Raping A Sex Worker At Gunpoint Is Just “Theft Of Services,” Says Chicago Sun-Times Columnist

This Saturday, the Chicago Sun-Times published an op-ed titled “Rape Case Sends Mixed Message On Prostitution,” in which columnist Mary Mitchell suggested that by taking the rape at gunpoint of a sex worker seriously, police are somehow doing a disservice to “real victims,” going so far as to literally state that raping a sex worker at gunpoint was not rape, but “theft of services.” I wish I were kidding, but I’m not.

Let’s break this bullshit down, shall we?

A recent case involving a prostitute and a john is making a mockery of rape victims.

Authorities say Roy Akins went to Backpage.com and agreed to pay a prostitute $180 for sex.

When the unidentified woman showed up at his Austin home for the transaction, Akins allegedly took her to the bedroom and, instead of handing over the cash, pulled a gun.

Oh really, Mary? This is making a mockery of rape victims? How so? Because that sure sounds like rape to me! Pretty sure that holding a gun to someone’s head and forcing them to have sex with you is, under any circumstances, definitely rape.

I imagine most prostitutes in this situation would have run straight to a pimp. But after leaving Akins’ home in the 1100 block of North Lawler, the unidentified 24-year-old woman called the police.

Akins is now being held on $750,00 bail, charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault.

I don’t have one iota of sympathy for Akins’ plight. But I’m grateful he isn’t being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street.

Oh my! How dare she! How dare a woman like that, a non-“innocent woman off the street,” think she has the right to report a crime, just like any other human being who was sexually assaulted! Why can’t she just complain to her “pimp?” And then he could just bitchslap her and then go shake the John down like a 1970’s exploitation movie!

And gosh! Thank goodness he isn’t being “accused” of “snatching an innocent woman off the street!” Can you imagine if we thought of sex workers as also being “innocent women,” undeserving of sexual assault at gunpoint? Sheer chaos! Our moral compasses would surely spin out of control!

I honestly can’t tell if Mitchell is suggesting that it would be terrible if this was what Akins was accused of doing, or if she’s saying “better this hooker than some poor innocent woman who didn’t bring it on herself!” Either way, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Mitchell goes on to wag her finger at Backpage.com for facilitating prostitution, despite the fact that many sex workers find this to be a safer alternative to say, walking the streets at night.

Mitchell states that she is not one of those people who blame women for rape, and then proceeds to go on to blame this woman for being raped:

I’m not one of those women who believe rape victims are at fault because they dressed too provocatively or misled some randy guy into thinking it was his lucky night.

But when you agree to meet a strange man in a strange place for the purpose of having strange sex for money, you are putting yourself at risk for harm.

Yeah. Sure! But here’s the thing — putting yourself at risk for harm does not in any way diminish the actions of the person who harmed you. That person still committed a crime! If a woman was robbed while walking around carrying a Birkin bag and dripping with jewels, you wouldn’t suggest that the person who robbed her was somehow less at fault because of that. You wouldn’t say “OH, she was wearing a diamond necklace, so this guy should probably do less time than if she hadn’t been!” No, that would be ridiculous, because that person still committed a crime.

It’s clear that Mitchell and I strongly disagree on the subject of sex work. I very much support decriminalization, and obviously, she does not. Mitchell praised the police department for setting up stings on women who use Backpage.com to sell sex, and thus appeared confused as to why the police would take an assault on a woman who used Backpage.com to sell sex seriously. 

However, it is — I would hope — possible to not support the decriminalization of sex work without suggesting that a sex worker who is assaulted just got what was coming to her. Unless, apparently, you are Mary Mitchell:

It’s tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim. And because this incident is being charged as a criminal sexual assault — when it’s actually more like theft of services — it minimizes the act of rape.

Excuse me? Excuse me? THEFT OF SERVICES? Holding a gun to a woman’s head and forcing her to have sex with you is not, under any circumstance “theft of services.”

Because guess what? Everyone has the right to say no, or to revoke consent. This includes sex workers! When you put a gun to a person’s head and force them to have sex with you, that is rape. It doesn’t matter who it’s happening to, it’s rape.

Mitchell then compares this case with another recent case of rape:

Earlier this month, we saw what a rape victim looks like. Melissa Schuster, 26, of Willowbrook, was stabbed 17 times and suffered a fractured nose, broken bones and eye injuries when she was raped by a man who broke into her home after demanding cash.

After a manhunt, Londale Madison, 31, of South Bend, Indiana, was charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion and armed robbery.

Hey! Mary Mitchell! You know what a rape victim looks like? A PERSON WHO HAS BEEN RAPED. That’s literally the only criteria.

By thinking of rape only in terms of a “home invasion” or “innocent woman snatched off the street” scenario, Mitchell is the one doing rape victims a disservice. These scenarios are an extremely small percentage of the rapes that occur in this country. To suggest that they are the only ones deserving of being taken seriously by law enforcement is absolutely horrifying.

The sex worker assaulted by Roy Akins had the right to be taken seriously by law enforcement, and it’s actually pretty surprising that she was. Part of the reason why sex work needs to be decriminalized is for the safety of those working in this industry — so that they do feel as though they can report crimes committed against them to the police without fear of being prosecuted themselves. The woman who reported this crime showed great courage and should be commended, not disparaged.

The kicker to Mitchell’s op-ed?

For law enforcement to put what happened to a Backpage.com prostitute on a par with rape victims like Schuster is an insult.

No, Mary Mitchell. The real insult is the fact that you think all rape victims do not deserve equal treatment under the law. That you think a woman who engages in sex work cannot be raped.

We need to be advocating for law enforcement to take all sexual assault seriously — because the far more common problem is that they don’t.

[Chicago Sun-Times]