CONTENT WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of rape and sexual assault. If you feel as though these topics may affect you, please proceed with caution. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault or rape, you can speak to a caring counsellor from 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Pornographic actress Stoya has been at the middle of a social media storm ever since accusing ex-partner James Deen of rape about a month ago

The strong-willed, outspoken model tweeted the accusation, which painted the picture of the awful feelings that come from the public heralding someone who has allegedly committed sexual assault, as a feminist. Since her accusation, ten other women have come forward with their own allegations of rape, harassment and sexual assault. 

Stoya has since tweeted ‘I believe ______’, naming each of the women who have publicly come forward about Deen. One of the biggest challenges she is facing is that she is a sex worker, as are many of the other accusers. The stigma attached to sex work ultimately makes the fight to be heard about sexual assault, damn near impossible. 

Yesterday, Stoya wrote a blog post to raise awareness for ‘International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers‘ – December 17. The post goes into eloquent detail about the stigma that sex workers face, as well as her relationship with Deen. It also explains the reasoning behind one of the biggest criticisms of her accusation: why she did not go to the police, or the APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee).

“I didn’t feel I could file a report with the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, APAC. James had been on its board since it was founded. Similarly, I didn’t feel as if I could press charges because the U.S. court system rarely metes out anything that looks like justice when sex workers are involved. Social media seemed to be the most appropriate and only real option.”

Wouldn’t you feel powerless too, if the accused was one of the members of the private board designed for that very reason? And any sex worker will tell you that the police (and the justice system in general) are usually less than helpful when it comes to reporting an assault.

Media are largely at fault for perpetuating anti-sex work stigma too – one only has to look at some of the derogatory, disgusting, offensive headlines that are published when a sex worker is assaulted or killed. The stigma is so far institutionalised, that it actually gets used as a defence in a court of law; for example, War Machine‘s lawyers saying that Christy Mack could not be raped due to the fact she is a porn star. Which is unfathomable – giving consent once does not mean that consent is unconditionally given forever.

So, what can one do to help improve the current situation that sex workers face in their industry? Stoya says, simply listen. Listen intently when sex workers speak about their experiences.

“One thing that everyone can do is listen to sex workers. Today is December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers—all sex workers. Not just pornographers. Not just white cis-women. And not just women who are fortunate enough to get column space in respectable papers. I’ll be doing a lot of listening to others under the red umbrella of sex work. I believe that their safety is important and that it can be improved. I believe that no one is safe and no one is protected unless we’re all safe and protected, sex worker or not.”

By listening and acknowledging the plight of sex workers’ fight for decriminalisation, you stand in solidarity with them, and you can help change conservative mindsets to ensure safety and wellbeing. 

Listen, because no one should go to work concerned that they will be sexually assaulted. No one. 

Source: Graphic Descriptions.

Photo: Albert L Ortega / Stefania D’Alessandro / Getty.