There is a massive (like, so big you kind of can't even imagine it) difference between what we often imagine sex work to be, based on romanticized programs like Secret Diary of a Call Girl and a whole host of other hooker-with-a-heart-and-wallet-full-of-gold stories, and what sex work actually is, which is: incredibly, unbelievably dangerous.
Dallas has, in the last few years, decided to start treating prostitutes as what they are (victims) instead of what many believe them to be (criminals). As part of the radical idea of seeing prostitutes as human beings, they're actually taking DNA swabs of women who've been arrested and opted to go into Dallas's prostitute rehab program. The reasoning is terrifying and eye-opening. Per the DMN: "The samples, collected for the first time on Thursday from Dallas prostitutes and former prostitutes, would be used to identify the women if they are later believed to be missing, comatose or murdered."
Sex workers are so often victims of violence because they are simply invisible, or worse, believed to be less than human. What many people don't realize is that sex workers are often teenage runaways who tried to escape horrible family situations, who were scooped up and brain-washed by pimps, given drugs, and who almost always have only one way to get out of the life -- to die, either from an overdose or as a murder victim.
(Which is why, incidentally, I'm disgusted by yet another smarmy, I-know-better quip from Steve "You Just Don't Understand My Hilarious Rape Joke" Blow, commenting on this story: "You know you might be on the wrong path when authorities want to go ahead and collect your DNA sample for when you turn up "missing, comatose or murdered." Steve is so right! I mean, if only those idiot prostitutes could somehow get on the Internet, read Blow's column and realize that they live dangerous lives!
No doubt Blow's brilliant revelation will be a wake-up call to the many hookers who wake up every morning, beaten and bruised, and think they're living the life of Riley. Blow goes on: "Maybe it would also be a good wake-up call for some wayward teens." Ah, if only those "wayward teens" would know better than to be abused and brainwashed by pimps and later raped and murdered! Damned kids these days.)
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. What this DNA program purports to do, and what I hope it does, is give a little bit of humanity back to these sex workers who so often fall through the cracks. The article makes a couple of references to "Jane Does" in morgues, and the prostitutes interviewed express fear at ending up as one of these unknown and easily forgotten victims of horrific crimes.
Perhaps the creation of this database will help solve some murders and give solace and closure to missing women's families. The public has a lot of respect for DNA science -- maybe the program will help garner some respect for women who believe they have no other option than to sell their bodies.