#BaltimoreUprising

Editor’s Note: #F contributor Aisha Springer lives and works in Baltimore; below she writes about her experience of life in Baltimore during and since the Uprising. Also see the curation here of the evolution of hashtags used to organize the movement in Baltimore.

Since the cameras have left Baltimore, the national media has instead focused on other parts of the country dealing with racial tension and tragedy – unfortunately, there have been too many just in the past two months from McKinney, Texas to the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. While we mourn and process the death of the Charleston 9, we continue to see the interconnections of racism, police brutality, and aggression against black lives in different forms throughout the country.

Since the Baltimore uprising, the mood in the city has been tense, apprehensive, expectant, and hopeful all at once. The grassroots are trying to capitalize on the surge of passion and increased attention around the social problems they have long been fighting against. And there was a surge of passion. Big Brothers Big Sisters reported a 3,000% increase in mentorship inquiries within 36 hours. There has been a slew of town halls, panel discussions, and planning meetings to determine next steps for reform. Though the passion has died down to a degree, those who may have previously been (or still are) apathetic residents living in gentrified bubbles have been forced to confront the reality of the city they’ve adopted as their own. In order to sustain increased passion and awareness, it’s important to make sure the issues raised aren’t erased from public discourse. We must all remember what can happen when police brutality, poverty, inadequate public education, lack of fair housing, insufficient job opportunity, and the underlying structural racism is allowed to continue.

On Saturday, April 25 I met friends and co-workers at a rally to support justice for Freddie Gray and police reform. Peaceful protests had been taking place for days, but only after the events of the following Monday night would the country take notice. We met in front of the Western District police station, not far from Gilmor Homes where bystanders had taken cell phone video of 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s arrest on April 12. That encounter led to his spine being 80 percent severed, his larynx crushed, and the public demanding answers and accountability from the Baltimore Police Department.

Around 3:00 pm, we began marching from the police station in Sandtown-Winchester towards City Hall in downtown Baltimore. Men, women, and children marched together carrying posters and shouting chants that protesters now know by heart: “No justice, no peace;” “All night, all day, we will march for Freddie Gray;” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” When we passed through intersections, blocking traffic, drivers honked and held up their fists in support.

Protesters shared the experience with the hashtags #FreddieGray, #JusticeforFreddieGray,#Baltimore, and #BlackLivesMatter.

However, these were not the images that dominated the media. Saturday evening, a relatively small group of people smashed police and civilian cars and destroyed property, and peaceful protestersclashed with baseball fans outside Camden Yards.

On Monday April 27, rumors circulated of a 3:00 p.m. “purge” at Mondawmin Mall led by high school students. BPD also released a “credible threat” that members of the Bloods, Crips, and BGF gangs would unite to kill police officers- stories that the majority of media outlets ran with without bothering to investigate further. (Watch video of gang members’ response to the rumor.) As a result, many schools, businesses, and government agencies closed early.

Before students were released from school, police shut down buses and the subway system near Mondawmin Mall, a public transportation hub that many students use to get home. Children left school only to be met by officers in riot gear and armored tanks. Those who had never planned to be part of any “purge” were left with no way to escape the situation. According to eyewitnesses, police in riot gear marched towards groups of kids to disperse them, though many had no way to leave the area. Then a few kids threw rocks at the approaching officers. This is the point in the story where the mainstream media would have you think the problem began. The situation escalated from there and spread to other parts of the city, setting off a night of riots resulting in 15 structure fires, 144 vehicle fires, and 200 arrests.

That night, I was at home after a day of peaceful protest. It was surreal to watch the very same streets I had marched through become battle zones in front of the nation’s eyes, knowing many people watching would never know or care to understand the full story of what was happening and why. Visceral reactions to destruction of property outweighed any sadness or anger over the taking of multiple lives by police, which was the reason for the destruction in the first place. While it’s valid to be upset over the destruction of businesses, the prioritization of property over lives speaks to the dehumanization of poor black and brown people that is at the root of this country’s worst social problems.

It was extremely frustrating to witness the way the media portrayed events when I had just seen a very different picture. The narrative on mainstream media was predictably different from what was being reported by on-the-ground activists, journalists and witnesses. It says a lot about the state of media and journalism today that I received a fuller perspective of what was occurring from a select group of Twitter users than from CNN or even some local news stations.

In light of this one-sided account, activists sought to shift the media narrative and reclaim Baltimore’s story. The hashtag #BaltimoreRiots was replaced by #BaltimoreUprising. “Uprising” acknowledges the decades-long history of state violence and inequality of which residents of Baltimore neighborhoods like Gray’s have grown weary, while riots focus on the brief, yet destructive actions of a few, with no context or thoughtful examination. As President Obama said, this is a “slow-rolling crisis…this is not new.” Freddie Gray’s death followed by provocation, rather than answers, from authorities were just the catalysts that tipped Baltimore over the edge.

Protests have been peaceful before and since the unrest on April 27. Though it was difficult to watch Baltimore reach this point, it was inevitable given the reality for so many in Baltimore and in no way worse than the constant violence inflicted on poor black communities. National and international attention turned to the struggle of impoverished city residents and the police brutality epidemic that community members have been working to end. On May 1, Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the six officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death have received criminal charges, but activists are not placated. Charges do not ensure convictions and neither ensure systemic reform. This is just a first step. Fallout from these events and the same long-term challenges remain.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake finally ended the 10:00 p.m. city-wide curfew on May 3 after appeals from activists, community members, business owners, and civil/human rights organizations such as the ACLU and Amnesty International. Complaints of unequal enforcement, lack of necessity, adverse impact on businesses and vulnerable populations, and the denial of due process rights for those arrested were among the arguments for its end. Twitter campaigns run under the hashtags #EndTheCurfew and #BreaktheCurfew worked in tandem with continued protests and advocacy work.

Now that the dramatic footage of fires and looting has run out and the National Guard and police no longer line the streets, national media outlets have left the city to pursue other stories. Here in Baltimore, community members hope some good will come from this experience by creating a sustained focus on improving the lives of the city’s poor and marginalized people. Marches and rallies continue, as well as advocacy work, planning meetings, and town halls to determine next steps.

As a Baltimore resident involved in social justice work, I am aware of the challenges that stem from institutional racism and marginalization of the poor, leading to justified feelings of anger and powerlessness. But what stood out the most for me during the weeks after Freddie Gray’s death was the incredible strength of the Baltimore community. That includes the people who show up each day for marches, community leaders who provided lunches to students when schools were closed, residents who cleaned up the streets after Monday night’s destruction, and others who continue to contribute their time and skills in any way they can. #BMoreUnited encompasses this spirit; we are now even more united in this longstanding struggle and are committed to seeing it through together. This is not only a time to amplify our voices for justice, it is also a time to show love to our Baltimore neighbors. In an environment where poor black and brown lives are devalued, ignored, and taken with ease, the act of showing love and genuine concern is in itself a revolutionary and transformational act.

(Originally published on Hashtag Feminism)

#AddWomen: The Root Cause of the Women in STEM Problem

Last month, the American Association for University Women (AAUW) released a report, Solving the Equation, which outlines the variables that affect women’s success in computing and engineering. It is the latest in a list of studies identifying bias as the root of the lack of women in STEM and leads to the pipeline issues and “personal choices” of women who opt out. Workplaces and academic environments are made unwelcoming to women due to stereotypes and biases, resulting in isolation, loss of opportunities, and other limitations. Simply recruiting more girls into existing educational programs does not solve the problem; the environments where they learn and work need to be reformed so they can achieve a sense of belonging and purpose in their STEM careers.

AAUW held a Twitter chat to coincide with a Solving the Equation panel on the report’s release, using the hashtag #AddWomen to track the conversation. Other hashtags on the subject include#WomeninSTEM and #STEMinism.

“Lean in” feminism encourages women to break the glass ceiling of leadership in business. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; the problem is that the dominant message that each woman can “lean in” to achieve business success minimizes the role bias plays in the workplace and focuses on middle-to-upper-class white women, leaving out the women most lacking rights and representation.

Dialogue about the lack of women in STEM fields particularly suffers from this problem. While research shows that girls begin to lose interest in STEM subjects in middle school, the fact that gender and racial biases influence students through their parents, teachers, media and the culture at large, is sometimes downplayed as if this loss of interest was biological. The insidious nature of bias is that it persists into adulthood and, if left unchecked, guides our behavior, so women working in STEM fields are subject to implicit and explicit biases every day in these predominantly white male fields.

A 2014 UC Hastings study also supports the importance of bias in women’s STEM representation. It identifies five biases that push women out of STEM fields and how they affect women differently depending on race. One of the biases, called the “tightrope,” refers to the thin line women must walk between acting in traditionally masculine or feminine ways. If a woman acts too feminine, she is seen as incompetent. If she acts too masculine, she becomes unlikable. Asian American women in particular reported feeling pressure to play a stereotypically feminine role. Black and Latina women were more likely to be seen as angry when they don’t conform to the role, reinforcing the “angry black woman” stereotype. This puts women in the position of having to defer to male colleagues and hold back to avoid being berated by superiors (an experience reported by women in the study) or suffering other consequences that limit their career growth.

The recent loss of a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by Ellen Pao against her venture capitalist former employer highlights the challenge of combating implicit bias. When it results in discrimination, it’s very difficult to prove. Prevention requires us to be constantly aware of internalized biases as they arise, which takes will and persistence. Hopefully, the publicity surrounding these studies and Ellen Pao’s case creates a groundswell of support for initiatives to make white male-dominated workplaces and educational programs more welcoming to women of every race.

(Originally published on Hashtag Feminism)

#BlackGirlsMatter Too: Ending the Exclusion of Black Girls

Earlier this month, the African American Policy Forum released a report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, written by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a Columbia University law professor. The report provides data from Boston and New York public schools on the ways girls are disciplined depending on race. Not surprisingly, girls of color and especially black girls are exposed to harsher punishment and at a higher frequency. Though more boys are suspended than girls overall, racial and gender disparities are significant. Black males were suspended three times as often as white males, while Black girls were suspended six times more than white female students.

As a result of zero-tolerance policies applied with gender and racial bias, students of color are removed from their learning environments and unnecessarily exposed to the criminal justice system, something referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. Girls in particular face unique challenges when it comes to zero-tolerance policies that don’t allow for individual discretion by a teacher or counselor. Sexual trauma and harassment, high incidence of interpersonal violence, teen pregnancy, and family responsibilities contribute to emotional, behavioral, and practical challenges that affect a girls’ school life.

Excessive discipline cases have been making the news for years now, bringing the issue to light. Recently, video footage from a Baltimore middle school shows the beating and pepper-spraying of three girls by a school security officer. In 2014, a Detroit honor roll student was suspended during her senior year for accidentally bringing a pocketknife to a football game, and in 2007 a six-year-old Florida girl was arrested for having a tantrum. This report is the first of its kind to bring attention to the fact that girls of color are nowhere near exempt from harsh treatment and it does not make sense to focus policy on boys alone.

News coverage of stories like these helps to inform a wider audience of issues facing Black girls and the AAPF report includes a social media campaign to do the same. The hashtag #BlackGirlsMatter tracks the conversation on Twitter and has produced thoughtful responses regarding Black girls in the school-to-prison pipeline, the gender and race biases that cause this disparity, and the way Black women and girls have long been left out of conversations on addressing racially biased policies and practices.

An important fact raised in the report is that girls are largely excluded from current efforts to break down the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s generally thought that boys suffer worse consequences than their female counterparts, and unfortunately, this myopic thinking influences policy. While the overall number of Black men who are the direct victims of a racially biased criminal justice system is higher than the number of Black women, this often translates to a complete disregard for Black women and girls. Just as it is possible to address the difficulties officers face in policing while at the same time holding them accountable to the public, it is also possible to tackle the needs of Black men and women at the same time. Outside of the Black feminist community, not enough attention is paid to Black women and girls who suffer the same injustices, but are not acknowledged.

Black feminists have increasingly been pushing back on this type of thinking and their outspokenness has spurred real-world action. Women leaders of #BlackLivesMatter protests have made a conscious effort to include the names of Black female victims in protests to make sure their lives and deaths are not ignored in the process. In 2014, when President Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper program, feminist scholars, organizations, and activists including Alice Walker and Rosario Dawson, signed onto an open letter. The letter made a clear point: leaving out Black girls perpetuates the myth that girls are doing just fine and ends up neglecting them to the detriment of the entire community. Also publicized by the AAPF, the letter and its topic were discussed on Twitter using the hashtag #WhyWeCantWait and has become a full campaign to realign MBK.

Stereotypes of Black women contribute to the erasure of Black girls from the conversation about excessive use of force and discipline. Historically, Black women have endured racial and sexual abuse and fought tirelessly for justice, but despite their many contributions have been relegated to the sidelines in public.

Now, in the age of social media activism, Black women activists have an expanded platform to resist these entrenched biases and insist that Black women and girls be considered and involved in policy decisions. Hopefully, this is a continuing trend and we see a greater understanding and concern for the future of Black girls in this country.

(Originally published on Hashtag Feminism)

#ReclaimMLK: Reclaiming Our History and Future

This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was different than those in recent memory. The visibility of police and vigilante murders of black Americans changed the way we engaged in MLK Day this year, and possibly for years to come. Using the hashtag #ReclaimMLK, Ferguson Action planned and encouraged protests around the country from January 15-19 as a way to reclaim the true intention of Dr. King’s work. As Danielle Belton wrote in The Root, “Somewhere between his assassination and today began an MLK-neutering campaign meant to turn the famed agitator’s holiday into a national Day of Service, a generic mishmash of good feelings that contorts King’s social-justice legacy into a blissful Hallmark card of post-racial nothingness.”

Protesters around the country staged die-ins, marches, and blocked highways, shopping outlets, and even brunches. A long list of hashtags tracked these actions including #ReclaimMLK, #MLKalsoSaid,#BlackLivesMatter, #ShutItDown, and #ICantBreathe. 

This refocusing of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday has been a long time coming. For years, Dr. King has been presented as an icon for the nebulous feel-good ideas of peace and unity or used as a commercial ploy, ignoring the radical nature of the Civil Rights Movement and what King’s beliefs and actions really meant. Even in his nonviolence, King was so threatening that the FBI zealously monitored him and other civil rights leaders.

Fast forward to today, when media figures and others who oppose many of the things Dr. King stood for- workers’ rights, reproductive justice, criticism of capitalism– praise him as a national hero while co-opting his true message. Each year, we can expect to hear pundits and politicians justify their beliefs by claiming that, if he were alive today, Dr. King would agree.

Rosa Parks is another of the most well-known civil rights leaders and rightly so, although not for the reasons most of us were taught in school. Like King, Parks’ image has been distorted to fit popular culture. As a black woman, Rosa Parks has been put through an additional layer of sanitizing to make her acceptable to racist and sexist power structures. As Danielle McGuire writes in her book At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, Rosa Parks wasn’t just a quiet old woman who refused to get out of a whites-only seat on the bus because her feet were tired from a long day of work. She was “a militant race woman, a sharp detective, and an anti-rape activist long before she became the patron saint of the bus boycott.”

Her decision to resist segregation wasn’t a result of tired feet, but of a lifelong defiance and ingrained belief in the right to fair treatment. Her story was co-opted not only by white power structures, but also by a patriarchy that requires a civil rights heroine to take on a saintly image to be effective.

As we see in the erasure of Dr. King’s radicalism, Rosa Parks’ fierce lifelong activism, Maya Angelou’s unapologetic past as a sex worker, and so many others, we cannot count on others to tell our stories. This generation is capitalizing on the ubiquity of social media to demand that our history is neither revised nor repeated.

(Originally published on Hashtag Feminism)

#WhyIStayed: A Lesson in Empathy

Domestic violence is incredibly common. The statistics are staggering: In the U.S. one in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. Internationally, domestic violence kills more people than war. Yet domestic violence and violence against women is generally misunderstood and mischaracterized by individuals and the media, focusing on victim-blaming and excuse-making. Depictions of domestic violence are sensationalized, rationalized, and ignore the reality of victims’ experiences. It’s no different when celebrities are involved. Cue the Ray Rice conversation.

When reports came out that Baltimore Ravens former running back Ray Rice punched his then-fiancee, Janay Rice, in an Atlantic City casino elevator knocking her unconscious, the overwhelming response from the public and the NFL was to ask what she did to provoke him. Too often this is the first question raised when a woman is abused.

Feminist Twitter, particularly female football fans, responded with outrage over Rice’s actions, the Ravens’ subsequent press conference, and the NFL’s uneven punishment for domestic violence and sexual offenders as opposed to drug abusers.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other officials jointly questioned the couple about what happened, then scheduled a press conference where the Ravens live-tweeted her apology for the “role that she played the night of the incident.” Ray Rice, on the other hand, received a standing ovation from Ravens fans and cited “my trials and tribulations” and “everything I went through” throughout his response. To some observers, evidence that the the couple later got married meant that Janay Rice did, in fact, deserve at least some blame.

This past Monday morning, TMZ released the full security camera video of the assault. Almost immediately, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely.

Many NFL fans on Twitter have noted this video contains no new information, and terminating Ray Rice after its release was a blatant attempt to save face. It didn’t work. It’s clear at this point that the NFL not only grossly mishandled the case, but merely continued its record as a massive profit-making, image-conscious institution that has a record of condoning DV.

Those who question Janay Rice’s apology during the joint press conference don’t take into consideration the binding circumstances. Rice was interviewed publicly, in front of her abuser, all while her abuser’s career hung in the balance; solely dependent upon her corroboration of the mutual blame story.

Now that the video of her assault has been shared with the world without her consent, she’s had to relive that traumatic night in Atlantic City. Public ‘proof’ or visual evidence of abuse is usually what’s required for a victim of domestic violence to receive any trace of justice. In this case, so-called ‘justice’ came as a result of PR acumen to preserve the NFL’s image.

Tuesday morning, Janay Rice responded via her private Instagram account to the video release and the decision of indefinite suspension.

Given the circumstances, it is counterproductive to judge and condemn Janay Rice’s life choices. But while the public should respect her decisions as hers to make, advocates should also continue to speak out against lenient punishments for domestic abuse and educate people about why it’s so difficult for victims to leave.

Enter, #WhyIStayed.

The lack of concern for Janay Rice spawned the hashtags #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, and #WhenILeft. Blogger Beverly Gooden started this Twitter conversation to address the fact that even after the disturbing video was released, some people were apathetic towards Janay Rice while others continued to blame her.

Read Beverly Gooden’s reasons for starting #WhyIStayed on her blog and in the Washington Post.

As all of these women can attest, there are many valid reasons why victims stay, including psychological, emotional, cultural, legal, and economic reasons. The notion that the responsibility is on the victim to stop or prevent violence, paired with inadequate institutional responses are what make DV stigmatized and often deadly.

Women who are victims of DV often feel they are on their own and no one will believe or support their stories; these beliefs are not entirely unfounded. Laws like nuisance ordinances reinforce a belief of hopelessness, and further enable abusers to isolate and control their victims.

A recent victory over nuisance ordinances in a Pennsylvania town may indicate progress, but that’s only one town among many. We need more policy victories like these along with a change in cultural perception.

That’s what make hashtags like #WhyIStayed so significant. Social media highlighted stories of DV in front of millions of people, and American institutions like the NFL can now be widely held to account for their blatant attempts to cover up violence against women.

We can’t afford to continue ignoring domestic violence. With victims’ and advocates’ voices amplified, ignorance will no longer be an excuse and apathy will no longer be tolerated.

(Originally published on Hashtag Feminism)

#HobbyLobby

On the heels of a decision to eliminate “buffer zones” outside of women’s health centers, the Supreme Court has once again made a horrible choice. Monday’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby states that commercial enterprises can cite religious belief as a reason to withhold contraception coverage from their employees.

As part of the Affordable Care Act contraception methods are preventive services that must be provided at no extra cost, but now religious employers can opt out of this mandate. This decision allows employers to impose their religious beliefs on all of their employees, although time and time again women are the ones who are targeted for restrictions. Men’s health care services, such as vasectomies and Viagra, remain untouched and unquestioned. This is a blow to women’s equality and incredibly disheartening for anyone who believes that religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion in which she explains the many ways in which five of the six male justices got it wrong. She writes that, “Accommodations to religious beliefs or observances, the Court has clarified, must not significantly impinge on the interests of third parties.” Her colleagues, on the other hand, believe that for-profit corporations should be accommodated regardless of the impact it will have on others.

The others in this case are the thousands of women who work for these companies and their dependents. Women already disproportionately carry the financial burden of reproductive health care and face more barriers to receiving health care than men. After this ruling, it won’t be a surprise when more companies begin to claim religious exception and even more women and families pay the price. More women will lose the right to exercise control over their own reproductive decisions. And as we know from the massive impact the introduction of the birth control pill has had since the 60’s, affordable access to contraception is directly related to women’s ability to be active participants in society.

For some time, we have had access to solid scientific knowledge about contraceptive care and an appreciation of the balance between exercising freedoms and infringing upon rights. Despite this, uninformed ideologues have prevailed. I tend to believe that these people are usually the minority, but that the problem lies in the fact that too many of them occupy influential positions in society. Yes, that includes the position of Supreme Court Justice. Sadly, the result has been a regression in equal rights for women and minorities.

In March, I attended the #NotMyBossBusiness rally in front of the Supreme Court when arguments were being made in the Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby cases. I rallied in the snow with activists from Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NOW, and more, to make it clear that we will not be passive as companies attempt to take away autonomy over our own bodies. A smaller, but vocal group of protesters rallied in opposition, touting posters of bloody fetuses and “God’s law is the only law” signs. These are the people celebrating the Supreme Court decision right now thanks to Justices Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, and Roberts. Especially in 2014 that is something we should all be ashamed of.

This article was originally published on Hashtag Feminism.

#PGPDVice Sensationalizes Prostitution Sting with Live-Tweet

The #myNYPD fiasco may have just been bumped to second place in a Twitter race to show which police department is most out of touch with reality. Last Thursday, the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland announced a plan to live-tweet a prostitution sting this week, a decision that has been met with considerable pushback. Opponents are hijacking the Twitter hashtag #PGPDVice and tweeting their thoughts to @PGPDNews. HIPS, a harm reduction nonprofit serving sex workers, will live-tweet a day of service from its drop-in center and outreach van in response.

This afternoon, PGPD announced that they conducted their sting but chose not to tweet about it. They made no arrests, citing the publicity as an intended deterrent. Despite PGPD’s claims of success, others are less confident that this was the plan all along.

Whatever the intention, there are valid reasons for outrage, including issues of privacy and due process. Individuals whose images will be shown are suspected of committing a crime, not convicted of one.

Just as disturbing is the effect this will have on the sex workers. Though the PGPD claims to “target those soliciting prostitutes,” the fact is this plan is guaranteed to harm women, not just their customers. Given PGPD’s—and police departments’ nation-wide—reputation for harassing, exploiting, and generally failing to help sex workers, it’s no wonder that many people don’t trust PGPD’s word. A photo of a plainclothes police officer taking a woman away in handcuffs did not help the PGPD’s argument that it will only target customers. The photo has since been taken down, but it is apparent that both johns and prostitutes are arrested which brings up a larger issue. If a sex worker decides to quit the life, an arrest record means additional hurdles to mainstream employment and housing. The shame that already exists for sex workers will only be magnified and cause further entrapment in a life that often consists of violence and abuse.

Even targeting the johns is problematic. As the National Center for Transgender Equality wrote in a letter to the PGPD, public shaming “endangers sex workers and creates additional barriers to accessing any kind of social or family support or alternative employment. Targeting sex workers’ customers isn’t any better – it further instills fear and makes it harder for sex workers to protect themselves by screening clients. In short, shaming not only doesn’t work, it’s dangerous.”

The PGPD’s live-tweet is an irresponsible PR stunt that plays into society’s existing dehumanization of sex workers. What may be an entertaining real-life episode of Law & Order: SVU to some is actually an abuse of power that has life-changing consequences for those involved.

Sexual assault, trafficking, transgender rights, and other human services organizations have been providing police training for some time now. Still, the question remains; what else has to change in order to teach police departments how to operate with awareness of social realities?

This article was originally published on Hashtag Feminism.