NJRUA ARTICLE ON PARENTING & PROSTITUTION. Originally shared in 2015 on Sex Workers Outreach Project – PHILLY
Giving Sex Workers’ Children to their Abusers: In 2015 the New Jersey Red Umbrella Project [NJRUA] regional director Janet Duran was sued for child support, despite having no income source, receiving public assistance, and serving as a registered caretaker with the state for one of her parents, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
Duran lost custody and all visitation rights to her abusive partner in 2005. According to a press release by the NJRUA: This decision was made despite the fact that [Duran’s former partner] had been known to be physically abusive in both private and public settings. Ms. Duran had even filed a restraining order in the past because of the physical beatings she has received from him. What’s more, Ms. Duran’s perceived involvement for engaging in the sex trade was openly used against her during the case. Ultimately, the Passaic County Family Courts found a violent man to be more of a fit parent than a working mother providing for her children.
Duran is not the only individual in Passaic County who has lost custody to an abuser. According to NJRUA: “For the past six years, Strengthen Our Sisters has been organizing annual demonstrations outside the Passaic County Family Courts over the systemic problem of courts granting child custody to documented abusive men over fully capable mothers.”
Nor is Passaic County an outlier among family court systems. In Florida, a tantra provider lost custody of her children in 2008 to a man with a dozen documented cases of perpetrating domestic violence. This summer, the ex-husband of a legal Nevada brothel sex worker sued to limit her contact with their children to minimal, supervised visitations. A study of Midwest street-based sex workers of color found that 88% of women interviewed had given up or lost custody of a child.
In Canada, according to Anna Smith of Triple X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia: The Nordic Model perpetuates stigmatization of sex workers and especially their children. This has meant that children have been removed from the care of their parents and placed in institutions or foster care where their care is less than adequate and often abusive as they become a commodity and only valued for their contribution to the salaries of the jobs created by their removal or to the mortgage payments of their adoptive parents. This disruption of young lives causes severe emotional trauma which is compounded when they are placed into institutions with similarly disturbed children.
In institutional settings they are subjected to twenty four hour video surveillance and sexual harassment by the staff and sometimes by their fellow inmates.These children are studied, probed (literally – to inspect for assumed abuse ) and also made to participate in intrusive and humiliating studies and interrogations.
In Sweden, custody of sex worker and activist Petite Jasmine’s children was awarded to her ex-partner, who had a documented history of abuse; and in the summer of 2013, Jasmine was stabbed to death by her ex-partner at a supervised visitation overseen by social services. And according to SWOP’s Australian counterpart, even where sex work is decriminalized, as it is in North South Wales, “[t]he fact that a parent is a sex worker can be used in the Family Court as evidence.”
The socialized belief that sex worker are unfit parents is both inaccurate and part of a broader, deplorable pattern where systematically marginalized groups are deemed as unfit parents and subjected to DCFS intervention. This system is placing children with abusive family or parents or a dysfunctional foster care system. This system, rather than protecting children, is harming them.
Sex Workers Outreach Project stands in solidarity with Ms. Duran and other sex workers who have lost child custody to abusive partners or DCFS systems, as well as thousands of other parents who have been subjected to DCFS intervention or lost parental rights because of bias in family court systems.