LETTER TO GLAMOUR MAGAZINE
In response to the "No Such Thing" campaign, the term "prostitute" while sex for money is still illegal in this country is STILL a legal term. Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm the founder of this very movement with respect to sex trafficking. Please check the news clips at www.hightechmadam.com The news clip for 1984 about my arrest where it says I was "operating brothel" is not the story. Yes I had a warehouse next to the police station that was equipped with very high tech security - but the reason for that is because it was the first safe house for adult trafficking victims in the USA. I had put a woman in the warehouse because her pimp had broken her arm and nose as well as blacked both her eyes. Angry, he tipped off the cops that there was a "brothel" operating. When the police arrived, yes the woman was wearing her PJ's because it was midnight and she was sleeping. She also had the arm cast on and a bandage on her nose with two black eyes. But in the mind of the police in 1984 this must be a brothel since a "prostitute" was inside. I say that as a legal definition since she was on probation for the crime of prostitution. The pimp then tipped off the media about it to try and put more pressure on the case. Yes the DA kept at first trying to get her to name me as her pimp. She stood her ground and testified against the pimp and the charges of pimping against me would have been dropped had not the DA then charged my mother with pimping me. They had a photo of me handing her $20 bill for a bucket of KFC and under the LAW if you "receive earnings from a prostitute" then it's felony pimping. To get the charges against my mother dropped - I had to plead to some baloney charge and thus was on probation for two years.
But that didn't stop me from getting calls from victims needing help to escape trafficking and pimps (yes there's a difference). Realizing of course I needed to do things differently, and realizing we would be encountering more pimp retaliation for our work, I met with the California Attorney General, Edwin Meese. He suggested that until we stop arresting prostitutes as criminals that I could at least offer an "alternative to sentencing" by creating a 12 step program.
So I did and launched our program and hotline in 1987. We started our first alternative sentencing program in Los Angeles in 1988 and by 1989 we were asked to bring it to the east coast. Which I did. The Program for Female Offenders was created which was also very effective. From there, we were asked to start the first program in Canada in 1991 because of a serial killer who was targeting prostitutes in Vancouver. We helped a mother find her daughter and a movie was made about this starring Lindsey Wagner "Fighting for My Daughter". A documentary was made about the warehouse and our program in 1988 and aired on Channel 9.
Back in the 1980's if you called the police about sex trafficking they responded to you identical to if you were to call 911 today and say "little green men were forcing you to prostitute". This lack of belief was what led to be being arrested because the police couldn't understand what was going on at the warehouse. So I also realized I needed to change public perceptions which of course advertised our hotline so I did a lot of national TV before the Trafficking Act of 2000 was passed to give this federal recognition.
I invite you to listen to one of our members speak about the "way things were" for us up until 2003. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_TD_X3uOiA Up until the passing of the TVRA of 2003, our program had become "the" alternative sentencing option across the USA. Our program had a chapter in every major city. We were part of a 10 year research study in fact published by professor Sharon Oselin proving our program works in fact. What happened then was the movement literally being "hijacked". Even the author of the Trafficking Act of 2000 has been quoted as saying it's been "hijacked".
What that means is very important. Let me ask you something - during the civil war and the civil rights war it was easy to tell who the war was about by the color of their skin. However, what if the "slaves" the subject of this war were all colors, shapes, sizes and sex? Imagine it's more like alcoholism in that it can strike anyone. For all intents and purposes I am to this movement what Bill Wilson was to the alcohol recovery movement. Because before Bill Wilson and AA - people didn't view alcoholism as a disease but instead as a lack of "moral fiber".
Which when I started this movement - is how we were viewed - as "criminals" and also having "no morals". Not that some of us were being forced, while others were being forced because of economic necessary because of a lack of proper support services. In 2003 every Salvation Army and Catholic Charity we had been holding our meetings in came to us and booted us out. Now prostitution is STILL illegal. It's a crime in just about everywhere but Nye and Storey County in Nevada.
Now I ask you - who is going to let a bunch of criminals meet on their property? Not many which is why essentially they destroyed our program for a moment there. Now the members regrouped and we found new meeting halls but what this did was basically put us "out of sight". We are "anonymous" and can't violate our anonymity to come forward without great risk and sacrifice. Some of us still have pimps looking for us even. Others know if the past leaks out they'll be fired, evicted, and possibly even lose their marriages and custody of their children. So not all of us want to step forward in the media eye to speak up - which is why the members of SWA turn to me for this.
Some people came to me and asked me if I would make statements about the sex industry and trafficking that are not true in 2007. They offered me a large cash salary, an office, and a lot of awards. I explained to them if I did say these things in the media that no "real" victim would come to me for help because they would know I was lying. So I refused because if I lose the members of our program who come to us for help and find it - what have I got? Money? I could make that going back to crime.
Was I wrong? Each time one of these "catfish" phony survivors steps up saying these things that real survivors know is not true - that's what I hear is "how could they lie like this" so I wasn't wrong.
I did what I do because there was no pipeline out for these victims. Victims who need THEIR voice heard. What happened after I refused was quite interesting. We saw Samoly Mam rise and rise with the SAME EXACT people as who have now put this Wilethma Ortiz Pettigrew up on this media pedestal. Oh yes she's speaking at film festivals and galas - the same ones that we saw put the phony "Eden" and the phony "Taken" out into the media. Because once I got the idea out into the general public that trafficking was in fact real - then the next question became "what is it?"
That's when the movement got hijacked by people who are putting out in major media information that is NOT our experience. Things these phonies aren't talking about. Something those of us who are REAL would be talking about at great embarrassment to these people in power.
That is talking about corruption. What I started this movement talking about and am still talking about is the fact we can't address TRAFFICKING unless we address the corruption that allows it to happen. Do you know why I advertise a hotline where someone can call for help that IS NOT connected to law enforcement? Because traffickers are law enforcement or they use them as their guard dogs. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-immigrant-whistleblower-20151124-story.html And until we have a system where the fox isn't "guarding the chicken coop" - we don't have another way out for them.
I have to speak about this "no such thing" campaign because I have LOT of very upset members. First of all, the term "prostitute" is not a slur. It is a legal term to define someone who breaks the law against prostitution. A law we've been trying to get repealed. All of that outrage you feel when you hear us called "prostitute" is what WE WANT YOU TO FEEL because we WANT THE LAW REPEALED.
What these people with money, and trust me if you trace the roots of this whole campaign it goes right to MONEY and the same people who are attacking Planned Parenthood, want is to stuff this under a rug to make it disappear WITHOUT repealing the very law that made this word a word. It would be like if I said I'm not going to remove the law making murder a crime - but I'm going to instead get everyone to call it "pillow fighting" because the term is so "distasteful". This is EXACTLY the kind of thing Noam Chomsky spoke of when he said "propaganda is to democracy what guns are to a dictator" in Manufacturing Consent.
The phrase "there's no such thing as a child prostitute" is a lie. Let me ask you something - were you aware that a 16 year old can get a license to work at a Nevada legal brothel? Were you also aware that when she's first taken to work at the brothel if she tries to leave within the first 48 hours she's ARRESTED? Sixteen years old is too young to drive, vote, drink or smoke - yet this girl can obtain a prostitute license. I'm sorry but that makes her a "child prostitute" in my eyes. So there IS such a thing as a "child prostitute" and if we remove that phrase from the language then we have just swept her plight right under the rug haven't we?
Something I have not heard in one single speech out of this Withelma. I've tried reaching her. She's not in the student directory at Notre Dame, I can't find any "Still Alive Initiative" where she claims to work, and she doesn't answer any of our emails. Our members, real survivors, nominated me for that top 100 Time award and she gets the award? Okay great but for what? For what? I've scoured the internet and find no accomplishments. She speaks but she's not speaking for the 1000's of members we have.
We've written the people sponsoring the "No Such Thing" campaign asking them to speak to our members about their experiences - and we get no response at all. Not from the McCain Institute, the California Endowment, Malikaa Saar, no one speaks to us who comprise the largest group of survivors in this country. And I don't mean those who are out trying to sell a book or start a church - but those who can't speak up in the public eye because of how the ones who trafficked them are still operating at large today.
Because of the campaign she's fronted there were no arrests for juvenile prostitutes in Los Angeles for 2015. Which means guess what? No HIV tests. When someone is arrested for prostitution there is a mandatory HIV test. Charlie Sheen has acknowledged spending over $10 million dollars trying to cover up his HIV plus status and believe me I know this has some connection. But those statistics are there for a reason and were put there after we went through an HIV epidemic in the 1980's. We found that traffickers were force the prostitutes to continue working while positive and the only way to stop them, and to allocate services to them to help them, was this mandatory testing. Otherwise, the traffickers know and keep "working" these victims. At the point of jail, where there is positive HIV test - that's a point where people can step in and HELP that prostitute. But without those tests - what have they got? NOTHING.
Without this mandatory testing - where does this leave a prostitute with a means to alert the public we're having another HIV epidemic among sex workers? Or the ability to step in at that point and help her/him before they become a threat to public health? They've confirmed it in Tijuana among sex workers in 2008 - do you honestly think with traffickers bringing these prostitutes, male and female, across the border to work them that southern California wasn't infected? Then as the traffickers move them through the USA now - we now are hearing of an epidemic in Indiana, Florida and even S. Carolina. I'm getting so many calls from HIV positive prostitutes in Los Angeles - I've relocated back there to get involved only to find out NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR FROM US.
But with these people on the "no such thing" campaign controlling ALL OF THE PRESS how are we supposed to get a word in edgewise about us? As long as prostitution is a crime there IS such a thing as a "child prostitute". As long as Nevada is allowing 16 year olds to be driven in to get a license from their step fathers, and foster parents to work in these brothels before they'd old enough to drive, and those laws are on the books there IS such a thing as "child prostitute". And all that outrage WE WANT DIRECTED AT THE LAWS - not at sweeping it under the rug by saying there is "no such thing".
You want to write about something to help us? Write about us. Write about that.
Thank you for listening.