-known one, have against a journalist?  Who would be believed?  Sex workers are the “surplus women” who absorb men’s violence, in the view of the mainstream press.  When attacks happen we do not expect to be cared for or supported.  At worst we can expect to be disbelieved; at best, to be told that we deserve it.  Take for example the case of Morgan Marquis-Boire, a hacker from New Zealand.  The violent abuse he perpetrated was covered up not only because of who he was, but because of who his victims were, including sex workers.  It is exactly this kind of stigma that Laura spent years fighting.  The stigma that is heightened by the Swedish Model and other anti-sex worker propaganda.  The stigma that suggests it’s “feminist” for sex workers to operate in the shadows and be victimised.  The stigma that says women are only valuable if they are sweet and virginal and blameless.  The kind that makes it difficult for sex workers who are attacked to go to the police.

The Hotpress piece by Tyaransen ran in December 2014, and eventually what she told me about the interview left my mind.  Laura continued to follow Olaf on Twitter after the assault, which was no surprise if you knew her.  She followed a lot of accounts she disagreed with, from Irish anti-sex work campaigners Ruhama to Abolition Scotland to Human Trafficking News.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer as the saying goes.  Life went on.  Or seemed to.  Then 2017 happened, and so did #MeToo.  The movement began with Hollywood and Weinstein but it didn’t end there.  Suddenly the floodgates were opening.  Powerful men in media who for decades had gotten away with harassment, abuse, and rape were being called out by their victims.  Some were even being held to account, losing projects and positions.  #MeToo gave Laura hope.  Hope that finally she would be able to go to the Gardaí and be believed.  Hope that she could tell her story and, if not put her abuser in jail, at least prevent any other woman from going through what she went through.  Now, there are all kinds of men who abuse.  In the case of people such as Harvey Weinstein, power covers their tracks.  But others are more insidious.  They lurk in the shadows, picking off the vulnerable, the liminal, the unlikely to be believed.  They attack people with complicated pasts such as sex workers.  And they present a blameless face to the world.  Consider, for example, this tweet from Tyransen in December 2017:

My tweet (now deleted) asked if there was a reason he in particular might be afraid of the ground shifting.  I wanted to let him know, if he was self-aware enough to realise it, that what he had done would not stay secret for much longer.  Rape is more than an edgy lifestyle choice for sad middle aged journos on a Hunter S Thompson trip.  It’s fair to say he either didn’t get the hint or was still confident a man’s insistence would win out over a sex worker’s evidence.  This was his response:

Twitter spats count for very little; what matters is holding abusers to account.  In November 2017, Laura, supported by Wendy Lyon, gave a statement of evidence to the police at Store Street Station in Dublin.  The weight of what had happened troubled her in the years since it happened.  In particular the thought that with no one speaking out, he might have been able to do the same thing to someone else.  With police and papers suddenly interested in exposing abusers, Laura felt that — regardless of the stress it would cause her, with so much else going on — it was time to speak up.  Wendy stayed with her on that day, while Laura gave her statement for over six hours.  Laura was a strong person, almost unimaginably so.  And this took every bit of strength she had.  We waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited.  Meanwhile, her attacker went about his life as if nothing happened, because for him, it probably was nothing.  We continued to keep tabs on him, noting how dismissive he was of the Presidents Club dinner wait staff who had been abused.  A subtweet meant for Laura?  Maybe.  A shudder-inducing insight into the mind of a predator?  Definitely. 

And then everything changed, again.  I wish I could say this is the part where the guards kick in a door, cuff the guy, and justice prevails but many readers will already know how this story ends.  It ends with Laura Lee’s sudden death.  It ends with Gardaí closing the case because the main witness is gone.  It ends with a man who preyed on someone he thought would never speak out just…getting away with it.  Now it is over three years since Olaf Tyaransen sexually assaulted Laura Lee in a hotel room, drugged her, beat her black and blue.  For far too long we watched and waited and hoped for something to be done only to be told, now, there will never be justice.  But I am alive.  And I don’t give a shit about legal threats and bluster and the egos of violent men.  Laura would have done the same for any sex worker.  In fact she did: staying on social media all night to make sure a friend who was raped on tour was OK.  Lambasting journalists for how they reported on the trial of Bala Chinda, who murdered sex worker Jessica McGraa.  She was not one to let violence against sex workers by cowardly men be brushed under the rug.  Laura Lee tried, in a world that little cared for our lives and safety, to be an advocate.  She tried to put her abuser behind bars.  She can’t carry that on anymore, and between the indifference of the #MeToo movement to the stories of sex workers and the failure of the police to move forward as soon as they had evidence, perhaps this will go nowhere.  Perhaps I am just pissing in the wind.  But I don’t think I am, and I don’t think Laura would believe I was either.  It matters for people to know her struggle and her pain.  It matters for people to know who the predators are, the ones who bide their time so they can attack women they perceive as vulnerable and sneer about it all later.  Olaf Tyaransen drugged and raped Laura Lee.  He beat her.  And he went on with his life as if nothing happened.  He did it because of who she was, counting on her never being able to tell her side of the story.  She tried to fight the stigma and use the system to her advantage, but now she is gone, and he wins.  Just the way they always did and always do.

Beware this man Olaf Tyaransen, abuser, vile slime in journalist’s clothing.  And never let him do this to anyone ever again.

Laura left behind a teenage daughter on her own; please consider donating to the ongoing fundraiser to help Cat, which runs until the first week of March.

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