Violence against women has been heavy on my mind lately.
A few months ago I was able to attend my first sex worker event here in Anchorage. The Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) hosted Alaska’s 5th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in Anchorage on December 17.
Held at the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles, our community members read off the names of those murdered and/or missing, many still unsolved.
In total, 17 Anchorage sex workers are on the list since 1990.
We all stood with candles at the end, reading the names of the different women killed over the years. I read the names of two women, one found murdered, the other hasn’t been found. I was disgusted that I hadn’t heard anything about either of these women before this day.
Months later, it’s something I think of often, how do missing or murdered women get swept under the radar?
Either name could have been mine, or someone I knew.
Here are the two women you may not have heard about from 2014.
Jael Hamblen, was last seen at her South Anchorage apartment on Oct. 11, 2014. Twenty years old at the time, she left behind a 7-month-old son. She has yet to be found.
More information can be found here regarding Jael.
Jessica Lake was only 26 years old when she was found murdered.
More information is linked here.
The reports don’t list either woman as a sex worker, yet newspapers generally do not list circumstances in an open case.
I won’t delve into detail because I did not do the research needed in order for it to be factual. I’m not going to do either of these women any justice by 1) waiting until I had all the details, besides regurgitating what the newspapers already reported, and 2) spending months conducting a private investigation that would likely just cause me anger issues.
Take some time to read about these young women, and if you or someone you know think you have any information that could help either case, please contact the detectives listed in the articles.
Alaska has some of the highest rates of abuse towards women.
Alaska can be a deadly place for a woman. A new study ranks Alaska first in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men.
The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that aims to reduce gun deaths, says the homicide rate among females murdered by males in Alaska was 3.15 per 100,000 in 2014. That’s nearly three times the national average.
Rape is underreported nationwide, but Alaska’s rate of reported rape is three times the national average.
Cheri Ingram was murdered February 28th, 2018.
An Anchorage Grand Jury indicted 27-year-old Simon Weyiouanna on Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, and several counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence in the First Degree.
Weyiouanna picked up Cheri in a “street transaction” in Spenard with the intention of paying for sex. While he was carrying her body to his car a neighbor saw what was going on and called the police, the neighbors holding Simon at gunpoint so he wouldn’t leave.
Other local sex workers that may have seen Simon as a client are fearful to come forward with information.
The Prosecutor and the Municipal Prosecutor are not willing to make a statement that people coming forward would have immunity. Standard immunity in Alaska doesn’t cover this situation and an attorney would need to go over the agreement before sending any names.
As laws make it harder for anyone working as a sex worker and push more for criminalization for those working together, this leads to isolation, more chances for exploitation and fewer chances for safety protocols.
Sex work is being branded as sex trafficking, with the actions most sex workers use for safety, security, and screening punishable as felonies.
It’s time to change this.
Make a difference!
Interested in attending Simons court dates so Cheri’s killer gets more than a few years for murdering her?
Visit Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) here.
Join the CUSP mailing list to stay informed.
We need your help!