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Listen Listening Groups of people cluster around food stands or bus stops. Some are playing dice. Empty patches stretch between vacant strip malls and shuttered schools. A church that used to be a storefront.
Mexican grocery stores with hand painted signs. And there are women posted up on the corners watching the traffic, sizing up the people inside the cars that are moving a little more slowly on the road. This area is a known prostitution stroll. There used to be others in Oakland, like San Pablo Ave.
Some women are alone. Others are in groups of two or three. They just look nice. The number of police reports on prostitution in Oakland more than doubled between and , from to So the women on International Blvd. Like Kristen DiAngelo. She finds clients online now. She says she does it to help with the bills. DiAngelo spends the rest of her time advocating for other sex workers. But she says it reminds her of what happened to her, years ago.
DiAngelo was 16 and on her own. I ended up at a truck stop in San Jose within 48 hours. She worked the street on and off for ten years. When she pressed charges, she says her experience with the police and the legal system was so horrific that she decided to devote herself to activism. Now she works for the Sex Workers Outreach Project in Sacramento, providing legal and health support for women in the sex trade.
She says new efforts to criminalize prostitution make it so women have to hide from the law instead of being able to use it to keep themselves safe. According to DiAngelo, almost a third say the police have harmed them. She hears the same story when she talks to people in Oakland. Kellagrew and co-founder Kristina Dolgin say the crackdown on the demand side — the people buying sex — has made it less safe for workers on the supply side: the street. More likely to be reckless or violent.