I am a lifetime resident of our county, and am writing to express my concern about the way that the Pierce County District Attorney’s office is handling the issue of human trafficking, and specifically its charges against my fiance. I am involved directly in this case, as a voluntary witness for the defense, and involuntarily as one of the alleged “victims”. The lack of objectivity on the part of the law enforcement officials and the prosecution as a whole is a matter of concern that I feel is a clear violation of the basic understanding that an American citizen has a right to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The Washington State code of ethics states that a prosecuting attorney’s duty to be fair is as important as his duty to the general public to actively prosecute violators of the law. Charlton, 90 Wn.2d 657. 110
What so many well-meaning people don’t seem to understand is that the tough-on-crime approach to sex-trafficking is not legitimately helping sex trafficking victims (legitimately helping people means paying attention to what they actually need, not threatening them with arrest if they don’t testify against others.) Law enforcement, with the cooperation and financial backing of anti prostitution activists and our elected officials, have become the new entity that is now also exploiting these women to further their moral crusade. Freedom is supposed to be what this country is about. Not forcing our moral values on each other.
This issue has directly lead to the arrest and charges filed against Steven Webb. The police and prosecution as a whole, simply refuse to acknowledge sworn and signed statements that both alleged victims are in fact independently and voluntarily working in the sex industry, and that he is not nor was he ever their pimp. Instead of acknowledging that these girls have the right to decide whether or not they believe themselves to be victims, these officers of our justice system insisted that they must simply be deluded into believing themselves independent. A victim’s advocate for Pierce County Ms. Dougherty, when asked by the alleged victim she is intended to advocate for, why her own statements were being ignored, asked, “So, are you telling me that you are not a victim here? That you do this work voluntarily?” To which the reply was a vehement yes, that is exactly right, and to which reply she then advised this alleged victim that it is the job of the prosecution to prove she is a victim, and any issues she has with that should be taken up with her own attorney.
How is that in any way furthering the rights of any woman in this so called free country? Lawmakers in our own state have stated the opinion that prostitution is an inherent form of gender based violence and they accuse anybody who acknowledges the existence of consensual sex work of denying the existence of human trafficking altogether. The issue of human trafficking is real but has become contaminated by moral panic and misguided heroism. This may protect a few victims, but how many will they create? It is crucial to distinguish prostitutes who work of their own free will from victims of sex trafficking. And it is even more crucial that in prosecuting these cases, the law is followed to the letter, and that the investigation be meticulous.
A prostitute is not a victim automatically just because she is in fact a prostitute. Abortion is legal because a woman has a right to decide what to do or not to do with her own body. Should a prostitute not also have the right to do or not do what she wishes with her own body? Is the moral high-mindedness in our country so above reproach that human rights are violated without question, as long as it’s a prostitute who’s rights are being ignored? But only when said prostitute has the audacity to declare herself as independent, and therefore having no need of rescue or information or knowledge that can be used to find any real instance of human trafficking.
What actions are being taken to address issues that have already and will continue to be created by the government’s fanatic lack of planning, investigation, or time? The sex worker community, ranging from affluent and successful high end escorts to street walkers and drug addicts, has been given a solid “get out of jail free” card, which considering that the most often targeted and therefore in need of which would be the drug addicts, street walkers, and various others at the lower end of the totem pole, can and does result in a violation of the freedom of innocent lives, being named because of a grudge, or borrowed money , maybe an unrequited crush or one night stand – who knows?
From a girl living on the fringes of society, addicted to drugs, or just trying to survive, handcuffed alone in a room full of cops and facing jail, a lie, even one of great magnitude, is not entirely surprising. Particularly if she knows by her own experience this has worked before. What is surprising, what is disturbing and should chill the average American citizen right to the core, is the enthusiasm with which this lie is received, and the speed with which a subsequent arrest is made and charges filed.
Why was there no investigative police work? Why didn’t they believe another prostitute, the same day, who said it was not true? The information available by simply purchasing a few court documents online is more than adequate to convince even the most casual observer that there is nothing in this case against Steven Webb that conveys even the faintest idea that he should be prosecuted, but more that the state’s witnesses should in fact be investigated for misleading and contradictory statements, and the state itself should perhaps be questioned for it’s foolish reliance on the statements of two girls who allegedly gave two completely different statements and one who obviously stood to gain directly from her statements, and subsequently also contradicted herself, after of course, she was no longer in jeopardy of losing her own life to prison.