Statement on the death of Jessica McGraa
SCOT-PEP is devastated by the recent murder of sex worker Jessica McGraa in Aberdeen. Jessica’s death is a stark reminder of the ways in which the prostitution laws in the UK place sex workers at increased risk of violence and abuse.
Aberdeen is known to be a city in which the police actively target small groups of women working together for safety. Indeed, SCOT-PEP has supported women working in Aberdeen who have been arrested and charged with brothel-keeping simply for working together from the same flat.
Jessica was working alone in an apartment in Aberdeen – the only way for her to work legally and avoid arrest. We believe that this meant that the man who targeted her for fatal violence felt that he could do so without hindrance.
Sex workers continue to be targeted by violent men because they are seen as easy targets. Fear of prosecution often prevents sex workers from reporting violence to the police, and perpetrators are aware of this. No matter how many times the police tell us that they are concerned about sex worker safety and welfare they have to understand that as long as they continue to enforce the prostitution laws sex workers will be pushed into less safe ways of working to avoid arrest.
The way that the media reported Jessica’s murder highlights the continuing stigma surrounding sex work and we condemn the sensationalist and degrading coverage. Jessica was a loving mother to her young son and our thoughts are with him and the rest of her family.
We have today written to Police Scotland to raise our concerns about the levels of police enforcement in Aberdeen and have urged them to stop arresting women working together for their own safety.