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It's a Screwed-Up World When Prostituted Women Are Arrested More Often Than the Johns Who Abuse and Kill Them

The system continues to treat women in prostitution as criminals rather than as women in need of special services.

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Rachael Morgan, a volunteer leader at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and a SAGE survivor, said coverage like that of Gardner’s case effects the way prostituted women see themselves.

“They treat you like you’re less than human,” Morgan said. “It’s unreal. [Gardner] endured a lot of pain when she was out there, and [this coverage] doesn’t symbolize any of that. Nothing positive the girl did in her life was mentioned. I wouldn’t have wanted to be remembered that way.”

Morgan’s story is not at all atypical. She started using heroin at 16, and her family cut her off financially several years later. In eight years on the Chicago streets, she was raped and brutalized numerous times. One of several pimps she paid over the years hunted her down and beat her when she fled. Although she was frequently victimized, Morgan said that virtually all of her interactions with police targeted her as the criminal.

“You get pulled over in a car with a john and you watch him drive away from the back of a cop car,” Morgan said. “It happens all the time. I was tortured in a garage for three hours. It was so sickening, and I couldn’t even think about going to the police because they’d pull up my record and arrest me. Every girl was the same way. You get raped, you go wash up, and go back out there.”

Morgan did approach police once, after she was hospitalized for having jumped from a moving car to avoid being shot by a john who had been holding a gun to her head. She identified the john by his nickname and watched as police retrieved his information, including his full name. Still, the police did nothing to punish this man—one of many who threatened her life over the years.

Morgan’s experience is more common than that of a prostituted 16-year-old girl in Chicago, whose 42-year-old assailant, Adekunkle Adefeyinti, was found guilty of two felony charges—aggravated battery and leaving the scene of an accident—on August 16.

Adefeyinti was convicted by a Cook County judge and stands to serve a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison for flinging the girl from his Hummer SUV to avoid paying her. Among her many injuries, part of her scalp was ripped off when her body collided with a parked car.

According to a press release from the State's Attorney’s Office, the conviction is considered a victory in the office’s fight against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that one of every three teenage runaways is pulled into prostitution in the first 48 hours of life on the street, and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, most girls are first prostituted between the ages of 12 and 14.

CAASE spokesperson Kristin Claes, who was present at the trial, said the case is groundbreaking because it identifies the prostituted girl as a victim and specifically targets a john for violence against her. Considering that so many children are prostituted all over the country, such a precedent must be set. Claes added, however, that the judge expressed reservations about the victim’s integrity. “They’ve arrested johns before, but it’s groundbreaking to see a survivor of prostitution treated as a victim,” Claes said. Still, “the judge did say he did not find the victim credible because of what she was wearing in court.”

Adefeyinti’s sentencing hearing will take place on September 17, and will mark a success for the State’s Attorney in time for Operation Buyer Beware. It's a small step, however, toward reshaping social perception of women in prostitution.

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