Willia will never forget the feeling of police officers’ hands on her body.
The 37-year-old Sacramento woman says she can’t escape memories of policemen following her down the street or questioning her choice of clothing, scolding her for being outside, threatening her, grabbing her, forcing her into their car, and searching her.
Willia is a survivor of abuse and sexual exploitation.
But because she has also been a sex worker, she says police have only ever treated her as a criminal.
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In the California capital, law enforcement agencies have ramped up their focus on women like Willia in recent months, sex workers and activists told the Guardian.
Under the guise of “anti-trafficking” efforts, police practices in northern California and a new federal law have broadly affected adult sex workers both online and in the streets.
The result, activists say, is a risk of increased violence and suffering for the very women whom lawmakers say they are rescuing.