Presentation at the “Femicide” panel on FiLiA 2019
Here is a write-up of what I was speaking about on the “Femicide” Panel on the FiLia 2019 conference. Since I only had notes with me it might slightly differ to what I actually said…
We started Sex Industry Kills in 2014 to document the murders in the German sex trade in 2014. It first was a german project and included also an extra page of deaths in the porn industry. But soon, having also cases from other countries we thought that since we already had the technical infrastructure we would also use them for cases from other countries. (You can find the page here, Facebook page here) For example we have a pretty long list for the United Kingdom and we will be remembering the women murdered in the British Sex Trade later today on the Memorial Walk and I invite you all to join us there. Karen Ingala Smith for example was among the first persons to contact us with additional cases to add, thanks a lot for that. Since most of the cases we can find on the net come in via Google Alerts for instance, there is more cases from english speaking countries and countries with other languages are underrepresented unfortunately as a matter of fact.
In Germany we started with a list of 22 murders since the year 2002. By now we have documented the cases of hundreds of women (and others) since the year 1921. If we look at the ongoing century, we have documented 90 murders, 45 murder attempts, 1 drug overdose and 1 suicide. But we have to emphasize that this is just the tip of the iceberg, since German media is very restrictive on publishing information on cases. In UK or the USA unlike in Germany the media often releases names and publishes pictures and personal backgrounds of the victims. The German police doesn`t collect data on murders in the sex trade anymore, saying that would be “stigmatizing to the job of prostitution”. They have statistics for murders of taxi drivers, though, obviously that is not stigmatizing to taxi drivers…. The cases that we can read about in our, mostly local media outlets are mainly those, in which police are asking the public for help to find the perpetrators. So all this leaves us in a situation, where only a very limited research is possible. The victims often remain name- and faceless anonymous women.
From those cases we know about, we can recognize certain patterns in the motives of the perpetrators. Most murders or murder attempts are committed by johns, some by pimps. Like the average johns, the killers come from all walks of life, they can be young or old, they can be German or migrant men, they are poor or rich, they are in relationships or single, etc.
Here is the types I identified. Maybe you might have better labels, then the ones I decided for, but here is what I found:
1) The Serial Killer: We can see that society is obsessed with the “Jack the Rippers”, writing books or making movies about them. The infamous ones at least, since we also have our “Rippers” in Germany, but they did mostly not gain the same “popularity”. I think that people feel comfortable about thinking of prostitute killers as serial killers, because they can think of them as evil monsters, psychopaths, that are not part of our societies, but outside of it. They have nothing to do with us – and yet if you have a closer look they lead average lives, being doctors or going after whatever profession, they are husbands, fathers, etc, and family and friends don`t necessary suspect them doing what they do. These men can mostly be identified as sadists that want to kill women. They are often led by misogyny and they get off by the violence they do to women and they have no problems with cutting them in pieces and the likes. Of course this type of murderer exists, they often have a high “body count”, but they are not responsible for most of the deaths in the sex trade.
2) The BDSM Fetischist: I don`t need to say so much about these, because Fiona McKenzie already gave us a very good insight into these men. These men are turned on by the violent acts done to women. They don`t necessarily want to kill, the death of the women might not be really intended and an “accident”, but they hazard the consequences of their violent sex acts and we also have to say that for some of these the death of the woman actually is the ultimate turn on.
3) The Concealer: These murderers target prostituted women as an easy and availably target. The original purpose might be a different crime, like a robbery or a rape, and the murders are intended to cover these up. But we can see, that this doesn`t keep the perpetrators from using the women sexually first, before for instance stealing money from them and leaving them behind death. I want to tell you about “Cat”, a 28 year old woman from Thailand, who was prostituted in the Mega-Brothel “Pascha” in Cologne. She was murdered by 20 year old high school Cihan B. His motive: Desperate need of money for car repairs. His “unhappy childhood” and being called “a failure” by his parents were seen as mitigating circumstances by the court. After “Cat”s murder the security measures were strengthened by the “Pascha”-owners, but three years later another women got severely injured in a knife attack.
4) The Reckless: These men simply don`t care about the wellbeing of the women. They look for the most desperate, drugged women, that will do everything for their next shot. I want to tell you about the case of Sonja Mand, who was 27 years old. She was raised by her grandmother and had learning and psychological problems. Her marriage failed and when she lost custody of her two children she sought refuge in alcohol and drugs and got into prostitution. She attempted to exit prostitution a couple of times, but failed to. At the time she disappeared, she weighed only 45 kgs and was sick with tuberculosis. Five weeks later her corpse was found inside a cardboard box in a public park. She had been abused by a john until her death from tuberculosis. Instead of calling an ambulance or the police her abuser decided to stay anonymous.
5) The Disappointed: These men are upset about the delivered “service” or that the prostituted women refuses to participate in the desired sexual practises. That is reason enough to get angry and murder.
6) The Hassler: These men want to have sex as cheap as possible or better for free. They might pay the women first, but then reclaim their money or part of it back afterwards. If the women don`t agree they get upset enough to kill. 5) and 6) are driven a lot by their uncontrolled emotions and their egoism. If a woman makes remarks about them, for example for erection problems, that is reason enough to murder. The women are supposed to act as their are expected or they deserve to die.
7) The Stalker: These murderes think the women are his property. They often kill, when she cuts of the “business relationship”. They might be jealous of other men, but not necessarily so. I will tell you about the murder of “Linda”, a 25 year old prostituted woman from Romania in front of the Mega-Brothel “Paradise” in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, close to Stuttgart. You might have seen the brilliant documentation on Channel4 about this brothel. “Linda” was murdered by a 53 year old john, married, with four children, who had written extensively about her on two online john forums. He had kept a diary of his prostitution use of the victim. For example he declared having spent 10.000 Euros to buy “long term exclusive access” to her for the duration of four weeks. He took her to Istanbul for a week, where he paid for cosmetic surgery for here nose. He complained that she was unable to move for two days and wrote “In the course of this week, there was quick sex two times, but sadly there`s been nothing but rejection when trying for some more affection […] This week I offered her to call off the whole thing twice and to have her give the rest of the money back to me […], since she`s not really in the state to take care of my needs […] And the week after, at my home […] there were two quick and bad attempts at sex”. After two weeks “Linda” broke of the agreement. The john further elaborated and claimed to have paid a total of 51.250 euro over the course of two and a half years for 900 hours of access to “Linda” and he could tell because he had created an Excel chart to document these expenses. Many other johns on the forum commented after the murder, showing a lot of understanding. One john wrote: “I`m actually not surprised, that this sort of thing doesn`t happen more often. […] When a john stabs a hooker to death, she probably deserved it. The kind of hookers who not only rip you off, but enjoy playing with the feelings of “unstable” men – well, they`re literally playing with the fire. […] Sometimes that means a smack in the face … or a knife between the ribs”
Most murders in Germany happen in indoor prostitution. The problem in this is that they can only decide by the voice on the phone, or not even that, if they want to accept a john or not. Unlike in street prostitution they don`t see them, so no gut feeling about him is possible.
I will be talking more about the myth of legal making it safe on the “Feminist Perspectives On The Sex Trade” panel tomorrow morning.