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Showing posts with label Senator Loni Hancock and sex trafficking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senator Loni Hancock and sex trafficking. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2015

LETTER TO SENATOR LONI HANCOCK ABOUT JAIL OVERCROWDING WITH RESPECT TO SEX TRAFFICKING

Dear Senator Hancock:

I was wondering if I might speak to you about Senate Bill SB 420.  Specifically about the part about "jail overcrowding" and the state's newly passed position about not arresting juveniles on prostitution charges.   I should explain that this is quite a day for me to even be discussing this with you seeing at how much the world has changed since the 1980's to what it is today for us to now be discussing sex trafficking at all.

I should introduce myself to you before going further.  My "real" name is Jody Williams.  If you go onto the clipping site I have set up at www.hightechmadam.com you'll see about the top of the page some news about my arrest in 1984.  The arrest was supposedly for running a "brothel".  The truth is this was the first adult "safe house" in the country.  I set one up because of the fact every time I'd try and call the police to come help trafficking that I saw going on, or had happened - they would basically accuse me of "pranking" them and hang up on me.  When I started having anxiety attacks because of being a victim myself living in constant fear - I sought counseling.  However, they started to lock me up for "observation" claiming that "such things don't happen" and I must be "hallucinating".  This was our world in 1984.

When the world saw what looked like a prostitute on the outside back then - the cops/courts thought of us as criminals, the church as a "homewrecker", the therapists as "sexual deviants", and the average home as something to be "chased out of the neighborhood" like cockroaches.  I mean there used to literally be neighbors organizing campaigns to go out and chase us out of their neighborhoods like the enemy.  For this reason, and the growing HIV epidemic at the time - treatment centers, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and even halfway houses would refuse to even admit us.

This is what led Children of the Night to open their hotline and program in 1979 for teens.  However, this still left nowhere for adults to run to.  Literally nowhere.  I would get calls from women turned away from the Skid Row homeless shelter just for being a "prostitute" at this time.  We had tried private homes in the past but because of the armed pimps who would show up wanting their "property" back, and the very real threat they posed (look at the Margo Compton case to see how dangerous these cases are) - I went out to rent a warehouse where a stray bullet wouldn't hit a child.  Being close to the police station was another way to try and reduce the attacks.  Of course we had the iron bars, the security gates, and the surveillance equipment along with the CCTV cameras going off site in case someone did break in that was why the media dubbed me the "High Tech Madam" at the time.  I was arrested under a fake name - you see my name changes to Jody Williams in the news clippings after I finally realize I can't go back to a life where I'm not known as the "founder" of our program, and even the movement itself to have modern day domestic sex trafficking recognized.

I had taken in a woman needing to get away from a drug dealing pimp.  When he realized he couldn't get into the warehouse - he called in an "anonymous tip" about it being a brothel". Of course after the DA realized it was not a brothel - I was not charged with pimping nor prostitution.  The woman did prosecute the pimp for his drug dealing - which tied us up legally for a few years from me being able to speak out openly in the media.  Meaning it wasn't until 1987 that I stepped up on that first talk show stage not only saying sex trafficking was real, promoting the first hotline in the country for adults to call for help to leave, the first national program of recovery through Prostitutes Anonymous (later the name changed to Sex Workers Anonymous after the internet was created), but also calling out to our country to change the way it was viewing, treating, and responding to us.

A true visionary - the mayor then in Los Angeles, Tom Bradley responded.  The HIV epidemic, along with the world viewing prostitution as a "victim-less crime" back then, was causing a huge jail overcrowding problem.  The fact the treatment centers, shelters and halfway houses weren't even accepting prostitutes had more of them on the streets than ever.   There would be weekly sweeps that would come back with just busloads full of prostitutes.  I remember there were 400 transgender prostitutes no one even knew where to put them so they were sleeping in the dayroom at the mens' jail on the floor.  Sybil Brand had 2000 inmates then - 1800 of them were prostitutes.  So it was bad.  Especially complicated then by the fact the guards were terrified of going near them, or even feeding them, because of fear of the HIV virus.  The recidivism rate was something like 86% if I remember - with most prostitutes returning within 3 days of release.  I remember the numbers because he asked us to first prepare a report to him for consideration with the intent of being the first ever alternative sentencing program.

Which not only did we create in 1988 - but Tom also understood two special problems we had to address then with respect to sex trafficking.  First - he understood that prostitutes were refusing to use, or even carry, condoms because they were considered "evidence of prostitution".  Just having some in your purse would mean an arrest back then.  Which meant in order to get prostitutes to use condoms - we had to stop that practice.  The second was that prostitutes who continued to work AFTER receiving a positive HIV diagnosis were not doing so by choice.  Instead they were being forced to work anyway by their pimps.  This meant the only way to stop this from happening would be to actually address trafficking for the first time in Los Angeles', or the country's, history.

The Mayor cut all the red tape out and just put together an informal board where he took a member from each office - the Health and Mental Health Dept., Probation, the DA's office, police, etc.   This board designed the first alternative sentencing program, as well as created the first residential program which gave preference to those who were HIV positive and/or pregnant - and he helped a porn star, Sharon Mitchell, become a doctor fast enough to open the AIM Clinic.  I don't know if you remember them (they shut down about 10 years ago) but they were not only dedicated to testing just sex workers (so they wouldn't be afraid to come forward for testing with her) - but there was a system set up where if the prostitute, porn performer, stripper, etc. was told they were in fact positive - they would be asked if they had a pimp they needed help to leave.  If they said yes - we had a backdoor out for them where they were taken into a program where they were offered work, vocational rehab, housing, medical, food, counseling, etc.  The pimp was then escorted out the front door by security.  This board became the foundation for this office to open in 1989 - http://lacityaids.org/aboutus.html

I'm telling you this because our program allowed for massive emptying out of the jails in Los Angeles county.  Not only were prostitutes offered alternative sentencing - but those who were incarcerated on their first offense, with no violent crime attached - were actually given early release as long as they attended Prostitutes Anonymous meetings.  You have to realize that back then no PhD would even associate their name with a program designed to help prostitutes.  This is why the California Governor told me that a "loophole" to probationary programs being led by a PhD could be bypassed by me creating such a 12 step program like AA or NA - but ours was for prostitutes.

Now keep in mind we didn't have the term "trafficking" back then.  This never received federal recognition until 13 years later with the Trafficking Act of 2000.   Plus the only people who understood that some of these men and women were being FORCED to be out there were those who witnessed, or experienced it for themselves.  The general population really didn't believe one could be forced for quite some time.  When Linda Lovelace had tried to talk about being forced to film "Deep Throat" - the audiences would shout "liar" at her and the porn industry completely denounced her as a fraud trying to "sell a book" and "keep her name in the press".  Some media even accused her of saying this because she was "jealous" of Marilyn Chambers "rising status" when her pimp started "managing" Marilyn after her escape.

I don't think we really even got "traction" to be believed until after I had taped a Geraldo show.  His producer came up and said "if you bring on more survivors - then they'll have to believe you".  So we did.  They scheduled a panel of five men and women we'd rescued who then belonged to Prostitutes Anonymous to appear.  I followed that up with a weekly public access show which would air interviews with a different survivor each week.  That's when we really started gaining the belief of the general population.  Plus more and more were coming forward with their story as the programs Los Angeles created started talking about their stories more during our "public information" forums we would hold.  These would educate the police, judges, prosecutors, etc., more about what to look for when determining if force was used.  I have to tell you - this focus on adults was because traffickers used to get most of their victims out of nightclubs back then.  However, the internet really changed the face of sex trafficking which has now caused this explosion in trafficking of a record number of teens and children.

I'm sure you know this - but most trafficking of juveniles usually involves their parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, etc.  This is another reason why Children of the Night will take in a residential client even when the parents/caregivers are local.  I know I've had more than one case where the pimp is the father threatening me with kidnapping charges if I tried to keep his daughter away from him - so I've been just giving any minors who call our hotline over to Lois since day one.

Polaris was founded in 2002 and has answered about 100,000 calls to date last time I checked.  Our hotline, again founded in 1987, has answered about 500,000 calls to date.  So I don't know anyone besides myself that has more experience with more cases of this other than Lois Lee.  She's also the one who taught me how different juvenile trafficking can be from adult trafficking - and hence why her program is so different than ours.  Since children blame themselves for most abuse - she works very hard to make sure they don't take the blame for what's happened on themselves.  Which has led to extremely high suicide rates among those kids who didn't get proper care.

Anyway, back to my writing you.  I started getting very scary calls from our members here in Los Angeles about how trafficking has changed here because of ironically technology.  Traffickers are now overhearing every phone call their victims make - making escape plans extremely difficult to arrange.  With the phones being able to gps locations minute by minute - it's also further making escape plans almost impossible.  We've always seen corruption with trafficking - such as the Kemp Schiffer and Chris Butler case.  But our members were telling me things have become even more frightening than ever - along with an alarming number of HIV positive rates coming to our ears.  For this reason, along with my daughter's health issues, I've relocated back to Los Angeles.  Our members are reporting such extreme fear related to the corruption they feel they're seeing - that they don't want to step forward in the public light to do things like approach your committee, and your office, to offer up our experience to see if we can help in any way with respect to jail overcrowding, or anything else, related to this epidemic.

So please - let us help in any way we can.  If you are interested - I have all kinds of evidence and testimonials about how effective our program is I can send over for your review.  I've been working with this community all over the USA, and now in five other countries, since 1987 continuously (except for a time after my stroke I've recovered from pretty much).  I've attached some information for your review also.  Thank you for listening.

Jody Williams​
www.sexworkersanonymous.com
(702) 468-4529 Telephone

PS - we've been starting outreach with respect to the sign posting law and we keep finding no one has even heard of the law.  Many are resistant and we're having trouble finding out who exactly we would call to ticket an establishment for refusal to post the hotline sign.  If you have any information on this - it's appreciated.  Thanks.