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Saturday, February 20, 2016

ARE WE PUTTING KIDS INTO THE FIRE?

Dear Dennis:

I'm writing in response to your article - http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865647331/Proposed-Utah-law-would-treat-child-prostitutes-as-victims-not-criminals.html?pg=all     To the novice – “not charging a juvenile as a criminal” sounds like a great thing.  But this is because the people making these laws haven’t really taken the time to understand the issue completely, nor the effects of their laws in the “real world”.  You would have thought we learned from the Mann Act of 1910 to do this but I guess not STILL.  The Mann Act was designed to do something about Asian women who were being brought over here to work at massage parlors, and then moved every few weeks so they didn’t form attachments with anyone who would “rescue” them. 

Instead of taking the time to understand how trafficking really worked, and trying to use this law to do something about the problem – by the 1960’s the only two people who had been charged under the Mann Act were two black men for marrying white women and then working across state lines so they took their wives with them.  In other words, it was used to mask racism. 

Let me tell you my viewpoint on the issue – I’m the person who started the movement to have this issue recognized in the 1980’s.  Yep – I’m the founder of this very trafficking movement we’re talking about here.  I’m saying that because in the 1970’s, I was seeing raids on brothels, strip clubs, massage parlors, etc., as well as sweeps of corners like Sunset Blvd., where every woman in sight was being loaded onto buses and charged as criminals.    Then when those who were being forced to be there would state so – they’d be laughed at with “oh yeah they all say they’re innocent”. 

Many people had tried to tell the public this was real to no avail.  Elvis Presley believe it or not in a 1965 film “Harem Holiday” tried to show sex trafficking.  Bruce Lee tried to show sex and human trafficking in “Enter the Dragon” and it also got no register.   Linda Lovelace tried to tell the public she’d been forced to film “Deep Throat” while her pimp/husband was pointing a gun at her off camera – only to have the public accuse her of being “jealous”  of “being dumped for a younger model” in Marilyn Chambers.   I would see talk show audiences literally “boo” Linda and articles in porn publications attacking her vehemently.

We had no where to run.  If we tried to go to a drug treatment program, homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, etc., we were literally denied.  There was even a proposition being pushed in 1986 wanting to quarantine us on an island with “junkies and homosexuals” without regard for whether we were forced to continue prostituting while HIV positive. 

I had opened the first safe house for adults myself because of this only to find myself arrested in 1984 and accused of “running a brothel” simply because I had a woman on probation for prostitution sleeping in a warehouse I’d set up to protect victims.  THAT’S when I said “enough” and embarked upon a media campaign where we bombarded the public with survivors telling their stories about this being real until we saw the Trafficking Act of 2000 pass.

Our hope was to see prostitution decriminalized across the board.  Why?  Because as long as we’re criminals we’re unable to not only defend ourselves probably, but this hinders prosecution of the real criminals.  How?  I once rescued a girlfriend of mine out of an auto body shop where I found her chained to a fridge needing 51 stitches.   We went to the police who then threw us out of their office instead of going for the search warrant we’d asked for.  When I was asking why he was throwing us out he said “because I can’t get a warrant based on the word of  whore”.   

His explanation was that as a “criminal” we had no “credibility” and thus our word was “worthless in court”.  That the law viewed any harm one to us as done “during the commission of a crime” and thus her 51 stab wounds were “her fault” or “the price of doing business”.  Because of this eviction out of his office, it was another two years before they caught  the two cousins that was the Hillside Strangler right at the address we’d given and more women were murdered because they didn’t get a warrant on them that day we were there. 

While prostitution is a crime – every time a victim calls the National Trafficking Hotline she’s violating her 5th amendment right not to incriminate herself.  Which is why we set up a special hotline in 1987 answered by a minister so that every caller is granted confidentiality they’re not currently granted nationally.  In fact, every word out of a victim’s mouth against those who are trafficking her, or him, or raping, robbing, or even about a murder, is a form of self-incrimination.  Meaning it’s also almost impossible to get other witnesses to come forward, to get evidence provided, or even to get someone to testify because they are also putting themselves at risk of being criminally prosecuted. 

So rather than just decriminalize prostitution so we can start going after the bad guys across the board without fear or hesitation – the country is moving towards not charging juveniles as criminals for prostitution.   Sounds good but here’s the realities about that.  Let’s start with Latesha Clay in Michigan.  This 15 year old mother of two small children was working as a prostitute while robbing customers with a gun.  http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2016/01/girl_15_sent_to_prison_for_lur.html    To criminally charge her – the court charged her as an adult.  However, they forgot that adults are allowed to attend our www.sexworkersanonymous.com meetings as an “alternative to incarceration” because she is still legally a juvenile.   So she’s now sitting in a prison charged as an adult.

Another reality is that most states will only do mandatory HIV testing on prostitutes once charged or found guilty of prostitution.  In Los Angeles, their statistics show no juveniles arrested for prostitution which sounds good until you realize this also mens none of those juveniles have been tested yet either.   Charlie Sheen has just admitted to frequently prostitutes while also concealing he was HIV positive.  

I sincerely doubt he was checking valid ID’s during these games meaning he might have exposed at least one or two juveniles.  Various states, Tijuana, Korea and China have admitted they’re seeing another HIV epidemic.   So we from a public health standpoint don’t know if these juveniles are HIV positive.   A lack of numbers by the way also means a lack of funding, programs, or even urgency.   If we’re not testing these girls how do we know if we have a serious problem or not requiring more aggressive outreach? 

Also, I hate to say this but what leverage do we have to force them to seek some kind of treatment?   With adults, to avoid incarceration, they go through our program.   If they don’t comply, they’re put into jail.  This is very strong motivation for some people – including myself.  If not for the threat of incarceration hanging over my head – I doubt very much I would have quit work that had made me $250,000 in less than a year to go and hostess at a coffee shop as was my first “square” job when I was put on probation myself. 

Remember, there’s an assumption here that ALL of these girls are being pimped and that’s just not the case.  I entered into the sex industry while a teen and no pimp “turned me out” into the “game” as they called it back then.  I asked the people I knew doing this if they’d “teach me the ropes” when I was seeing their Rolls Royce’s and their mansion next to Michael Jackson’s.  

Also, there hasn’t even been an “alternative” put in place yet.  Again, LAPD hasn’t arrested one juvenile for 2015.  Okay what DID they do with them?  I’m reading there is an overcrowding problem at the Youth Welcome Center where the overcrowding is so bad pimps crawling all over this center so much they’re discussing locking the kids inside to keep them safe.  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-welcome-center-20150622-story.html   There’s only about 900 foster parents with about 4,000 kids needing fosters right now.  Children of the Night only has about 14 beds that I’m aware of which is why I’m reading many of these girls don’t have anywhere they can go for help.  Many can’t go home because they’re parents, foster parents, or guardians were the ones trafficking them.   I’m not saying jail is perfect for some teens – but for some it might be the only way to escape a home where they’re being trafficked.   I say that because most of our members have reported the ones who were pushing them into sex work as teens wasn’t a pimp – but their parent, guardian, or even social worker, teacher or coach. 

I appreciate what many states are doing in not wanting to charge these kids as criminals.  However, I think we have a lot more things to consider before turning this into throwing these kids from the frying pan into the fire.  Thanks for your attention to this letter. 

Jody Williams
(818) 6463296 Telephone







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