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Sunday, July 10, 2016

LETTER TO EDITOR

Dear Editor:

I’m writing to weigh in on the Oakland sex scandal.  http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/07/07/federal-police-officer-offered-to-pimp-east-bay-teenager-at-center-of-oakland-police-sex-abuse-scandal   Thirty years ago, we launched the first hotline for adults to call for help to leave the sex industry.  We also founded the first 12 step program which was not just for recovery, but also to be used as “alternative sentencing” for those being treated only as “criminals” by our society back then.   To date, our hotline has answered five times as many calls for help as the National Trafficking Hotline.  Our 12 step program, Sex Workers Anonymous (originally “Prostitutes Anonymous”), is the oldest, and largest program of those who have left the sex industry in the world. 

I’m bringing up how old we are to explain how things have dramatically shifted now in this field which this case in Oakland not only typifies, but further is happening all over this country right now.  A situation we are going to have to find a solution to and fast.  Because it’s not just women like Celeste who are being victimized here.

Take for example the case of  Joohoon David Lee.  He’s a Homeland Security and ICE officer who was caught sex trafficking women from Korea into Nevada and California.  Walking his victims right past airport security trained in how to spot and help such victims now on the taxpayer’s dime.   To cover up his REAL sex trafficking activities, this man falsely accused a whole innocent family of being sex traffickers who owned a restaurant in Las Vegas.  The wife was even forced to wear an ankle bracelet for six months tracing her movements while their restaurant, and family reputation, was run into the ground.   http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/las-vegas-restaurateur-says-former-fed-manufactured-criminal-case-against-him

Our calls on behalf of the victims were not just ignored – we were aggressively threatened into “backing off” speaking to them by police, private investigators, attorney’s, and even various Chief of Police as well as Internal Affairs.  We’ve had our hotline responders, volunteers, members, and service providers we work with threatened off.   Members of the press have reported they’ve been threatened into not reporting on what we’re saying is happening.  

Even worse, cops, prosecutors, probation officers, social workers, foster parents, and even politicians have reported to us they’ve been threatened also into not speaking to us when we’ve called trying to get help for women like Celeste to get out of the sex industry.   Many have reported they were outright fired for even suggesting we be brought in to help such victims when we have a strong consistent proven record of success in this area.

Let’s talk about money for a moment.  Oakland and Alameda County received $80,000 from Hunt Alternatives to “end demand”. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-city-council-takes-stand-against-sex-workers/Content?oid=4563294  Alameda County spent $1,000,000 on a billboard campaign, www.protectlakids.org (take a look at this site and tell me how this would help someone like Celeste Guap please), which for six months went to a bus schedule. 

Long Beach’s sex trafficking task force has received about $4,000,000 overall, https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/15-million-grant-will-establish-human-trafficking-task-force-be-led-us-attorney-s while Los Angeles has approved $7,000,000 to “fight sex trafficking”.  http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/humanservices/index.php/category/human-trafficking/ Private and government grants aside, there’s also been countless fund raisers within womens’ groups and churches.  All to raise money to get help to women like Celeste to be able to leave any part of the sex industry, legal or not.

Women like Celeste who call our hotline reporting they have “no other options” to get help than to turn to us because of what we’re seeing being exposed to the light here in this Oakland case, and many others coming to light lately also.    The National Trafficking Hotline for example refers these women to task forces who are being led by the very men they’re trying to get away from.   That or programs who aren’t equipped to help women get away from the grip of not a street pimp, but men like William Johnson, and all the connections a man like him, as well as Joohon David Lee has.  One can’t simply go into a Salvation Army shelter when running from such traffickers as this.  Not unless they want to wind up like Margo Compton did – a woman who relied upon people not equipped to properly protect her and her two children when she tried to stop her sex trafficking. 

Take for example “Operation Dollhouse”.  There our hotline was getting calls for help where these women were being trafficked on private property.  There was no way to get undercover police inside the operation, nor could we get actors pretending to be customers in to help extract them.  I had gone to the Chief of Police at the time in Las Vegas with information on how this ring operated, right down to street addresses, phone numbers, names, etc.  Only to find everything shifted within 24 hours to “clean up” everything we’re reported. 

In the past, we’d been able to get help through applying the press to the situation.  A reporter then asked the police for a “ride along” and then put them “on the spot” to do a spontaneous raid.  This resulted in 24 Chinese women found in private homes with mattresses on the ground, along with bags of drugs, including finding a minor female.   It also found two police officers who were on the San Mateo sex trafficking task force.  All 24 of these women were released back to their pimps and the case initially dismissed entirely.   Meaning this women had no escape and we couldn’t get any help to them either because of a lack of these officials working with us to do so. 

This was the same year that ATLAS had received over $870,000 to “fight sex trafficking”.  Only to report ZERO cases of sex trafficking at the end of the year.  This money was carved up by the police departments, local shelters, and even things like $80,000 spent on a billboard which no one ever called.   When we had pushed on this case to get those women some help – we found ourselves not just threatened but we even had a bomb placed in our outreach RV, our front door kicked in, I was stalked, our volunteers threatened, and further all calls to anyone for help for these women were completely ignored.  We found ourselves even banned from attending the trafficking conference held that same year in Vegas.  Further, a reporter and a photographer for the Review Journal were fired for trying to get a story run on our work in Nevada with cases just like this.   To cover up why no one was even returning our calls – I personally was smeared  like that was some kind of explanation why Sex Workers Anonymous was not being called in to help women leave the sex industry. 

As for Oakland, I can show letter after letter here we’ve been sending to the police, politicians, the press, attorney general’s office, even the governor’s office trying to get help to women like Celeste only to find not only are we being ignored by them – but such ignorance of us is supporting what’s going on.  Again, not just harming women like Celeste, but further harming innocent citizens, wasting taxpayer’s and donor’s money, and further SUPPORTING the sex trafficking.

Which is going to continue unless we start seeing a dialogue opening about INCLUDING us.  Not bringing in some program who has no track record in this area who is also not set up to deal with EXACTLY this type of situation.  While groups like Victory Outreach may be set up to deal with women like Celeste’s spiritual needs, and maybe even help one escape street pimps – they are far from set up to be helping these women leave prostitution when they’ve got as many as 30 men with badges trying everything in their power to make sure she doesn’t. 

How many more cases like this do we have to see go down before someone realizes we need to be involved?  Or further the fact we aren’t is a problem in itself?  Again, who tries to help an alcoholic without involving Alcoholics Anonymous?  Clearly not someone interested in helping them get sober that’s for sure.

So if you are like Celeste and you need help to leave the sex industry – please know about www.sexworkersanonymous.com  And the next time you see a meeting going on saying they want to help victims like this and we’re not part of the panel – you are watching in this Oakland case why we haven’t been included in the past functions.  If you want that to change – please get in touch with us at (702) 488-1127. 

Sincerely,

Jody Williams, Founder


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