Serial Killing of Prostitutes: Changes in Media Coverage and Legal Responses

Ann M. Lucas, San Jose State University

When the issue of violence against prostitutes arises, most scholarship on prostitution repeats the common argument that crimes against prostitutes are not taken seriously by media or by law enforcement, and are reported to the public, if at all, only for their titillation and "sleaze" value. It is also part of the common wisdom that serial killers "practice" on prostitutes before moving on to other victims, and that such killers do so in part because no one cares what happens to prostitute homicide victims. This paper critically reexamines these claims in light of recent coverage of serial prostitute homicides in Chicago, New York, and Oregon, among other locations. Based on a content analysis of newspaper articles appearing in the last three years, this paper argues that although sensationalism has not disappeared, and though prostitute victimization is often still discounted, the response of both the media and law enforcement are more complex than the traditional account suggests.

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Updated 05/20/2006