December 17, 2021 Memorial Names for the USA

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

This Friday, December 17, 2021, SWOP Behind Bars joins sex workers, allies and advocates from around the world in recognizing International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. As we come together to remember those lost, we renew our commitment to the ongoing struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all people who trade sex.

For nearly two decades our community members have dedicated many months, meticulous care and endless anxiety each year to the collection and creation of the annual memorial list. Each year, the search for names, dates, locations, cause and circumstances of each life and death, reminds us that one day our own names will be on this list.

We are so grateful to those community members, organizations and allied individuals that have dedicated countless heartbreaking hours to this necessary annual task. If you see there is a name missing from this public list, please add them in your hearts and in your own memorial and know that our community respects the families and loved ones of those who do not wish to be identified at this time.

Let us never forget that these lives were not just harbingers of tragedy, but complicated, sometimes messy, often joyful, precious, valuable, and loved. They were fully three-dimensional human beings deserving of dignity and respect in memoriam.

Over the years, we have made changes to the way that we recognize this day as an institution. We no longer externally publish last names, images or links to triggering articles. We don't overindulge in salacious details. We do not publicly name killers because to do so would point to an individual instead of the structural chaos that is embedded in our institutions, allowing society to think we are disposable. We often look for family and friends to share details about their lives and ask for their consent to add their loved ones name. We spend many hours trying to seek out these stories where our fallen comrades laughed and played and loved. It never surprises us to note that the sharing of how they lived their lives was a reflection of who they were and not what they did.

We fully commit to future International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers memorials. We will keep working to amplify voices denied in life, and to call to light the structural and institutional failings in our society where we find there was often an opportunity - sometimes many - to intervene, but ultimately failed. We call on our community to recommit to looking out for our own, and to take every opportunity to push past the fear, ignorance, stigma and judgement to hold each other's hearts in our own loving hands.

On December 17th, we renew our commitment to solidarity. The majority of violence against sex workers is not just violence against sex work - it’s also violence against women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and every intersection therein. It is violence against those who might not identify as sex workers, but rather as hustlers, survivors and victims of exploitation. With relentless solidarity we can protect those among us who are drug users, immigrants and migrant workers. We cannot end the marginalization and victimization of all sex workers without also fighting trans-phobia, racism, stigma and criminalization, drug use, and xenophobia.