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California Sex Workers Eligible for State Medical and Abuse Benefits


Posted on Jan 23, 2014

It may not be a typical case of workers’ compensation, but a new ruling will allow California sex workers to receive money for medical and related expenses from a state-funded victim compensation trust after suffering a violent crime in the workplace.

In December, officials of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board overturned a ruling that said sex workers would not be denied California medical benefits after suffering physical or sexual abuse. Many members were moved to change the policy after hearing personal testimony from several workers who suffered assault and had no support structure to help them heal.

Carol Leigh, a representative of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network, told the board that she was prevented from going to the police after being raped by two men at the massage parlor where she worked. “[The men] took a knife to my throat and demanded sex and money,” she testified. “I realized that, as a sex worker, I was a sitting duck… The rapists know, and they see us as targets.”

While prostitution remains illegal in California, the new policy recognizes that any worker who is assaulted while working is eligible for compensation—including sex workers.

“Rape is rape, period,” board chairwoman Marybel Batjer said. “Victims of this violent crime deserve compensation, regardless of circumstance.”

Although the change marks a shift toward providing state assistance to sex workers, advocates say there is a long way to go. Maxine Doogan, an organizer for the Erotic Service Providers Union, says that the ultimate goal for California law is “to adopt the Obama administration policy on prostitution, which is that prostitution should not be discriminated against in seeking public services.”

If someone you love is fighting for compensation after a California work injury, be sure to order a copy of our FREE book, The Northern California Workers’ Compensation Survival Manual. You can also call the Ledgerwood Law Group at 888-761-7383 for a FREE consultation on your case.

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Thomas Ledgerwood
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