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Sunday, November 1, 2015

THE MODERN SCARLET LETTER - THE CULTURE OF THE VICTIM

In the old days, the Catholic Church used to make women found guilty of adultery wear a scarlet "A" on the bodice of their dress.  I remember a movie with Demi Moore showing what those times were like for women.  http://www.bartleby.com/83/

When I was young, living in Los Angeles in the 1960's and 70's, I was fascinated with the witch trials.  At 17 years old, I started studying herbal medicine, alternative healing, homeopathic medicine, etc.  It was during that time I learned a lot about what was behind the witch persecutions and burnings.  Evidently women held a lot of medical power in the small villages.  To grow their healing herbs - they would be on the outskirts of town.  When someone would get sick - they'd go see the woman for a healing treatment.

This is where a lot of the imagery of the "witch" came from - when the church and the "doctors" wanted to scare people away from these natural healers, midwives, and shamans.  Because  these women were also the midwives.  Women would give birth at home for years before there was even such a thing as a hospital to give birth in.

Homeopathic medicine really put a lot of the health issues in the hands of these midwives.  Since it was also a way to make money once their husbands died, or if they never married - it was also a source of economic power for them.  They'd be paid for their herbs, for helping deliver babies, for giving herbs to aid with healing, etc.  In a system where women only could eat if they were married - the only options for them economically to marriage was that of being a midwife, a school teacher or a whore.  Remember women weren't "preachers" back then either - they could only be a nun who is still dependent upon the church.

Which led into what the "witch hunts" were about - land, money and power.  While a lot of press goes onto the witch trials in Salem - this was not confined to Salem.  This came here to the states from Europe.  Where it was extremely common for a woman who had a lot of land to suddenly find herself accused of being a witch.  After her burning to "save her soul" the church would then get her land.  So these "land grabs", which is what they were, were disguised as "saving the village and the souls" of the people involved.  The church comes in, burns the woman, takes her land, and they get called "heroes" for "saving her soul" and the town.

When you look at the stories of the witch hunts at the view of this being about how a lot of power was taken from the midwives - both economic and culturally - and put into the hands of the doctors, the American Medical Association, the church, the politicians, etc.  Of course one of the ways this transfer of power works is through imagery, name calling, labels.  The idea of a midwife being a healer turning into a witch was done with stories and labels.  Women who were out on their farms growing herbs, delivering babies, and healing the sick were also intuitive and empowered.  The very idea of this type of women has always been very threatening to the Catholic Church who, until only recently, has held positions of great power in this world.

Our country wasn't just built to break away from the English rule.  It was also built upon religious freedom.  Freedom from the Catholic Church.  The religions that came over to the US on the Mayflower was not Catholic.  Those people had seen whole families burned at the stake so their land could be absorbed by the church.  They had seen whole villages slaughtered in "the name of God" for the church.  England was basically co-ruled between the royals and the church.  Even the Henry the 8th was afraid of the church.  So much so that rather than divorce his wives - he beheaded them.  Why?  Because the country couldn't be ruled by a queen.  So let's just plow through wives until we get a male heir.

I know what our 12 step program, Prostitutes Anonymous, then Sex Workers Anonymous, produced.  The two I will speak about you can research online as they've been open about coming up through our program are Brenda Myers-Powell and Kathleen Mitchell.  Both of these women came up from the streets with nothing.  They had been incarcerated multiple times.  They had no education.  They had been drug addicts and prostitutes.  As they got some clean time and "time" out of sex work under their belt - what did they do?  They got involved in local politics about how their sisters and brothers were treated.  They went to congress, the legislature, the people - and said "we need to change the laws".  They started their own programs themselves - Kathleen starting Dignity and Brenda starting Dreamcatchers.  Now mind you I'm not taking credit for them.  I am however taking credit for creating a program that produced them.

When I get done with my memoirs - you'll know the hell I went through just to bring that program to them in Chicago and Phoenix where they found Prostitutes Anonymous.  I didn't publish them in the 1980's because I refused to write another "happy hooker" book.  I didn't publish them in the 1990's because honestly I was busy bringing our program into the age of changing the training that counselors, social workers, judges, police, etc., received in the way of treating us when we came into the system for help.  I was also busy enjoying my recovery - my marriage, the birth of my daughter, owning real estate, running my own company, etc.  Plus I had an "underground railroad" to run helping women escape the legal brothels and the father's of their children who were also their pimp.  In the 2000's, I refused to write another piece of "trafficking porn".  Now I can write the story of the "Anatomy of a Movement".  A story I learned that only the conquerors tell.

By the 1990's - these women become leaders of their own programs, empowered, enlightened, and reaching out to help others.  They literally started changing the towns they lived in.  More important, they became something we teach about in the 12 step philosophy - they became "responsible, productive members of society".  Most important - they became RESPECTED.  I also spent the 1990's not so much with individual members - but with helping those who were running chapters of Prostitutes Anonymous in their towns learn how to "carry the message" and become a "responsible, productive member of society".  One who could walk in the daylight with their head up and chest out because other people RESPECTED them.

I'm going to tell you how something like "respect" can affect everything around you and the layers it travels through.  First, I respected myself.   As I was working on my own recovery from both prostitution and drugs - I found the man I'd been involved with for five years was less than supportive.   I'd come to see him and he'd have his Cognac, his weed, and his coke all over the house . He would start talking about "wanting to party".  I'd refuse.  We'd fight.

One night I took my chip for a year clean.  He refused to come see me take the chip but said I could come by after.  He was really drunk when I got there.  He just kept getting more and more stoned while I was there - and more insistent that I join him.  It was clear something was really bothering him.  I finally put him to bed like a baby because he couldn't even walk anymore he was so stoned.

I asked him "why are you fighting me so hard about staying clean?"  I'll never forget his answer.  He said "because if you keep this up - then I'll have to marry you" he said through his tears.   I'm like "what?"  He says "As long as you're nothing but a junkie whore - I don't have to marry you.  But you become 'respectable' and then I have to marry you."

Then he passes out.  It becomes very clear to me why he fought me so hard for those years we were together with leaving the sex industry, getting clean, etc.  It was all about me being something "unworthy" of him.  Wow what a trip.  I left that night and never went back in many ways.  I had no idea that some people were with me, loving me, being with me, specifically because they felt I was beneath them.  That was when I would no longer allow people in my personal life who didn't respect me as a human being anymore.

When then mayor Tom Bradley put together this board at the Womens' Commission for us to work out an alternative sentencing plan - everyone agreed to the idea but the Probation Dept.  Judges agreed, the police agreed, the prosecutor's office agreed, etc.  But I couldn't get a letter of approval from the probation offices for some reason.  It threatened to shoot our whole project in the foot.  The guy who had to sign the approval was in Downey which is about a two hour drive.

I said "I'll do it" because everyone else had day jobs.  I was working at a temp agency as a paralegal so I figured I could take the day off, go down there, and find out why this guy wouldn't sign to allowing prostitutes to not have to go to jail for prostitution charges, but instead to our program.

The minute I walked into his office - I knew what was wrong.  The man was a "regular' of mine when I was escorting.  He saw me and didn't recognize me of course.  I had gained weight, dyed my hair back to brown, was wearing glasses, etc.  He had no idea who I was when I walked in.  I asked him "can we speak in your office privately please?"  He agreed and after he shut the door I told him to take a real good look at me.  He finally recognized me after a few seconds of looking in my eyes..

I said to him "you of all people should know these women don't deserve jail for what they're doing - why won't you sign this?"  His answer?  "Because if they do this, get clean, get out of prostitution, then they've become RESPECTABLE."

I responded I had no idea why this was a problem.  He said "if a woman accuses me of seeing her - all I have to do is say 'who are you going to believe?'  You make a respectable citizen out of her and then I have a problem."

So I said "let me get this straight - you would rather see these women go to jail, lose their kids, lose their homes, have their lives ruined, just so that you don't have people find out you see prostitutes?"  He shook his head "yes".

I actually collapsed into the chair. To think this man would destroy all these womens' lives with jail because of his sense of guilt, shame and fear - I was speechless.   I'd seen so many women go to jail for 30 days when their motels were only paid for the week.  I'd see the motel owners throw everything into the trash so when she would get out of jail she'd literally have nothing but the clothes on her back.  I'd see their kids taken from them so they could go to jail for 45 days on some prostitution charge.  Then I'd see them fight for years just to get them back.  Many gave up.  I'd seen them not be able to get licenses to go to work as nurses, or pass the bar, even sell real estate - because of a past conviction for prostitution.  I just couldn't understand a man that would destroy so many lives over their own need to control and conceal their "dirty little secrets".  More importantly - to keep us at a level where society viewed us as subhuman.  Not equal to them.

I told him he had an "amends" to make and I wanted that paper signed.  He agreed. It was a very healing experience for me and him.  When I left his office - we shook hands as equals.   Now WE had the respect.  That signature meant more to me than just we were going to have an alternative sentencing program for the first time in history.  It meant to me that we were now being shown a gateway whereby we could come back to being "equal" to everyone else in society.  No longer viewed as subhuman trash.  Alcoholics were given the chance to have their crimes reviewed to see if they deserved jail or needed treatment.  Addicts got the same.  So did those in domestic violence court.  Now we would get the chance to also have the court review whether we were criminals - or if we needed help.  Just like everyone else in the system.

I say that because I remember when the mothers of the "Grim Reaper" killer took to the streets to protest that the LAPD was doing nothing to investigate the deaths of their daughters.  Because these women were branded prostitutes, and their bodies dumped at trash cans like so much trash - the police did nothing to try and stop this man.  Nor the many others targeting prostitutes in Los Angeles at the time.  I assure you that if these women had been secretaries - it would have been different.

I've done an informal study of my own for over 35 years now.  I see the news announce that a prostitute is missing or found dead - and the deafening silence that comes next.  Then I've seen a housewife, or someone like Lacey Peterson, or even Jon Bonet's body be found - and I've seen blood hounds, search teams, helicopters, news reports, posters, volunteers coming out in droves - it's a whole other world when a "non-prostitute" is found dead or goes missing.  I love the way it's portrayed quite accurately in the film "Frozen Ground" with Nicholas Cage.  We can't even get a search warrant issued after escaping the murderers house we can describe in and out.  Try it sometime - watch how the news handles it when a prostitute goes missing vs. a non-prostitute.  Better yet - notice how Lacy Peterson was called Lacy Peterson on the news when she went missing.  She was not identified by her job.

I am the founder of this very movement in the modern world.  It had died out in the 60's and 70's when I was growing up.  In fact, I saw nothing but sex work glamorized.  Why?  Because the pharmaceutical companies had birth control pills to plug that's why starting in the 60's.  That's when the "sexual revolutionary" hit the media.  Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the Happy Hooker, Linda Lovelace - sexually active women, even those who made it their career were celebrated.  Even musicals made about them on Broadway (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas).

I'm the one who stood up and said these men and women don't deserve criminal status when I saw them being drug off on buses in weekly sweeps.  I'm the one who started bringing people who had been forced to work as prostitutes, strippers, in porn, etc. onto those talk show stages to enlighten society that many of these people had been forced.  To arrest them, brand them criminal - was just wrong.  Yes I did that.

I also did it while saying that sex work is a job.  A job where the working conditions, and the safety of the worker, should be treated just like any other job.  Yes I've also tried to fight the legal brothels of Nevada.  But you'll notice I have not complained about the brothels I've seen in Canada, the UK, nor Australia.  Because my objection against the Nevada brothels wasn't because of them selling sex - but because of the working conditions.

If you listen to the interview of a woman who works at a legal brothel at www.leavingtheliferadio.com you'll hear her speak about having no security, being raped daily, of not being protected from her pimp - and even more important - she can't get anyone to believe she's being trafficked right inside that brothel while the staff does nothing to stop it.  I've only come out against the Nevada brothels after trying to speak to the owners about changing the working conditions.  They've refused.  I'm sorry but in any other field where one is damaged sometimes for life - they get a pension to retire on.  Cops get a pension.  But when a prostitute contracts HIV on the job in a NV brothel - she's cast aside with nothing.

When Linda Lovelace tried to tell us about being forced to film "Deep Throat" she said NO ONE STEPPED UP TO STOP HER PIMP on the set.  If sex work is a job - then if this were any other type of work then someone would have.  If she had been a secretary and a man put a gun on her to force her to type - then someone would have called the police.  If she had been a farmer forced to pluck applies while a gun was pointed at her - then someone would have called the police.  The brothels are protecting traffickers from prosecution - and until they do something to change this then they need to be shut down just as any pimp or trafficker himself needs to be shut down.  We even have a "Good Samaritan Law" in place saying it's wrong for them to stand by and watch these women being trafficked by their pimps and do nothing.

So believe me - I've seen the effect of what's happened since the movement got hijacked by the TVRA of 2003.  When this policy stated that no federal money would be given to any group that viewed sex work as "work" and not a "human rights violation" - what it did was brand the women as "different".  This is when the term "trafficking victim" was coined.  Why?  Because money was only given to groups who viewed us as "victims" - not as human beings forced to work in the sex industry. 

That was a dividing line in the sand.  It said "we will only help you IF you say you ARE A VICTIM".  I view this term as the modern day scarlet letter.  I also view it as a way to keep us trapped.  When I went into the Sybil Brand Institute for Woman, the womans' jail, here in 1988 and started the first Prostitutes Anonymous meeting in there - do you know what I heard out of those women?  I heard all the blaming.  I heard them blame their parents, their neighborhoods, their learning disabilities, and yes even their pimps.  I heard them blame the drugs and the booze also.  These women had been trained by their counselors that they were just "victims of society" who had "no choice" but to do what they did.  Those women were suffering from "victim mentality".

As I listened to all their excuses about why they were there designed to make people feel sorry for them and wipe away their responsibility for their lives - do you know what I said to them?  I told them the same story my sponsor told me when I first started in recovery.  The story that "even if someone puts a gun to your head - you have a choice".  You have a choice to give in, to not give in, to fight, to not fight.  Yes they can point a gun at you - but YOU will are the one who CHOOSES how you respond to that gun.

Let me ask you something - if you're married and your husband comes back from a party and says that he slept with all the women there "because he got drunk" what would you say to him?  Especially since it was a party he walked into, a party where he knew there would be alcohol, what would you say to him?  Would you call him a "victim"?   Would you agree he was powerless to not sleep with those women after he drank the booze?

I've heard Theresa Flores story.  SHE MADE A CHOICE to go meet that man in the park.  I've heard Annie Lobert's story.  SHE MADE A CHOICE.  I've read Barbara Amaya's story.  I'm sorry but those women made CHOICES.

If anything - the one woman I think truly didn't have a choice is Yeonmi Park.  Even then, when her mother stepped up to take a rape for her daughter - that was a choice her mother made.  But when faced with the oppression and starvation that woman was forced upon her - now her I feel had no choice.  But guess what?  She has said on TV before that she is "no victim".

I've been watching this "no such thing" campaign for a while now and going increasingly angry.  It's putting a label on us of "victim".  While saying "don't call them prostitutes" it's saying "call them victims".  I don't want us called anything but human.  We are all humans.  If someone kidnaps us - then they should be charged with kidnapping,  If they threaten to kill us - they should be charged with threatening to kill us.

I don't see anyone standing up saying that the women raped by Bill Cosby should be distinguished from other rape victims by being called "Bill Cosby's rape victims".  Which is what is going on here when people who have not been in that world stand up at podiums paid for by rich white politicians and say that a "juvenile" should be treated differently than an adult and that there's "no such thing" as a "child prostitute" or a "child sex worker".  To insist on calling someone other than yourself something which is what's happening when the McCain Institute and the California Endowment are calling out for the public to view a "juvenile" as "different" than an adult coming out of the sex industry is STILL making them a different class of person.  All it's doing is replacing the words of "whore" with "victim".

More important - it's giving the impression that these people behind Malika Saar have the right to tell you the public what to call us.  What you're witnessing when you watch this is modern warfare.  No different than when the native Americans had people come onto their land with the assumption they had the right to take over that land.  To my knowledge, John McCain, Malika Saar, the California Endowment, the LA Board of Supervisors, and Sheriff Jim McDonnell are NOT survivors of that world, nor of being sold or trafficked or pimped and they DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL YOU WHAT TO CALL US.

When they booted us out of our meeting halls in 2004 and these church and state people pushed us out of the process and took over trying to help us escape and recover without our involvement - I've been watching very carefully the women who the state is now handling their recovery compared with our members.  Our members are getting degrees.  They're getting married, having kids, buying homes, etc.

Right now I have a list of women who have been helped by these "trafficking programs".  They aren't doing so hot so wanting more they've reached out to us after finding us online.  I'm hearing a very clear pattern no matter what state they're calling from.  They are all living in subsidized housing surrounded by drug dealers and pimps.  They are in and $8.00 or  9.00 an hour jobs at fast food places - donut shops, sandwich shops, fast food places.  Because they're working at this $9.00 fast food job they are not qualifying for vocational rehab or college.  Their counselor has them on more than one medication that I see no reason for. Not one has started their own business.  I do not see the reason for someone with PTSD to be on drugs like Serequel or Wellbutryn together.  Another woman is on Tegretol which is for epileptics.  The drugs are causing weight gain.  Drugs like 1200 mg of Serequel are making them sleepy and stupid.

They also are in some kind of medical study.  Meaning they aren't getting what they need - they're being researched.  For example, one woman is in a B12 study.  However, women with severe PTSD and still having periods need a lot more vitamins to heal years of abuse than B12 that doesn't even stay in the system longer than a few hours.  B6 for example cuts down on the flashbacks. Magnesium helps relax the muscles and aids sleep.  Valerian calms the nerves.  For those who have insomnia - melotonin helps them to sleep at night.  I can point you to every single "trafficking program" right now being run by the county or state - and the women in those programs are being researched.

Everyone of these programs is being carried out by a Christian organization.  Sounds good right?  Until you find out the lesbians are rejected.  The men, the transgenders refused.  Show me one Christian safe house that accepts transgenders, gays or lesbians.  Or Jews.  Our program is non-denominational.  Now I'm sorry but I was raised to know we were based on a separation of church and state in this country.  The reason was so we didn't have another witch hunt or crusades.  I have traced these Christian groups and their money every one back to a source that believes gays are "damned".  I find not one offers kosher meals.

In these projects, in these studies, in their "safe houses" they are not viewed as "responsible, productive members of society".  They are trotted around at fund raisers, as a token.  They are the token survivors standing next to the politician or prosecutor who then gets a career boost shortly after.    Just as I see this "no such thing" claiming they are "elevating the wishes of a survivor" - I ask you where is this survivor?  When you are elevating one word over another, and the person doing the elevating isn't a survivor themselves - that's not US leading US.  That's not empowering us - that's using and EXPLOITING us.  Just like these same people did when they used up and exploited Linda - never accepting her as one of their own.

I've watched the women getting their degrees in a few cases where they use them as "poster children" to parade around to the media.  Then I've watched them not get tenure.  I've seen them not hired for jobs.  I've seen their hours cut once the cameras went home.  I've seen them get fired once the press conference was over.  They are not being treated as equals in this system.  That's because they're not VIEWED as equals.

One of the greatest powers of our program is that we are ANONYMOUS.  No one knows who we are.  When they put these women in these programs - another thing they do is parade them around for the camera using their real face and their real names.  Then 1/2 of the country knows they used to be prostitutes.  Call them victim. Call them survivor.  The people KNOW.  In our program, no one knows but us.  Even then we don't know as we tell our members not to share last names, where they live, where they work, etc.  We don't put our status on our facebook pages, our resumes, our social media.  We are "anonymous" and keep that at the level of "press, radio and films". You will not find one official pages of ours with a full face photo, a real name, and the status of being a member of Sex Workers Anonymous.  This is because in today's world the only way to be treated as "equal" is for them not to know about our past.

When I first started doing training's for probation officers, cops, social workers, etc., I used to sit in the audience part of the room as they would come in for the workshop.  They'd think I was one of them.  I would put on the board the instructions "write down what you think I'm going to be like" being they were told that a survivor was leading the workshop.  As I would get coffee, mingle, and talk with the students they accepted me as "one of them".

Then at the moment of time to start the workshop  -I would step up and identify.  I would LOVE see how everyone's mouth flew open.  I told them "gotcha"!  I pointed out that every single one of them had an image in their head about what they thought I'd be like, and then to realize that I was just among them, one of them, was shocking.  They also had to confront the fact they viewed us as "different" and "beneath" them.  I would then explain that's these unconscious beliefs they were holding about us needed to be addressed if they were going to be of help to us.  Also it explained why it was important to keep the status of our past private. They saw how they reacted in their minds when they thought of me as an ex-prostitute - and realized this is who others will view us who know.  Because people are people and once you label someone - they will be looked down upon.  A very real effect then that can affect what jobs we get, what homes we buy, etc.

Betty Ford did a lot to dispel the myth of the alcoholic when she revealed she was drinking in the White House as First Lady.  However, I know if she'd been honest about this before they got into office - it wouldn't have happened.  But after it was revealed she was - people started accepting the alcoholic as "one of them".   But I assure you had she revealed this before the election - she wouldn't have become First Lady.

I've traced the money for these trafficking programs - and in every single one of them I've traced the money back to the Catholic Church.  Whether it was the lawsuit of ACLU v. Catholic Bishops, or Project Rose, or other courts I've seen set up.  The money is disguised and passed through 1000 tiny little shell groups - but if you "follow the money" you see it's coming through the Catholic Church.  In Nevada, Andrea Swanson and her campaign for AB67 - Catholic Church.

This "labeling" is what they do.  They do it to marginalize us, and keep us down and out. Separate us from them.   They always mask it and pretty it up with "saving" us at the same time.  I saw this when they destroyed my Native American ancestors to "civilize" us also.  Then we were "savages".   What the white man did then to the Native American's wasn't some altruistic mission to "save us" even though they claimed it was what?  Civilizing us.

THEY WANTED THE LAND.  They took us then out of our way of life and limited us to the reservations.  They also experimented on us then too.  But they did offer us "scholarships".  I remember a movie about Caleb.  They also gave him a Harvard education, a government job, and he got to record the history of his dying ancestors and culture they destroyed.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleb_Cheeshahteaumuck

Do you see the pattern yet of the "rich white men in power" and the Catholic Church?  They come in with the smoke screen of "saving" us.  There are the labels and the imagery.  Whether it's the image of the witch with a crooked nose and a black hat scaring people away from the midwives and into the hospitals where you're more likely to die in the hospital than from an herbal medicine.  Where it's $5000 to have a baby in a hospital vs. free to have one at home in a tub of warm water with a midwife aiding.  Whether it's the image of the native American as a "savage" who is out "scalping innocent women and children", the scarlet letter of a whore, and now we have the label of "victim" being thrust upon us.  The goal with them is always the same - to take money and power - and to exclude us from their seat at power.

I saw a show recently with John Stossell.  It's where I saw Yeonmi Park get up and say "I'm not a victim".  http://www.amazon.com/The-Blame-Game-Country-Victims/dp/B000060MVS and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY8uoUzrVCc  He brought a woman on who quoted research showing that the more the government has been "helping" the African American community - the worse they're getting overall.  They talked about how the "war on poverty" actually made things worse for the African American community.

I propose that the minute someone says they're going to "label" me to "help" me - RUN. RUN RUN RUN RUN!

I don't want to be treated differently than any man or woman.  No one MADE me do anything.  I made my own choices how I responded to threats.  I take responsibility for my actions and my decisions.

My name is Jody.

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