Friday, December 11, 2015
OPEN LETTER TO PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATURE REGARDING STRIPPER LICENSING
Jody Williams, Founder & Director ofSex Workers Anonymous
(702) 468-4529 Telephone
December 11, 2015
Dear Sponsors of HB262:
I'm writing you as the founder of the modern day sex trafficking movement itself, as well as the founder of the first hotline for adults to call for help to leave the sex industry, and the 12 step program. You can verify this statement with news clips at www.hightechmadam.com. I also co-founded the Program for Female Offenders in Allentown, PA in 1989.
The so called “brothel” in the newspaper was in reality the first safe house for adults I'd put next to the police station for safety's sake. I had put a woman whose pimp had just broken her arm and nose in the warehouse so she'd be safe there. In the 1980's, prostitutes weren't admitted at domestic violence shelters so she had nowhere else safe to go. In retaliation, he reported us “operating a brothel”. We got it all sorted out and the movement was born. I realized through this I could no longer keep doing rescues without elevating the public awareness at the same time in order to get our work done.
And I see my job is not done. Not when I see strippers trying to resist HB262 on some claim of “violating their civil liberties”. Doctors and lawyers get licenses. If anything, it's a sign of professionalism. If I cook food in my personal kitchen and give away the food – I can do that until the cows come home. But the minute I start charging for the food I'm serving – I become subject to the laws regarding the production and sales of food to humans.
So while I agree one doesn't need a license to dance away the night in a club for free – the minute you become a “professional” then you need to act like it. If anyone would be endangered by a license – then I would say those who obtain licenses to work at the legal brothels in Nevada would because they're being licensed to actually “prostitute”. Yet there's not been one single case of a problem, rape, stalking, murder, etc., of one of them directly connected to their licensing. If you follow the guidelines Nye County has been using for prostitute licensing – I'm sure you'll be fine.
Growing up means the acceptance of reality. Reality is that countless strippers every year just disappear. No one knows their real name, who their family is, where they live even. Every year countless bodies are found in ditches, dumpsters, and ravines and the police have no way of identifying these bodies either. Women in the sex industry are the most endangered population of all even by their own admission. Three out of every five sexual violence visits in an ER are sex workers according to a recent study. The sex industry includes prostitutes, strippers, porn performers, and even webcam models. Not only are they targeted by traffickers – but they are the first targeted by rapists, murderers, etc. for obvious reasons.
Because the public, the courts, the police don't care about us. Predators have been getting away with kidnapping, raping, beating and even murdering us scot-free as long as I can remember. A man in Texas got off on a self-defense claim for taking the head off of a prostitute with a hub cap. He says he “was in fear of his life” when he asked the unarmed female prostitute for his money back. In Pennsylvania a judge found that a prostitute who was raped was only a victim of “theft of services”. So the courts don't exactly send the message not to “screw” with us and the predators know this. These women aren't going to find an “intervention” of help by being arrested like prostitutes are because what they do is legal. Nor would there be records of them in the computer to identify their bodies because of prostitution arrests. They are not going to be hired as full-time employees by clubs so there aren't going to be any personnel records on dancers somewhere containing information on them like their social security number, copies of their ID cards, home address, and next of kin. The state needs a way to identify them for tax purposes and as “freelancers” that leaves us with licensing.
There's also the matter of the health and public safety. Dancers need to be tested for STD's because of their close interaction with the public through dancing, as well as other dancers. It is routine for dancers to kiss and touch clients as part of their job, as well as other dancers during shows. It's already been established within the porn industry that over 80 % of performers have been exposed to the Ebstein-Barr or “chronic fatigue syndrome” virus through kissing and oral sex. HPV doesn't just affect the cervix, but is also associated with oral herpes and warts which can be on any part of the body.
On top of this being just a part of the job - we're having an HIV/AIDS epidemic right now. It hasn't been officially declared and probably won't be but I can assure you our hotline is getting as many calls now as we did in the 1980's with people who are reporting either being positive, or knowing someone who is. The epidemic has been officially confirmed in Tijuana, Indiana and even China. I'm hearing “unofficial” reports from even more cities, including Pennsylvania. It's well known strippers not only travel the circuit, but that their customers are from all over as well. They are interacting with the public no differently than someone who serves food might also. If a person preparing and serving food needs to be tested for Hep C, then I can assure you strippers need to be tested for transmissible diseases also.
I'd like to further propose that to obtain a license to dance that you require an orientation and test be passed first. I would love to help you prepare that orientation. We all know most dancers have a history of growing up around so much abuse they might not even know what the lines are between “coercion” and “free will”. I'd like it established for example that the dancers' have separate bank accounts without any joint signers. They can pay a separate fee for taking the test and they need to know about hotlines they can call for help like ours, like Children of the Night, and also of course the National Trafficking Hotline.
I'd like to have the orientation go over what exactly “force” and “trafficking” is. Studies have also proven most victims of trafficking don't even recognize they are. After the orientation, they need to pass a test to show they understood the information. They should also pass a drug test to show they were “in the right mind” when they applied. I say that based on 30 years of hearing how stoned women were when they got the Nevada brothel license, or signed for a porn release – and how much they regret that decision now.
Don't be fooled by a few vocal article “lobbyists” with “friends in the media” on this issue. When I was being trafficked, my traffickers recruited and trained me to be their “face” when interacting with banks, landlords, and the public to hide who, and what, was really behind me. I have been in this field for 30 years now and have watched as they have found a new set of college educated, white, articulate, intelligent females to be their “face” for them today, as well as their recruiters within the college grounds. I've watched as they're got themselves jobs with major media outlets to try and push through their agenda. Which is all the more reason why I'd like to help you prepare the orientation and testing process that ALL be required to go through to give you the benefit of 30 years of hindsight of our members.
I'd further like to see them be required to show up once a month for STD and drug testing which would also serve not only as a “proof of life”, but to further be a point in time when their pimps (if they have one) is forced to not be standing next to them and they can be asked again “do you need help to leave?”
So I fully support what you're doing here with HB262. If I can be of any further assistance in any way, please don't hesitate to call.