William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice
Defending the Less Dead: Using the Decriminalization of Sex Work to Combat the High Incidence of Serial Homicide of Street-Based Sex Workers
Sex workers have historically represented a disproportionate percentage of all victims of serial murder. Several serial murderers in the past thirty years have evaded detection for years, taking the lives of dozens of victims, by targeting sex workers, playing off the biases of society and law enforcement, and counting on the halfhearted investigation techniques that often followed missing person reports for less valued members of society, or the “less dead.” This Note argues that the decriminalization of all aspects of sex work is the surest way to improve the safety of street-based sex workers and reduce high victimization of this marginalized group in crimes of serial homicide. Based on the success of the decriminalization model in New Zealand, legalizing sex work reduces the power imbalance between law enforcement and sex workers and improves channels for sharing information, allowing the police to better investigate and protect sex workers from the risk of serial homicide, and allowing sex workers to better protect themselves.