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Showing posts with label Beauty from Ashes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beauty from Ashes. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2016

Letter to the Guardian about a False Story Ran on Sex Trafficking

I'm writing to let you know of an experience which is sadly becoming a very common place thing in respect to the field of modern sex trafficking illustrated by the article you published here https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/21/i-survived-human-trafficking-exception-to-rule-survivor-prostitution-abuse-victims?CMP=share_btn_gp

I run www.sexworkersanonymous.com  Our program, and hotline, was originally launched in 1987 as "Prostitutes Anonymous".  When we launched, it was because of the fact modern sex trafficking was viewed in much the same manner as that of alien abduction is viewed then and today.  I say that because if you were to call the police and report you were being sold and/or trafficked back then into the industry against your will, and also asking for help to escape, as well as resources to help you recover physically, mentally and spiritually from what you'd just been through - they would react to you the same as if you were to call up asking for help to escape the little green men kidnapping you at night.  No resources to provide escape and/or recovery from such a thing existed because it was viewed as non-existent as the idea of needing to create an exit and restoration system for people kidnapped by aliens.

Literally no laws existed for such a thing, no other hotline, safe houses, or even any kind of training for therapists on how to help one deal with life after such an experience existed anywhere.  I know as I spent years looking for such help only to be alternatively accused of either being as "crazy" as someone who was claiming aliens were abducting them at night, or meeting with a wall of "who cares what happens to a whore" attitudes.  

Back then we had a record number of serial killers targeting prostitutes with bodies piling up like cords of wood while the police wouldn't even lift a finger to investigate any tips.  I had taken a girlfriend of mine into the HIllside Strangler Task Force offices a year before they caught the two cousins responsible who had been stabbed 51 times by them with their names, address, phone number, along with physical descriptions only to find ourselves literally thrown out of their office.  When I asked "why?" I was told by the Chief it was "because we can't get a warrant based on the word of a whore".  We were viewed not as "victims" back then - but purely and solely as "criminals" period. 

Prior to the first TV appearances we made trying to enlighten the public about the subject, and to promote our hotline, the public scoffed at the very idea.  If you look at films such as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" from 1968 - you'll see Hollywood was making musical comedies about the very idea of a boarding house ran by Asians who would drug and sell American women to opium dens as prostitutes.  Books like the "Happy Hooker" and musicals like "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" created an image to the world of prostitution being nothing but a "happy place" involving nothing more than sex for money between two consenting adults.

To convince America this problem was real enough to lead to us achieving federal recognition of it for the first time with the passing of the Trafficking Act of 2000 - I had to lay bare my life for examination so people could believe I was not only telling the truth, but I had to further turn down over a $1,000,000 in publishing and film deals in order to prove I wasn't "making up stories to sell books" as Linda Lovelace had been accused of doing when she tried to raise public awareness about this issue back in 1980 when she released her book "Ordeal".   In fact, I went onto the Joan Rivers talk show in 1992 to show the million dollars in offers and then tear up the contracts for the camera to show "getting the truth out about this problem" was "more important to me to do than make money".

Which is why I'm becoming more and more deeply disturbed by the increasing process of "fictionalizing" or "catfishing" of sex trafficking victims for various purposes.  The first one I remember was a person going by the name "Stella Marr" who was creating a supposed support group for survivors called "Survivors Connect".  Her goal was to get information for a research project and to locate whether or not any survivors existed in the USA who weren't already members of our organization who would be willing to say things politically about the subject that were counter to our beliefs.  

For example, we believe the best way to fight sex trafficking and to prosecute traffickers is to fully decriminalize prostitution.  Only by removing the fear of self-incrimination will you get those closest to the problem willing to come forward to the police to make a report, and even testify against the more dangerous sex traffickers.  We believe "johns" are the first ones to know where sex trafficking is operating and to arrest them only supports the criminal operation.  Much as how during Prohibition the alcoholic wouldn't give up their source in fear of not only themselves being arrested but also losing their source of alcohol.  
When Stella was exposed as a complete fabrication, she disappeared only to be replaced by Samoly Mam.  She reports being approached by reporters promising her "fame and fortune" if she was also willing to spout ideas on the subject counter to what many real life modern survivors commonly believe is needed to combat the problem, and to help victims find recovery.  The press and donations she siphoned away from real programs doing real work trying to pass along real knowledge about how it operated, and how best to also shut these operations down.  

Another complete fabrication came along with the franchise "Taken".  The man this story was based upon was later arrested for impersonating a military officer for the purposes of raising money.  As a result of this Hollywood work of fiction - whenever I'd talk to people about "organizing a rescue operation" they would have images of Liam Neeson kicking in doors, loading guns, and being something which only happens in places other than within the USA's borders.  This fabrication actually frightened many people from even thinking of getting involved in helping victims or fighting sex trafficking for fear of being shot by mobsters - further siphoning off needed resources and support to help us.

Lately more and more of these fabrications are coming out in the media as a form of advertising such as in the story your paper published about the "first survivor to get a scholarship for survivors" at Loma Linda University in San Diego.   When I read the news about the scholarship supposedly becoming available to survivors, I contacted them immediately because the release was false.  They were NOT the "first" people to offer such a scholarship for one thing.  The other was my thoughts if there was another scholarship available now for adults then I knew of a few of our members who would love to be able to apply for the scholarship.  My inquiries however were completely blown off.

When I dug deeper I learned the "university" existed in the living room of a two bedroom apartment in San Diego.  As I pushed harder to find out on where survivors could apply for the scholarship I learned the whole story was a complete fabrication.  So you can imagine my surprise when I read about supposedly the first "graduate" from this scholarship as talked about in your story.   I reached out to find this woman to interview her for www.leavingtheliferadio.com - a source of audio interviews we provide to members who are incarcerated to keep them focused on their recovery who can't attend regular meetings - only to find out she was also a complete fabrication.

Further, the reporter who wrote the story and was pretending to be a "survivor" and the "graduate" of the scholarship, had actually called up our hotline falsely claiming to be a victim in need of help for "research" purposes completely wasting my time.  You have to understand we don't apply for any grants, hold any fund raisers, nor charge anyone for what we do.  All of our work is done entirely by "volunteers" who do it for their own recovery purposes such as AA does it to stay sober.

So I, along with other members of SWA, were taking time out of their spare time to answer the call of this person who was completely wasting our time, and time we could have been spending on other "real" members in need of our help.  All of which was being taken up by her of us simply to write a story which promoted a program out of Florida who DOES rely upon grants and fund raising using such publicity for such purposes.  

Meaning I frankly could care less if they want to write completely fabricated stories about the issue and fake scholarships and such they use to generate donations for their program who I have no idea what they actually do in reality - but when they're sucking up our time, products and resources in order to do so I consider it a form of not only fraud but outright theft no different than shop lifting.  It also gives a completely false idea to the public the only thing survivors need to recover from such ordeals is a degree which is 180 degrees apart from the truth.

The truth is that most modern survivors of sex trafficking within the USA could have a fully paid for PhD under their belt and most won't be able to get a job at a local convenience store with it because of their past.  I say that because the modern American sex traffickers promote their victims, and protect themselves and their customers from law enforcement, through the use of pornography.  Pornography easily found online when potential job interviewers are doing background checks on applicants.  

I have questioned 10 companies who loudly promote they "offer scholarships to sex trafficking victims" if they would hire these same survivors once they obtained their training if this survivor had nude pornographic images of themselves found online which they couldn't get removed and/or if they had a criminal record for prostitution and the answer was clearly "no".  In fact, to date, not one corporation which has put out scholarships for survivors has actually hired any of those partakers of the scholarships despite them achieving the higher degree.  I have a long list of survivors who have earned high degrees, are now loaded down with a huge load of student debt to now pay off, but who can't get a job because of their past within the sex industry even though it was entirely against their will.

That's the kind of truth being hidden which the public needs to know about is happening in order to do something about it to help these survivors truly be able to move on.  We need to be discussing laws allowing model releases signed under duress to be voided after a certain amount of time so 20 years later you can't get a job because of a porn spread you were forced to do, or a record you got while being forced to prostitute by traffickers all don't prevent you from being able to move on from the industry entirely.    Not having to return back to it "voluntarily" after having been rescued from forced sex trafficking simply because of things like porn, criminal records, or child custody agreements are blocking from finding another way to pay our rent now we got set free.  

One of the biggest complaints you hear out of law enforcement, social workers, and counselors is that once freed from forced sex trafficking so many victims return "voluntarily" - wasting in a sense all of that work to rescue them.  However, they haven't tried to try to get a job when employers are asking about a prostitution conviction or staring at a centerfold spread.  They can "sympathize" all they want with us - but that doesn't mean they're going to hire us with these things hindering us from being able to move on.  

I remember when the tobacco industry lied to Congress about their products not being cancerous nor addictive.  The sex industry actually is responsible for the flow of more money than the tobacco industry who is also trying to mislead Congress.  The last two Congressional hearings on sex trafficking saw completely fabricated "victims" testifying.  Put there in my opinion for the same reasons and in the same manner the tobacco industry did when also trying to protect their industry through the deception of Congress.  

Fake survivors who didn't want to have testimony heard that the greatest blockage to being able to escape a sex trafficker is that of parental rights.  Real pimps and traffickers will work to get their victims pregnant as fast as possible into their relationship.  This then prevents their victim from being able to leave them without a forwarding address for at least the next 18 years.  

For the next 18 years, if the mother tries to run off without telling her pimp where she's living to escape him - he just calls the FBI to file a kidnapping report and the police will return her along with the baby promptly.  Now I ask you - how do you escape that in even the best of "safe houses" being provided to you?  Did you know if he's even convicted of pimping or trafficking you that you are STILL required legally to take the child to him in prison for visitation and if you refuse YOU could be held in contempt?  Don't tell me that's not going to make a victim think twice about testifying against a guy she's going to have to be facing with her child in hand for the next 18 years.  

You still have to tell him where your'e at or be arrested as a criminal yourself under current laws.  Something you didn't hear one word about in Congressional testimony on sex trafficking the last two hearings because of the phony so called "survivors" talking about how more money was what was needed instead to fund programs and safe houses.  More money however isn't going to change those laws sadly.

All I can do is point out that if someone is trying to publish a story on alcoholism, but doesn't seem to know who Bill Wilson or Alcoholics Anonymous is which in relation to this movement we are that Bill Wilson and AA - then maybe that person should be examined a little more carefully as to the truth of their story.  If they're sincere then certainly they'd at least know we exist even.  Yes it does matter to us if their stories are true or not because the services we need to escape and recover depend first upon raising awareness of what those needs are.

Which is done through the media such as your publication.  So I'm going to ask you to please consider if future pieces are reading like marketing campaigns or lobbying efforts before publishing them  - please consider checking them out for honesty before publishing because we can't get help for things which the public isn't aware of first we need.  Since they aren't witnessing our trafficking - this leaves us with enlightening them through our personal stories.  That's how we got federal recognition achieved with the passing of the Trafficking Act of 2000 - but since money was made available with that recognition - we've been finding ourselves blocked at the media well by those seeking out political power and financial donations for some time now at the expense of legitimate survivors' testimonies.

I would therefore ask that you please consider future stories on the subject of sex  trafficking very carefully as to the honesty of the piece before publishing.  That or at least some kind of equal time in allowing OUR voices as authentic survivors to be heard who know money isn't the answer for our situation much of the time.  Money for example doesn't change that law requiring us to tell our pimps where we're living at all times so they can threaten us and our children if we try and leave their control.  Nor does money take down porn we were forced into performing in off the internet so we can get a job outside of the sex industry by employers who could care less what degree we have if there's a nude spread of us online for their customers to see.

That kind of thing takes public awareness we're being robbed of by a new form of pimp who is exploiting our pain in order to drain funds meant to "help" us by robbing us of the media we need to get our true stories out there where we need it to be heard so we can escape any kind of exploitation we're being subjected to whether we're in or out of the sex industry at the moment.

We're not going to stay out for long if we find no other way to pay our rent than returning to prostitution because we can't get a job or away from our pimp because of these false stories continuing.

So please - if you ever need any help checking out a story in the future as to it's honesty  please just give me a shout.