Medical Survey of Human Trafficking Victims

I’ve been asked to pass this along. The survey looks at medical care recieved by victims of human trafficking in the US during the time they were trafficked. It recognizes both sex and labor trafficking. The survey is available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

The intro letter:

Hello,

I am an emergency medicine physician (currently at Columbia-NY Presbyterian, but still affiliated with Mount Sinai Medical Center) in NYC, conducting an anonymous survey of human trafficking survivors. The survey was designed with Dr. Susie Baldwin and the aim is learn more about survivors’ experiences with healthcare providers, while they were being trafficked, so that we can educate providers about this patient population in an evidence-based fashion. Participating survivors, so far, are recruited via community based and not-for-profit organizations, and receive a $10 gift card upon completion of the survey.

We hope your organization would like to participate; please reply if you’d like more information on how your organization can get involved!

Thank you for your consideration,

Makini Chisolm-Straker, MD
Department of Emergency Medicine
Columbia – NY Presbyterian Hospital
and
Mount Sinai School of Medicine

If you want to discuss the survey’s language or focus, please talk to Makini Chisolm-Straker.

The survey’s website, HumanTraffickingED and the survey page.

The point is for victims of trafficking to give input. If you know victims of trafficking, pass this along to them. Pass this along to any org you know who works with trafficking victims.

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

The prostitute is the scapegoat for everyone’s sins, and few people care whether she is justly treated or not.  Good people have spent thousands of pounds in efforts to reform her, poets have written about her, essayists and orators have made her the subject of some of their most striking rhetoric; perhaps no class of people has been so much abused, and alternatively sentimentalized over as prostitutes have been but one thing they have never yet had, and that is simple legal justice.  –  Alison Neilans

Today is International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, which started in 2001 as a huge sex worker festival (with an estimated 25,000 attendees) organized in Calcutta by the Indian sex worker rights group Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee.  Prohibitionist groups tried to pressure the government to revoke their permit, but DMSC prevailed and the following year decided to celebrate their victory by establishing the event as an annual one.  As I wrote in my column of one year ago today,

Perhaps its Asian origin has slowed the day’s “catching on” in Europe and the Americas, but in the light of the current trafficking hysteria and the growing problem of American “rescue” organizations in Asia, I think it’s time to remedy that.  Whores and regular readers of this column are acutely aware of the paternalistic attitude taken toward prostitutes by governments, soi-disant feminists and many others, and it’s no secret that many Westerners still have very colonial, “white man’s burden” ideas about Asia; imagine then the incredible paternalism to which Asian sex workers are subjected by American busybodies!  I therefore think it’s a FANTASTIC idea to popularize a sex worker rights day which began in India; its very existence is a repudiation of much of the propaganda which trafficking fetishists foist upon the ignorant public.

As I’ve written in the past, American cultural imperialism in Asia is still very much a fact; despite our loathsome record on civil rights the US State Department presumes to judge other countries on their response to so-called “human trafficking”, based on secret criteria which obviously include classifying all foreign sex workers in a given country as “trafficked persons”.  The annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” results in cuts in foreign aid to countries which don’t suppress their prostitutes brutally enough to please their American overlords, and therefore provokes mass arrests and mass deportations in the countries so targeted.  Nor are these operations instigated only by governments; wealthy NGOs, enabled by money from big corporations looking for a tax dodge, from empty-headed celebrities in search of good publicity, and from clueless Americans desperate to “do something”, invade Asian countries and abduct prostitutes, forcing them into “rehabilitation”  which consists largely of imprisonment under inhumane conditions and brainwashing them to perform menial labor for grueling 72-hour weeks at one-tenth of their former income.  When the women escape from “rescue centers” or protest, they are said to be suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” and their children are abducted and given away.

Nor is this sort of violence restricted to Asia; local US police agencies, often financed by wealthy prohibitionists like Swanee Hunt, routinely use prostitution as an excuse for mass arrests, robbery and grotesque intimidation tactics:

Tania Ouaknine is convinced the police are watching her.  She’s not paranoid — it says as much on the red sign painted along the side on the hulking armored truck that’s been parked in front of her eight-room Parisian Motel for several days:  “Warning:  You are under video surveillance”…From the front bumper of the menacing vehicle, another sign taunts:  “Whatcha gonna do when we come for you?”…[it’s loaded with] surveillance equipment…and [decorated]…with [Fort Lauderdale, Florida] police emblems…[which they] leave…parked in front of trouble spots…”They say I am running a whorehouse,” said the 60-year-old innkeeper…[who has] been the subject of an undercover operation targeting prostitution starting in September.  Ouaknine was arrested on Oct. 28 on three counts of renting rooms to prostitutes for $20 an hour…She says she’s doing nothing illegal.  “They’ve tried everything to shut me down and have failed,” she said.  “Now they bring this truck to intimidate me and my customers.”  Some neighbors surrounding the Parisian Motel say the truck is another form of constant police harassment.  On a recent afternoon, Leo Cooper watched as two undercover…[cops molested] a group of men gathered at the corner.  Within minutes, one of the men ran away.  A second man was charged with loitering.  “This is what happens here every day.  We can’t sit outside without being harassed,” said Cooper…

This is why sex worker rights should concern everyone, even those who aren’t prostitutes, don’t know any prostitutes, have never hired a prostitute and don’t give a damn about the human rights of strangers:  prostitution, especially as it’s viewed through the lens of “human trafficking” mythology and “end demand” propaganda, is simply the latest excuse employed by governments in their campaign to control everything and everyone.  The 2005 re-authorization of the so-called “Violence Against Women Act”…

…permitted the collection and indefinite retention of DNA from, as the Center for Constitutional Rights understood at the time, “anyone arrested for any crime whether or not they are convicted, any non-U.S. citizen detained or stopped by federal authorities for any reason, and everyone in federal prison.”

Using this, Swanee Hunt (through her “Demand Abolition” organization) is now pushing for collection and retention of DNA from every man cops can accuse of patronizing a sex worker…which given the low standards of “suspicion” favored by police, means essentially any male found by cops in certain neighborhoods or in the company of a woman to whom he isn’t married.  While fanaticism-blinded neofeminists cheer, the war on “violence against women” (and by extension prostitution, which is defined as exactly that by neofeminists) is used to justify the same kind of egregious civil rights violations as those resulting from the “wars” on drugs and terrorism.

I think I can safely speak for virtually all sex workers when I say that we don’t want to be passive tools used by governments and NGOs as the excuse for tyranny; we simply want to be left alone to live our lives like anyone else, with the same rights, privileges, duties and legal protections as people in every other profession.  We are not children, moral imbeciles or victims (except of governments, cops and NGOs), and we do not require “rescue”, “rehabilitation” or special laws to “protect” us from our clients, boyfriends, employers or families to a greater degree than other citizens.  And we certainly don’t need others to speak for us no matter how much they insist we do.  Almost a year ago, Elena Jeffreys published an article entitled “It’s Time to Fund Sex Worker NGOs” and I wholeheartedly agree; furthermore, I would argue that it’s long past time to defund “rescue” organizations and all the others who presume to speak for sex workers while excluding us from the discussion.  How can someone who hates a given group and opposes everything its members want be considered a valid representative of that group?  It would be like allowing MADD and Carrie Nation’s Anti-Saloon League to represent distilleries and bar owners.  The very idea is absurd; yet that’s exactly what governments do, even in some countries where our trade isn’t criminal.  Millions of people claim to care about the welfare of prostitutes, yet contribute to groups who advocate that we be marginalized, criminalized, censored, hounded, persecuted, registered, confined, stripped of our rights, robbed of our livelihoods and enslaved…all because they don’t like what we do for a living.  It’s a lot like contributing to the KKK because you claim to be concerned about minorities.

If you actually care about the rights of women, or want to look like you do; if you’re opposed to imperialism and police brutality; if you support the right of people to earn a living in the jobs of their choice, and to organize for better work conditions; or even if you just want to protect yourself from yet another head of the ever-growing hydra of government surveillance, you should consider supporting the cause of sex worker rights.  Fight prohibitionist propaganda, speak out for decriminalization, contribute to sex worker organizations, vote against candidates who espouse prohibitionist rhetoric, and oppose local efforts to increase criminal penalties against whores and/or our clients.  And if anyone asks why you care, please feel free to quote from this essay or just hand them a copy.  Sex worker rights are human rights, and laws or procedures that harm sex workers harm everyone.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Friday the Thirteenth

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.  –  P.J. O’Rourke

Today is the third Friday the Thirteenth since I’ve been writing The Honest Courtesan, and there will be three such days this year (today, April 13th and July 13th); as it so happens, three is the maximum number of such days in any given year, though each year has at least one.  In my very first column on the subject (Friday, August 13th, 2010) I explained how the superstition arose and why even superstitious whores should consider it lucky for us rather than unlucky:

Given the origin of beliefs about Friday the 13th…even the superstitious whore has nothing to worry about…since Friday is the day sacred to our patron goddess, and 13 the most feminine of numbers, Friday the 13th should be good luck for whores even if it really were bad luck for Christian men.  Now, I’m not really superstitious; I don’t believe that a day can bring either good luck or bad.  But considering that the reasons for fear of this day are so closely related to the reasons our profession is maligned and suppressed, perhaps whores and those who support our rights should make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak out in favor of full decriminalization and an end to the institutionalized persecution of prostitutes.

Nine months later (on Friday, May 13th, 2011) I explained why it’s especially important for my readers who aren’t sex workers to speak out:

A number of advocates are working to respond to the lies, propaganda and misinformation wherever we find them, but…we’re often accused of distorting facts to make ourselves look good, and no matter how assiduously we work to present a balanced view this is a natural and credible accusation against anyone who advocates for some issue which directly concerns her.  That’s why allies are so important; it’s much harder for the prohibitionists to shout down people who don’t have a dog in the fight, but merely support prostitutes’ rights on moral grounds.  Every Friday the Thirteenth I will ask my readers, especially those of you who aren’t yourselves sex workers, to speak up for us in some way; talk about the issue with someone who will listen, make a post on a discussion board, comment on a news story which spreads disinformation, or even just post a link to this column.  If you aren’t confident in your ability to debate, even a simple phrase like “I think adult women should have the right to decide why and with whom they want to have sex” or “everyone has the right to equal protection under the law” might have a tiny but important impact on those who overhear.  Because in the final analysis, they’re the ones we have to convince; rational people already support some type of prostitution-law reform and fanatics cannot be convinced by argument because their minds are already made up, but the silent majority – the fence-sitters and swing-voters, the ones who answer “unsure” or “no comment” on polls – are the ones who can and must be made to understand that we are not intrinsically different from other women and deserve the same freedoms and protections that non-harlots take for granted.

Last time around I also offered a synopsis of prohibitionist victories since the last such day, but since I already offered a similar list just two weeks ago I think that would be inexcusably repetitious.  And though there are several other days dedicated to fighting for sex worker rights (namely International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3rd,  International Whores’ Day on June 2nd and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th), human rights are not something to be discussed only once a year; even six occasions to speak out on the subject are not enough.  For me and many others, every day is Friday the Thirteenth, and so it must remain until people wake up and understand that no collective, “authority” or government has the right to tell women what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Major Sociological Association Supports Decriminalizing Prostitution

The Society for the Study of Social Problems accepted a resolution supporting the decriminalization of prostitution written by Jenny Heineman, co-coordinator of the Sex Workers’ Outeach Project-Las Vegas (SWOP-LV),  plus they honored  SWOP-LV at a banquet in Aug. 2011 for the organization’s social justice advocacy.  Here’s a link to the resolution:  http://www.sssp1.org/index.cfm/pageid/1516#R3 .

I appreciate how the resolution addresses human trafficking without conflating all sex work with trafficking or using this issue to promote the harmful laws against sex workers.  This shows how being anti-slavery and anti-trafficking doesn’t have to mean being anti-sex work.

33 charged in the massive raids of the Sedona Temple and the Phoenix Goddess Temple

Dear BnG community.  These raids have hit us hard in Arizona, and we are devastated for the loss of the Temples.  Please stay with us as we will be putting out much more information, calls to action, and ways that you can get involved.  To begin, won’t you please go to http://goddessbless.org and sign their petition?  And will you or your organization consider signing on to this letter of support?
love and rage,
Surgeon
For Immediate Release9/17/2011, Tucson AZ

September 7th, 2011 Yavapai County and Maricopa County Sherrifs raided the Sedona and Phoenix Goddess Temples and arrested eighteen people.  A SWAT Team descended on the two temples detaining practitioners at gunpoint.  To date thirty-three  people have been charged, and the temples are being investigated as brothels.  Temple practitioners were paraded in front of the waiting media, and their mug shots and legal names publicized.

Both Temples hold legal status as churches, and no minors, weapons, or drugs were found on the premises of either Temple.  Tracy Elise, the founder and High Priestess of both Temples is still in jail along with 7 other people and her bail is set at an astonishingly high half a million dollars.

These arrests came after six months of undercover operations by the Yavapai County and Maricopa County Police Departments.  It is the largest sex work related bust in Arizona since 2008, when the Desert Divas prostitution ring was busted, with over 100 people charged, including phone operators and photographers.  There were no minors found in that investigation either.

We believe that these arrests, and all other arrests of consenting adults engaged in healing or sexual practices equate to a modern day witch hunt.   In many cases, the money being spent by the police force to arrest, intimidate, and establish undercover sting operations is coming from large scale anti-trafficking campaigns intended to target child prostitution.  Instead, the money donated by a public horrified by images of young children in cages, and sensationalized stories of sexual slavery is diverted into operations like the so called “Operation Goddess Temple.”

In press conferences, Police spokesmen say that Temple practitioners were engaging in acts of prostitution under the guise of religion.  We say that the Arizona Police are using valuable funds, and unnecessary force to arrest consenting adults under the guise of protecting citizens and saving children.

Whether one believes in the validity of Tantra or sexual healing practices as a religion, it is not the charge of the government to legislate morality.  Sex is legal in this society.  Criminalizing prostitution, massage, and healing sexual practices bears all the injustice and inefficacy of prohibition, sodomy laws, and religious intolerance.

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested in affiliation with the Phoenix and Sedona Temples.  We demand an end to police raids for non-violent crimes.  We demand an end to the persecution of practitioners of sexual healing, and the decriminalization of prostitution.

To support the Goddess Temple directly, please visit http://goddessbless.org
To take action and support decriminalization, please visit http://swop-tucson.org

Sincerely,
SWOP-Tucson (Sex Workers’ Outreach Project, Tucson chapter)

For further information, or to speak directly to a spokesperson from SWOP-Tucson for press or media, please email info@swop-tucson.org

Village Voice vs. Demi & Ashton

Late Tuesday evening ( June 28th) a story entitled “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight” by Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin and Kristen Hinman, appeared on the Village Voice media website; it uses the widely and justly ridiculed Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore anti-prostitution ad campaign as a springboard for examining the fantastically exaggerated claims of “child sex trafficking” fetishists.

First, the story compares the widely-touted “100,000-300,000 trafficked children” myth I debunked back in January with the police arrest records of the 37 largest American cities and found that in the past decade there were only 8263 juveniles arrested for prostitution among them, an average of 827 per year (roughly 22 per city per year).  Even if one assumes that these cities together have only half of the underage prostitutes in the U.S., that still gives us fewer than 1700 per year.  Ask yourself:  Even considering the incompetence of police departments, which is more believable: that police catch roughly 5% of underage prostitutes per year (by my estimate), or that they catch only 0.27% per year?

The article then moves on to the 2001 Estes & Weiner study, the original source of the fabulous number; as I reported in my column of April 2nd, the study “guesstimated (by questionable methodology) that ‘as many as 100,000-300,000 children and youth [of both sexes] are at risk for sexual exploitation’ of one kind or another…this guess is for BOTH sexes, for ‘children and youth’ (not just children), and most importantly represents those at risk of some form of ‘exploitation’, not currently involved in one specific form (sex trafficking).”  That “questionable methodology” (such as including all runaways, female gang members, transgender youth and those living within a short drive of the Mexican or Canadian borders as automatically “at risk”) was criticized in the Village Voice article by the University of New Hampshire’s Dr. David Finkelhor, who said “As far as I’m concerned, [the University of Pennsylvania study] has no scientific credibility to it…That figure was in a report that was never really subjected to any kind of peer review.  It wasn’t published in any scientific journal…Initially, [Estes and Weiner] claimed that [100,000 to 300,000] was the number of children [engaged in prostitution].  It took quite a bit of pressure to get them to add the qualifier [at risk].”  Professor Steve Doig of Arizona State said the “study cannot be relied upon as authoritative…I do not see the evidence necessary to confirm that there are hundreds of thousands of [child prostitutes].”  He also said, “Many of the numbers and assumptions in these charts are based on earlier, smaller-scale studies done by other researchers, studies which have their own methodological limitations.  I won’t call it ‘garbage in, garbage out.’  But combining various approximations and guesstimates done under a variety of conditions doesn’t magically produce a solid number.  The resulting number is no better than the fuzziest part of the equation.”  And when pressed by the reporters, Estes himself admitted, “Kids who are kidnapped and sold into slavery—that number would be very small…We’re talking about a few hundred people.”

Not that any of this bothers Maggie Neilson, Ashton & Demi’s “celebrity charity consultant”; she told the reporter “I don’t frankly care if the number is 200,000, 500,000, or a million, or 100,000—it needs to be addressed.  While I absolutely agree there’s a need for better data, the people who want to spend all day bitching about the methodologies used I’m not very interested in.”  Presumably it would still “need to be addressed” if the number were 827, so why not just say 827?  Because, of course, that wouldn’t justify pouring millions down police department and NGO toilets instead of spending it on programs to help actual underage prostitutes (as opposed to phantom multitudes of “trafficked children”):  as the article explains, “…though Congress has spent hundreds of millions in tax-generated money to fight human trafficking, it has yet to spend a penny to shelter and counsel those boys and girls in America who are, in fact, underage prostitutes.  In March of this year…[two senators] introduced legislation to fund six shelters with $15 million in grants.  The shelters would provide beds, counseling, clothing, case work, and legal services.  If enacted, this legislation would be the first of its kind…[it] has yet to clear the Senate or the House.”

The article ends with a clear indictment of government attitudes in prohibitionist regimes and an equally-clear statement that sex work is work:  “The lack of shelter and counseling for underage prostitutes—while prohibitionists take in millions in government funding—is only one indication of the worldwide campaign of hostility directed at working women.”  Village Voice recently told a group of sex worker rights activists that they are behind us, and that this is only beginning of a campaign for decriminalization; this could at last be the public voice we’ve needed for so long, and I eagerly await the next salvo fired in defense of whores.

Reaching out and connecting with outdoor (street-based) sex workers.

Hi everyone, myself and a few friends of mine that have a bunch of outdoor (street-based) sex work experience decided to do some training for all of you that are interested in the street-based economy, and how to offer support.

Specifically we drafted two documents, How to be an ally to outdoor(street based) sex workers and how to outreach to outdoor (street based) sex workers, the short version.

My favorite is the how to be an ally document, and it’s short, so I’ll repost that here below.  This is not intended to replace the more general version sex workers put together earlier, but to augment it:

  1. Don’t push yourself on me in the name of help if I don’t want or need it. I have the ability to make decisions for myself. Honor my decisions even if you don’t agree with them.
  2. We have lots of people offering us “help,” but most are NOT actually meeting our needs. Meet my needs, not your desires. If you don’t know what my needs are, it is ok to ask.
  3. If you offer help and I accept, follow through on your promises. Do not lie to us or give us a false sense of hope. Be real about how much you can and will help.
  4. If you offer help, I want it to address my immediate needs! Not something that will help me 5 years from now. For instance, if I don’t have food, a place to sleep or my fix, then scholarships for school have very little relevance in my life.
  5. Some people are happy in this life. Thinking I require help OUT of this life is bad thinking on YOUR part.
  6. Don’t assume I’m strung out and need help kicking. Maybe I’m not strung out or maybe I have no desire to quit.
  7. Don’t pity me or feel sorry for me. Remember, anyone can end up in a rough place in life. When someone pities you, it makes you feel “less than” or ashamed of your lack of ability to get yourself out of the rough situation you found yourself in. Remember, it could be you standing here working next to me later!
  8. If you want to help, make yourself available and perhaps offer options. Let me choose the type of help I want/need, not what you think I need.
  9. Don’t judge me! If you are judging me, you are not in a position to help me.
  10. Don’t tokenize me. Street-based workers come from all different races, genders, religions, socio-economical backgrounds and education levels. Don’t assume that just because “Pretty Women” is your favorite movie, you know me.
  11. Be patient if I need help. Chances are I’m in survival mode, and you need to respect where I am, not where you want me to be.
  12. Respect me. Don’t be afraid to look me in the eye.