Aileen Wuornos was born February 29, 1956 in Rochester, Michigan to a deeply dysfunctional and violence family. Her father was convicted of child molestation and killed himself in prison when Aileen was very young. Her mother abandoned her children, leaving them with their grandparents, who were also violent and active alcoholics. Aileen was known to frequently sleep and take shelter in the woods near her home.
To get her needs met, Aileen began trading sex at 11 years old. She had her first and only child at 14, who was given up for adoption. It is believed that the father was an adult friend of Aileen’s grandfather. Her family kicked her out of the house and she began hitchhiking around the country. By the 1980’s Aileen moved to Florida and was working as a street based sex worker, frequently arrested for prostitution and other crimes including assault, robbery, forgery and illegal possession of a firearm. Law enforcement described her erratic and angry. A victim of continuous violence since childhood Aileen was frequently assaulted by clients, the police, and a variety of predators who prey on poor, desperate women.
In 1986 Wuornos met Tyria Moore in Daytona Beach, Florida. They began an intense romantic relationship that ended when Tyria elicited a taped confession from Aileen that led to her final arrest in 1991. In 1990 Aileen began killing her clients, one of whom was a convicted rapist. Aileen claimed that she was defending herself, the prosecution claimed that she snapped and went on a misandrist killing spree.
Her trial was heavily covered by the media, who focused on her case because of what they perceived as Wuornos’ titillating identity as both a queer sex worker and a survivor of sexual assault. Her last words on camera were: “Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass.” After spending years on death row, she was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002 at the age of 56 at Florida State Prison.
Today, a group of sex workers in Seattle have come together to provide community and support for one another at a place called Aileen’s. Aileen’s is a peer run direct services and support agency dedicated to serving sex workers who work and live along the Pacific Highway, the same highway where the Green River Killer sought his victims. This year, in collaboration with Old Pros, members of Aileen’s have produced a documentary, We Are Aileen’s about their work, namesake, and about what it will take to end violence against sex workers.