The Long Island Serial Killer and Protecting Sex Workers

05/02/2011 10:40 AM |

Write a letter!

  • flickr user Vicky.S
  • Write a letter!

As the investigation into the ten or more bodies found on Gilgo Beach continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is indeed a serial killer on Long Island. Last week the New York Times put together a profile of the guy that reads like the casting sheet for one of those CSI-esque serial killer procedurals I can’t watch because they creep me out:

He is most likely a white male in his mid-20s to mid-40s. He is married or has a girlfriend. He is well educated and well spoken. He is financially secure, has a job and owns an expensive car or truck. He may have sought treatment at a hospital for poison ivy infection. As part of his job or interests, he has access to, or a stockpile of, burlap sacks.

Ugh, burlap sacks. Terrifying. Of course, because the four identified victims were all sex workers, people have felt free to shit all over them in a way that nobody would ever have dreamed of doing if it were “nice” girls getting killed and dismembered and left on a beach somewhere. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Daily News’s house style allows them to use the word “hooker” in a headline about a murder victim? But I am. Gross, guys.

The cops have been equally cool about the whole thing, basically telling women they’re on their own out there:

“This serial killer isn’t causing us to crack down on prostitution,” said a Nassau County police source. “We’ve been cracking down a long time.”

“I hate to say it, but if they [prostitutes] have to do it, they should at least let someone know where they’re going to be and they should definitely be on a heightened sense of alert,” the source added.

I’m not going to be able unknot the yucky ball of slut-shaming and hypocrisy about sex work that this shines a light on in the word count of a blog post, so instead I will tell you about the real life superheros (caution, link has nsfw ads!) called the New York Initiative that have pledged to protect the women of Long Island. From their Craigslist ad:

The Long Island Killer is out there. He’s a scary bastard, and it’s starting to seem like he is focusing on you pretty ladies because some people are slower to report you missing, and also because apparently the law doesn’t respect your personal choices and that means cops are slower to follow through when it comes to you. Well, I’m here to say FUCK THAT. We respect you as human beings, we believe in personal freedoms and think that you’re doing something that is absolutely your choice to do.

Yeah! They’re offering law-enforcement-free protection to women on their jobs, plus free martial arts training, improvised weapons training, and whatever else they can do. Right on!

Furthermore, Audacia Ray from Ms. Magazine is petitioning the police of Long Island to give temporary amnesty to sex workers to help catch the killer. In her words:

Arresting people who are engaged in prostitution is not protection. Instead, arrests—and public knowledge of them—send a clear message that people engaged in prostitution will not have their safety or ability to make a living respected by the police. News of a continued crackdown makes it even less likely that sex workers with information about the 10 bodies discovered on Long Island beaches will come forward and share this knowledge with the police.

Want to help? Write a letter. Tell the Suffolk County Police Commissioner that ALL women’s lives are worth protecting.

Hey, want to follow me on twitter? Okay, neat!

One Comment

  • A correction: Audacia Ray is not from Ms. Magazine, though she did author that blog post. She is the founder of Red Umbrella Project (, an organization that provides storytelling & media training for sex workers; she originally called for the police in Suffolk county to offer amnesty to sex workers on her personal Tumblr as well as on the Red Umbrella website.