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.

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.

Sex Work Issues — SE Asia and China

Here are two videos I found today via Facebook. Compare and contrast:

http://www.lauraagustin.com/migrant-sex-workers-in-china-massage-parlours-hair-salons-hotel-rooms (though this one is from 2007, the scene is still the same)

Adult Services Gone

Craigslist confirmed in the hearing before Congress that it had removed the Adult Services section permanently from US CL (and assuming Adult Gigs will stay down too). Nothing was said about the international Erotic Services section.

Two articles:
briefly on CNET

slightly longer article

There are other articles but none that I’ve found have looked at the hearings in any sincere or deeply-informed manner.

Also odd: I placed a new ad in a new international city and had to give my email address to create an account. This is not SOP for international ads. Worrisome.

For the General Public: When does sex work become rape?

This post is intended far more for the general public than for those who usually read it.  It is not a post seeking sympathy.  I”m using personal experience to illustrate a point.

Recently I went to work for an outcall escort agency.  The agency does the screening of the clients with the idea being a date is supposed to be safe and not with a police officer.  I drive to meet the client, get there, get the money everything seems fine.  The session is 1 hour or 1 climax whichever comes first.  Rules are preset about how far I am willing to go.  First he want’s a massage.  Then oral sex.   Only he isn’t able to get the response from his body that he is hoping for.  This goes on, and on, until my jaw is literally locking.  Finally he pulled away and I made the comment that maybe this just wasn’t working.  He disagreed said he knew it could work and said he just needed a drink to relax.  Asked me if I wanted one?  No, thank you I’m fine………  I give him the speech about not drinking and driving as a personal policy.  While he is getting his drink I notice framed on the wall is his graduation from training as a FAM.  Federal Air Marshall.  I think, great, this guy is quasi law enforcement.  But until this point it was still sex work.  I still owed him a few more minutes and had no issue with trying again.  He drank his drink and in one quick move had me down, handcuffed and had a trashbag over my head.  When he first handcuffed me, I thought shit, he’s a cop.  The trash bag told me different.

He hit me over and over in the head telling me to stop fighting and to give in and let him have what he paid for.  He didn’t pay for what he took.  While oral sex didn’t arouse him anal did.  He made repeated points about his hatred of condoms and that I was going to see what it felt like to have plastic over my head.  Which was an odd twist of words given we were talking about different “heads”.   He hit me in the head a bunch more times until I agreed to swallow the condom.  I was too disoriented from what was diagnosed at the ER as a moderate concussion/post concussion syndrome.   I went to the Desiree Alliance conference in Vegas a few days after this incident.  For those who spent any time with me it was likely apparent I was suffering the effects of concussion.  Along with re-activated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When did it become rape rather than sex work.  When he forced me to do something I hadn’t agreed to.  People have argued with me that prostitutes can’t be raped, and that this kind of thing is an occupational hazard.  I say that totally wrong.  I don’t give blanket permission by virtue of being paid.  Certainly I didn’t agree to the trashbag, to the 10 plus blows to the head, or the anal sex which was never supposed to be part of the deal.  Without a doubt, swallowing the condom wasn’t.

Now that I’ve give the background.  Yes, prostitutes can be raped, we do get raped and we need full decriminalization so that we can go to the police rather than fear them.  Or be raped by them and their law enforcement colleagues.  The prohibitionists who allegedly want to end human trafficking by virtue of making it as illegal and hard as possible to do sex work.  The method doesn’t work.  How many trafficking victims are rescued vs. the number of prostitutes that are arrested, that are raped, assaulted.  Not to mention, in my case, facing another set of worries with the swallowed condom.  Although first HIV test was negative.

So general public, think before you sign documents like this one We need to move in the other direction.  Bring full decriminalization which brings it above the surface.  We need sex work to be regarded as work and abuses tackled like abuses in any other industry.  There are many of us who need the money we make in sex work and don’t have other choices.  This client gave me my eighth concussion in my life time.  He should have been arrested for multiple infractions.  If I went to the police, the likely arrestee would be me.

As soon as I no longer consented, it became rape.  That I’m a prostitute doesn’t matter.  Please don’t support things that make it harder for sex workers and trafficking victims.  Obscurity doesn’t solve the problem it only makes it occult.

We can and do get raped and it hurts us just as much as it hurts anyone else.  Rape should never be an occupational hazard.

Looking at the Schapiro Group “Scientific” Survey

This survey was done in the fall of 2009, several months after CraigsList changed the Erotic Services section to Adult Services so that it could begin charging for ads and handing over the information to authorities if requested. Remember, this was in response to a huge national campaign accusing CraigsList of being a haven for underage prostitutes. It stands to reason that men who want the simplicity of paying for sex with an underage girl would look to CraigsList. The media did all the advertising work necessary for both sides of the possible exploitation equation (pimps and clients). Not to mention that since CraigsList was getting a lot of media attention, lots of people were perusing the Adult Services section, regardless of age preferences.

Their study finds that 23% of men in Georgia have tried to buy sex in one month. This is probably true. The usual self-reporting surveys in the US yield numbers of 6-15%, which any sex worker can tell you is artificially low. Quite honestly, the vast majority of clients are not on CraigsList, which means the percentage of clients could be even higher than 23%. They have to be to support the number of sex workers out there. The vast majority of these unnoticed interactions are between adults, not teens.

Continue reading

Prohibitionists’ comparing sex work and straight work: they are dead wrong.

Authorization to repost granted, except if material is used to replace an actual interview with one sourced by this.

Prohibitionists’ comparing sex work and straight work: they are dead wrong.

There are people who believe ending sex work (abolishing prostitution, pornography, and other forms of erotic labor) will end harm being done to women in these fields. These sex work prohibitionists coolly assume that jobs in the “straight world” are safe, protected, equitable—all the things they believe sex work is not.

They are wrong. Many of these people are a certain breed of feminist academic elite, comfortably ensconced in their Ivory towers. They may be well intentioned. As I know some of them like Donna M. Hughes myself, I’d even say they are genuine in their desire to advance constructive social change.

But reality can shatter even the best of intentions.

My journey into and out of sex work is unique. My first experience in sex work lasted 3 years. I was (literally) a sex slave: no safe words were needed, and I didn’t even know safe words existed. I was coerced.

The coercion was the true injustice I endured, as millions of Americans suffer the injustice of coercive workplaces that have nothing to do with sex work. That’s the reality “end the sex industry and get a real job activists” routinely and tragically dismiss.

10 years after I was trafficked, I returned to sex work as a stripper. While I worked occasionally at clubs, I mostly did outcall bachelor’s parties. The agent got 40 percent, I got 60 percent. That’s 60 percent more than when I was a sex trafficking victim.

Later still, I gave up on stripping and went to work on my own as an independent escort. I was my own boss and there were no comparable problems. No one hurt me, I set my own boundaries, I got paid what I asked for—all 100 percent of it.

While it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, it was work; it was nothing like my coerced experience. Anti-trafficking activists like Donna M. Hughes, anti-pornography activists like Gail Dines and Shelly Lubben, anti-prostitution activists like Melissa Farley willfully ignore this fact: there is a world of difference between being a sex trafficking victim and being a sex worker.

Make no mistake: ending sexual slavery is a great thing. Ending sex work is not. The two are entirely distinct. Conflating them is deadly for trafficking victims and for sex workers.

Now, let’s talk about the reality of “straight jobs.” I’ve worked a bunch of them in many different industries, usually as an entry-level employee. A lot of my experience is in the air travel industry.

I’ve been assaulted by airline customers more times than I can count. I’ve been kicked in the face while trying to screen a passenger’s leg while working for the TSA. I’ve been spit on. The list goes on.

The result is always the same: the company sends the customer on their way without reprimand because they don’t want to lose business or risk the bad press. In other words, I get told: let it go, or get fired.

I’ve had 6 surgeries from injuries suffered at work. In my State of the Union (North Carolina), workers comp is highly regulated in favor of the employer. That means you can’t pick your doctor, and so you have to see the doctor the carrier chooses. Needless to say, you get biased doctors. You also get a “nurse case manager” (appointed by the carrier) who joins you at every appointment and diligently argues with your already-biased doctor to avoid any expensive diagnostics, medicines, and other treatments, and also reminds the doctor that you are to be returned to work immediately.

When I was working as a valet parking attendant, I was sent back to work for 10 days with a fractured knee, torn MCL, and two torn menisci (one in each knee). The job required running three-tenths of a mile. Three-tenths of a mile for each customer. Three-tenths of a mile for each customer in the 95 degree heat of North Carolina’s Summer.

Why did I take that job? Why did I run three-tenths of a mile on a fractured knee for 10 days at the behest of my “nurse case manager” in my mid 40’s? Because, thanks to the emphasis misguided activist academics like Donna M. Hughes have placed on “rescuing” trafficking victims, the police are so indiscriminately arresting sex workers in my area that running on fractured knees as a valet parking attendant was actually safer than working as an independent escort. Safer, perhaps—I don’t need a jail sentence—but not better.

By the way, it took 6 months for the workers comp carrier to approve surgery to repair the fracture. Oh, and given the recession, it took me 10 weeks just to find that valet job.

When I worked for the TSA, my job entailed lifting 100 pound bags all day because it was more cost effective to have employees do it than to have a conveyor put in. Unsurprisingly, I was struck with repetitive injuries. Surgery was ultimately needed for these injuries, too. The TSA paid nothing as they didn’t feel it was “work-related.” I could appeal that decision, of course, in which case my motion would be decided by the TSA’s appeal board. The TSA’s appeal board, in case it isn’t clear, works for the TSA and, naturally, sides with their employer.

So after working the straight jobs, many times I’ve ended up just like the worst experiences in sex work: no rights, no food, and in a lot of pain.

Go beyond the economic coercion embedded in this capitalist system, however, and you’ll find that straight jobs are not, in and of themselves, safer for women sexually, either.

Back at the TSA, I was sexually assaulted on a federal checkpoint by a male co worker. The assault was filmed by a security camera tape and there were 6 witnesses (5 male and 1 female). They all went to court with me to support my restraining order efforts against my workplace harasser. Now, it isn’t often that men will side with a woman in situations like this, but these 5 men did. The harasser plead no contest—all but an admission of guilt.

However, the TSA management were buddies with the Greensboro Police Department and Guilford County Sheriffs Department, the agencies that would enforce the restraining order. The same day the restraining order was issued, a Greensboro PD officer told me he didn’t believe my claims, and that filing a false police report was a crime. He threatened me with arrest if he or the department could find any proof I was lying. (They never found any.)

Neither the Greensboro PD or Guilford County Sheriffs department enforced the restraining order, the TSA management assigned me to the same work station with my harasser and when I attempted to transfer, that motion was blocked. The manager that supported me was terminated. Same with the supervisor that supported me in court. My other supporters were moved to other stations or had their careers stalled—passed up for promotion time and again.

I went to DC and filed a formal complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the TSA has its own EEOC. Needless to say, they sided with the TSA. I pressed on, eventually speaking to Internal Affairs, but I quickly learned their role is risk management (damage control), not justice. My harasser, who I learned had confessed to Human Resources was terminated a month later for sexually assaulting a third woman; I was the second. And his confession? The audio tape failed because the HR investigator “failed to push the record button,” and the video tapes of the assaults “could not be located” by the airport police.

Now I work at a job in which I have no breaks regardless of the length of my shift (no lunches either), and an expectation that I will never be sick, injured or need personal days or I may be terminated. Yes, this is all legal in North Carolina. I could go on, but I think this makes my point.

To anyone who believes that ending the sex industry and forcing sex workers to take on straight jobs is some great achievement, please look at the reality. The devil is in the details. Ask those of us who have gone from sex work to straight jobs what really transpired.

Please, do continue to rescue trafficking victims but stop conflating sex trafficking with sex work. Start focusing on realities rather than just mass-rescues that do us real harm, that hurts and kills sex workers, and often has no real basis in the reality of the lives of those involved.

I have been far more harmed by “straight jobs” than I ever was as either a stripper or an independent escort.

Who feeds me when injuries knock me out for weeks and I have no more income? Does Melissa Farley’s Prostitution Research Education provide these services? Does Donna M. Hughes’ Citizens Against Trafficking? Does Gail Dines’ Stop Porn Culture? Does Shelly Lubben’s Pink Cross?

Melissa Farley, Donna M. Hughes: where is the justice you promise to bring us trafficking victims? Do you even care about us?

Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law

Wherever I go, wherever I live, I always meet people with critical, original and non-conforming views, and Sweden is no exception. Today’s special post comes from Louise Persson, whose book on ‘classical’ feminism came out last year and who has been blogging at Frihetspropaganda since March 2004. Her allegiance is to libertarianism, and she likes to call herself an activist. A longtime critic of the Swedish law criminalising the purchase of sex, Louise wrote the article below about the report on the government’s evaluation of the law, which was published on Friday. Links to numerous other Swedish critiques of the inquiry and report are at the end: many Swedes don’t like the law, but, since the government treats it as a symbol of Swedishness, these voices are rarely heard in public forums. Remind anyone of other governments we know? Re-posted from Laura Agustín’s Border Thinking.

Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law
Or, the success that is the Swedish sex-purchase law, or maybe not . . .

Louise Persson, 3 July 2010

‘We don’t work with harm reduction in Sweden. Because that’s not the way Sweden looks upon this. We see it as a ban on prostitution: there should be no prostitution‘, said governmental inquirer Anna Skarhed smilingly to the journalist attending the press conference on the release of the report on an inquiry meant to evaluate the effects of the sex purchase law but not to question the law itself. And later: ‘Harm reduction is not the Swedish model.’ (long English summary pp 29-44, or key excerpts in English ).

Skarhed went on to say that prostitutes – women – are not marginalized. There are some who claim that, but ‘We don’t see that’.

The statement about harm reduction is highly interesting. A harm-reduction framework stands in opposition to moralistic laws, but Skarhed refused to acknowledge the law’s moral character, presenting it as merely a ‘ban’ on unacceptable behaviour. It isn’t really true either, that there is no harm reduction here. Sweden may be restrictive and repressive against users of illicit drugs and buyers of sex, but there are some pragmatic – harm reduction – programmes in Sweden. One might imagine that an expert on law appointed by government as an independent researcher would have some insight into the difference between pragmatism and ideology. You cannot assess the effects of the law without any understanding of harm reduction, it’s like assessing everything but the effects on the people involved.

The report’s claim that sexworkers are not marginalized is bafflingly arrogant, ignoring what many sexworkers say about how the law increases stigma and therefore their marginalization in society. See this video with Pye Jakobsson of Rose Alliance, as an example.

As a longtime critic of the law, I had low expectations, but this I didn’t expect: An astounding absence of objective and unbiased guiding principles, a lack of solid evidence and a confusing methodical picture that could mean outright guesswork. All the report’s conclusions are therefore questionable. I was prepared to focus on the fact that Skarhed wasn’t allowed to freely criticise the law, but the report itself is a worse problem. Now-familiar self-congratulatory references to Sweden’s higher moral ground compared with other countries are not missing: here the law is ascribed an almost magical power to eradicate patriarchy and sex trafficking, both.

‘Sources’ are mentioned, but absolutely nothing is explained about methodology. Sources mentions persons and organisations talked to, including ECPAT (although the child aspect of the law evades me) but there is nothing about how interviewees were chosen, why they were relevant, what questionnaire was used or how interviews were analysed.

Sexworkers themselves are listed as sources, but they seem to have been forgotten until quite late. They are called, in a discriminatory manner, ‘exploited persons’ (p. 126-127). A total of 14 persons from two organisations filled out a questionnaire: about half were active sexworkers from Rose Alliance, the other half former sexworkers from PRIS. The findings from this research were a foregone conclusion anyway: active sexworkers are said to be unaware of their own exploitation and former sexworkers to be happy with criminalisation. The similarity is striking to the feminist idea that all women in prostitution need to be rescued and liberated. What Skarhed doesn’t mention is that PRIS’s very few members had already declared themselves in favour of the law. Rose Alliance, also a small organisation, have been critical of the law, but at least they made the questionnaire available online to any sexworker who wanted to participate. Few found it worthwhile, unfortunately.* The issue here is that it is inappropiate to take two small, local organisations and claim they represent all active and former sexworkers.

Maybe suspecting the report will be taken as the ridiculous rubbish it is, Skarhed chose to publish a long, personal, heart-rending ‘story‘ of one unhappy former prostitute. The implicit (ridiculous) rhetoric aimed at anyone criticising the law is ‘Hey, are you in favour of this suffering?’ But this strategy won’t hold up, because Swedes know that all sex workers are not miserable. Where the text says ‘people with experience of prostitution have complex needs’ (p. 93), Skarhed actually refers to this single story, as if all sex workers can be lumped together as miserable victims?. The text itself was written by PRIS, another indication of the report’s political agenda.

Moreover Skarhed claims (in chapter 4.3) that, on the one hand, they haven’t a clue about how many sexworkers there are in Sweden, and, on the other, that the law has successfully reduced street prostitution by 50%. But she also said the increase of services offered on Internet sites is no different from nearby countries’, from which she concludes fuzzily that this shows that the law has not contributed to any increase in ‘hidden’ prostitution. This is clearly an attempt to head off arguments from the law’s critics. The only actual conclusion is that the decrease of street prostitution in Sweden is a real decrease resulting from the law. Causation by confusion? It is indeed remarkable what conclusions can be drawn based on not having a clue, i.e any figures, a point already noted in another government assessment of prostitution in Sweden in 2007 (Socialstyrelsen-National Board of Health and Welfare).

Maybe there is a state of mind that can explain this. Skarhed stated at the press conference that the conclusions were obvious and the material gathered justified drawing them.

I think that these are quite obvious conclusions. But the important thing for the inquiry has been to try to, so to speak, get the basis for being able to draw them. And this is how we have worked.

That is a statement which in itself should raise serious questions about the methodology and empiric usefulness of the inquiry. The report also says (and this is the closest we get to a discussion of methodology):

The empirical surveys that have been carried out have, in some cases, had limited scope, and different working procedures, methods and purposes have been used. In light of these and other factors, there can at times be reason to interpret the results with caution. However, despite these reservations, we still consider that it is possible to draw conclusions based on the material to which we had access, and the results we are presenting based on this data give, in our view, as clear a picture as is currently possible to produce.

Another explanation lies probably, and most importantly, in the government’s original directive to Skarhed: the objective was to evaluate whether the law has had any deterrent function, which was the original ambition behind the law, and to recommend how it could be strengthened to meet that ambition. The directive stated that the law is important and that the inquiry could not suggest, or point in any direction other than, that buying of sex should be criminalised. Therefore, whether the law has been up till now a failure or a success, the only possible conclusions were either strengthening enforcement or leaving the status quo.

Academic work criticising the law from Susanne Dodillet in 2009 is merely mentioned in the reference section; nothing is noted about her findings in the report itself. The same applies to Petra Östergren, who pioneered a critical study and book in 2006 about the sexual moralism surrounding the kind of feminism that lies behind the Swedish law. Both are indirectly brushed off in a comment saying it is irrelevant to distinguish between forced or voluntary prostitution (p. 15). By including these books in the reference list but not actually addressing their criticism the report can, of course, feign impartiality without actually bothering to be impartial.

The evaluation’s task was to suggest possible changes to the law, and that is accomplished by proposing to raise the maximum penalty for clients of sex workers from 6 months to one year of imprisonment. Another suggested change was to grant sexworkers compensation as victims, which is currently not the case.

These changes in penalties would bring the law into line with those applied for violent crimes such as beatings, fitting exactly the radical feminist ideology that prostitution is a form of violence against women. The idea to compensate sexworkers as victims of violence was originally Catharine MacKinnon’s, thus far only supported in Sweden by the Swedish Feminist party (they published on newsmill together with MacKinnon in 2008; my Swedish response here).

Skarhed’s recommendations raise serious questions about her status as an objective observer. The fact that the quality of the inquiry was so poor makes it even more important to raise them.

With all that said, the inquiry does have one more point of interest that should be addressed.

It is claimed that trafficking for sexual purposes has been affected by the law. Yet again, this is based on the ‘notion’ (what people think and claim) that Sweden is not attractive to traffickers. This may very well be true, but the report does not ask how the law might have had this impact, with some historical comparison, since we don’t know whether Sweden ever was attractive before. The same kind of question applies to prostitution, but that would raise the need of hard figures, not easily obtainable in a country where prostitution is, in practice, criminal.

The inquiry now goes into a referral process, to get different opinions before making any decisions for a change of law. I hope the organisations, experts and authorities who are to assess the report see it for what it is, an ideological work in compliance with a preordained political stance (to ban a phenomenon), not a sound and helpful instrument for assessing the real effects of the law.

* I asked Pye Jakobsson, president of the Swedish sexworker organisation Rose Alliance, about her contact with the inquiry. She says they were sent a questionnaire last January and put in online, but very few sex workers took an interest in filling it out, because the questions were ‘idiotic’.

Other critiques in Sweden so far

An academic project on prostitution, NPPR, published a careful assessment of the report (in English), calling it endless fodder for proponents and critics of the ban alike to continue trading claims and counter-claims as to what the ban has (and has not) achieved since its implementation. A perhaps needlessly neutral way to say that it isn’t that hard to see the flaws. Other independent views from Hanna Wagenius, Niklas Dougherty, Sanna Rayman, Per Pettersson, Greta, Magnus Brahn, Hans Egnell, Emil Isberg and undoubtedly others as the days go on. Best title is Helena von Schantz’s: Practically Evidence-Free Inquiry.

4th Desiree Alliance Conference Working Sex: Power, Practice, and Politics

July 25-30, 2010
Las Vegas, NV

Conference to Unify and Educate in the areas of: Academics & Policy; Activism;
Arts, Entertainment & Media; Business Development; and Harm Reduction &
Outreach!

REGISTER NOW!
Space is limited and WE WANT YOU!
No on-site registration will be permitted so ACT NOW!
Don’t forget to book your hotel…conference participants pay $25!!

Who is Desiree Alliance?
The Desiree Alliance is a diverse, volunteer-based, sex worker-led network of
organizations, communities and individuals across the US working in harm
reduction, direct services, political advocacy and health services for sex
workers.

How do I fit in?
Desiree Alliance is a forum for people who have experience of sex work (this
could mean working as an escort, sex worker, prostitute, street worker, massage
worker, exotic dancer, hustler, living with the support of a sugar-daddy or a
sugar-mama, having sex for housing / food / clothing, drugs, or having sex to
get the money needed to survive) and allies of sex workers. Desiree Alliance is
committed to support for representation and inclusiveness of people from varied
backgrounds including different cultural, racial, economic, age, size/figure,
sexual orientation and gender identities.

How do I sign up?
You are required to send an introductory email to
desiree2010@desireealliance.org with “Introduction for Registration” as the
subject. Please include the following:
• Name, email address and contact phone number (including best time to call);

o You may use any name or pronoun that you identify with when applying for
the conference and while attending.
• How you found out about the conference;
• Why you would like to come;
• If you are a student (you will be required to provide 2009-2010 student ID)

What are the conference fees?
NOW – July 15, 2010
Registration Fee: $250
Student Fee**: $200
Group Fee*: -$10

*Group fee: When 10 or more registrations are made and paid for from the same
source
**Student fee: Must provide proof of enrollment for school (student ID)

Registration fees for the conference include: Attendance at any or all of the
workshops, presentations and sessions; name badge and registration packet;
Welcome Reception with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (July 25, 6pm); Continental
breakfast (July 26-29); Lunch (July 27 & 29); Farewell Brunch with keynote
speaker (July 30); and a significant discount on lodging (please note that this
location will not be disclosed until registration is complete);

Registration fees do NOT include (though we wish it could): Transportation;
lodging; lunch on July 26 and 28, dinner; Fundraiser After Party (you will have
the option of purchasing a ticket during registration); dinners, souvenirs,
extra-curricular activities or personal expenses

Who can I contact for…?
Program Advertising / Tabling / Vending (click link for details):
http://www.desireealliance.org/conference/tabling.htm#Program_Advertising

Media: Please direct all inquiries to serpentlibertine@gmail.com

General Inquiries: info@desireealliance.org or 866-525-7967 (Toll Free)

National US health care plan, what does ‘public option’ mean?

Thank you to Melora from SWOP-Boston for putting this all together.

Primary Source: TIME magazine
Secondary Sources: wikipedia.org, healthreform.gov, nytimes.com, various google searches (checking search lists for irregularities, will only site every source used upon request)

Note:

If you do not fall under one of the categories below, you will experience no change in coverage or costs. For the purposes of the following, Medicare means both Medicare, and Medicaid.

Have questions? Ask!

Have opinions? Dare to debate.

Effective 2010:

  • Uninsured with pre-existing condition receive immediate coverage (though i have not yet put together HOW – it depends on a plethora of factors that vary from one individual to another including income, employment, and geographic.
  • Uninsured and age 26 or younger are now approved to be covered by their parents’ insurance
  • Insurers no longer allowed to deny care to a patient who becomes sick (currently private companies are able to suspend coverage of individuals who develop certain illnesses, despite having paid their premiums)
  • Insurers no longer allowed to end coverage after a patient reaches a certain age (many companies will not cover you if you live past 80, for example)
  • Insurers no longer allowed to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions
  • Employers of small businesses to receive tax credits if they purchase insurance plans for their employees.
  • Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries receive $250 as a stipend when they hit the doughnut hole.
  • What is the doughnut hole? A rule in medicare part D prescription drug coverage that states that once Medicare has paid $2,700 in prescription drug coverage for an individual, they are then on their own to cover the full cost of prescription medications until they have reached $6,154 in prescription drug expenses.

Effective 2011:

  • Insurers required to spend 80% of premiums collected on medical services.
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Beneficiaries receive 50% the cost of prescriptions while in the doughnut hole.

Effective 2013:

  • Medicare taxes on unearned income increase for individuals earning $200,000+/yr or families earning $250,000+

Effective 2014:

  • Everyone must either be insured or pay a fine, whichever is less expensive. (the way the government will know whether you are insured is by making demonstrating proof of coverage a part of filing taxes.)
  • Families earning less than four times the federal poverty level ($22,000 x 4 = $88,000) receive subsidies to help them cover the cost of insurance
  • Public healthcare options provided by states (similar to the insurance already available in Massachusetts) become available to anyone in the country who does not have insurance coverage via either their parents, their employer, or medicare.
  • Insurers officially banned from denying anyone with a pre-existing condition
  • Insurers limited in their abilities to price coverage based on pre-existing conditions
  • Employers of 50 or more people must provide coverage to their employees or pay a fine, whichever is less expensive.

Effective 2018:

  • Insurers that bill individuals $10,200+ or families $27,500+ annually are subject to a 40% excise tax

Effective 2020:

  • The doughnut hole is eliminated.

A small bit about forcing people to have insurance:

  • The costs will be low (in MA current costs are about $25/month), and you get help if your family makes less than $88,000/yr.
  • This process does effectively ensure that public option healthcare can remain affordable and available to those of us who are dying and need it, and helps support emergency care, which is the most expensive and the most used by the uninsured who wait until they’re on their death beds to seek medical assistance.
  • You’ll be impressed how affordable it is for people as poor as us.

public option health insurance will bill on a scale according to income, not health status. private insurers will not be allowed to base prices on a patient’s medical status either. that was the main reason sited for why they pushed this bill so fast: so many people right now are sick and dying because they can’t afford health care.
however, there’s no way to know now what the exact numbers are yet, and this makes people uneasy. when it comes to costs, it’s still a couple years before the public option will be available, and each state will have its own variables that it has to grapple with in constructing their public option. While MA’s successful and extremely affordable public option healthcare (which began in 2006) will likely be a model for other states, it’s impossible to predict whether other states will be as generous with their benefits as MA.
this is an exact quote from TIME, which I take at face value based on the fact that the magazine is right wing and therefore has no motives to make the healthcare bill look good. the sources cited for the article from which i quote directly are the Congressional Budget Office, US Census Beaureau, Kaisser Family Foundation, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Commonwealth Fund:

if you [have a pre-existing condition and] plan to buy your own coverage, you will be able to get it from any insurer selling in your area, and you will pay the same as anyone else in your age group. insurers won’t be able to place annual or lifetime limits on your coverage, and regulations will limit your out of pocket spending. 36% of Americans were turned down or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions in 2007.

Again, thank you to Melora of SWOP Boston for putting this all together for us, and for helping make it easily digestable, and for Time Magazine for being such a great source of information.

So, what are your thoughts, now that we can understand it?  For or against, call or email your congressman and senators and let them know!  Personally I’m for it now.  I think it could go a lot farther, but this is way better than what we currently have!!

update (3/29/10 8:20PM PST): fixed up the bit about forcing people to have insurance and costs, the original was by me (Tara) and this new update is by Melora, because she’s so much smarter then I am about this stuff!

update (3/3/10 2:20PM PST): Some of this may be incorrect, we are working on resolving these issues.. sorry! a 2,000+ page document boiled down to something someone can understand is hard!!!

update (3/30/10 5:48PM PST): Ok, apparently nobody knows what’s up with the above $$ part, so take all of the stuff like this with a grain of salt, a HUGE grain of salt.  If and when congress/senate ever make up their minds, then we’ll know.  Right now that’s the big debate they are fighting over, so if  you feel it should be one way or another, now is the time to contact our congress and senate.  The rest of the article stands as fact for now.

An Outlaw’s Insurance Policy

2 months ago, I was robbed in my home/incall by a man who demanded his money back BEFORE the sexual activity, and also got away with $250 more of mine AFTER I pepper sprayed him in the face three times.  This was the SECOND time that I had been robbed as an escort, alone, naked and defenseless (except for the pepper spray this time).  The first time, the attacker said he had a gun and he did have sex with me first, making that THEFT OF SERVICES attack a RAPE in my eyes.  (theft of services = theft of consent based on payment= RAPE)

The recent time, according to the police report that I did manage to do this time, was classified as “petty theft.”  Going to the police for petty theft is just as empowering as filling out a police report after someone breaks your car window and steals your stereo.  You know that you have lost and that no one, not the police or you will be able to do anything about your loss.  All you can do is clean up the broken glass and tape up your window.   This is the feeling that sex workers too often have once they have been robbed and/or sexually assaulted.

When I was a stripper in a club, I was fortunate enough to not have experienced this type of violence.  I used to say on panels that I spoke at “I had never been sexually assaulted WHILE a sex worker (only before).” but now that I have lived and learned the life of an outlaw escort, things are different.  This is not to say that strippers and brothel workers are by any means safe because they operate in a house or a club.  Violence against sex workers happens everywhere.

There are many who operate under the premise that women are weaker than men and that a sex worker is someone that will be an easy target for violence or robbery because of her outlaw status.  This post mainly speaks to female sex workers, not to discount the violence that male sex workers might face (but it’s just different).

I had never taken a self defense course, and I had never gotten in a fight.  I was strong in my mind and my body was athletic.  I knew, however that I had not the power or experience to fight a grown man and win.  Fortunately, all of the times that I have been sexually assaulted in my life, none have included physical altercations.  The guy who said he had a gun never showed me a gun, but I decided to not challenge it and sit there while he took back the money I rightfully earned by being with him.

This recent attacker was clearly mad that I had sprayed him in the face, so he came back to my house and slashed my tire.  I bought a stun gun the very next day and went to the Krav Maga training center to inquire about self defense.  For 3 days I entered my apartment through the back door and I turned on lights in my house preparing for his return.  The training was expensive.  There was a membership fee and a first and last payment, and they wanted $160 a month!  I charged the whole thing on the one remaining credit card I had.  I felt like I could not afford to not defend myself.

Being in a fight is a cardiovascular workout!  Adrenalyn is pumping and your breath pattern is altered even though you’re muscles are charged.  For the $160/mo you can work out and take classes as many times as you want but the average person works out 3 times a week.  You can take mixed martial arts, yoga, ground fighting and the main curriculum of Krav Maga defense.   I can’t tell you how much this program has helped my mind, my body and my power expand exponentially!  I have NEVER felt so strong and powerful than when I get to practice kicking a guy in the balls repeatedly at full force or when I learn how to pluck his hands strangling my neck against a wall!  Krav Maga trains women side by side with men.  You partner up with someone in class that is supposed to be your size and weight, but sometimes that isn’t possible and you get to experience sparring with a man.  Taking hits even while holding a pad HURTS.  But, I feel like I am in THE FIGHT CLUB now because anyone who has done this knows the adrenalyn rush you get from taking the impact of hits is almost as great as hitting.  You form a bond with your partner that is unlike any other sport I have participated in.  All of us have come to this training for an unspoken reason and it is from that fulfillment of each of our individual goals that we are bonded.  It is NOTHING like the LACK of comraderie that you feel jogging alongside someone on a treadmill or taking a dance class at the gym.

I am writing here to encourage ANY SEX WORKER THAT MAKES AT LEAST $200/HR per date to INVEST at least that amount in your self defense.  If all you can afford is a short 3 day weekend course, great, but really my feeling is that you need to train constantly to stay prepared.  One 3 day course 3 years ago is not, like J Lo would say “Enough.”  I feel that the battle is constant and that another attack can happen as long as I continue to do this work.  You are not safer because you work indoors.  Craigslist is just the “internet streets”, where the same predators and hustlers are meeting you with the same intentions except they look like straight people who go to medical school and have Blackberrys.

I consider myself in the same risk and danger zones as a street worker.  I am an upper working class anonymous client worker.  Screening is minimal.  I am a graveyard shift agency girl.  I work independently too but my main scheduled work is agency work til 6am.  Agency work operates on a bait and switch and upsell hustle which automatically throws wrenches in a clients potential respect of you as a sex worker.  I deal with de-escalating angry customers as a regular part of my shift and have to also get tips out of those angry deceived customers to make a living.  Interestingly enough, the robberies did not occur on agency time, nor did the time I was arrested from Craigslist; so I am not convinced that the violence is due to being an agency girl although the set up of the hustle I do sets me up for antagonism and sexist violence in an already unequal playing field.  The second time I was robbed I failed to screen properly because i was feeling GOOD not bad.  I had just gotten my hair done, had just had a guitar lesson…this would be the 3rd person that was to come in and out of my house and I just did not expect that the outcome would be so bad AT ALL. Things can get sloppy when you are feeling bad, but ALSO when you are feeling good!

Everyday that I train, I am preparing for my next attack.  I refuse to just stand there and let them take from me again.  I go to class and practice boxing and fighting and then I shower and get ready for my agency shift.  I am more ready for an attack than ever before.  THIS IS THE ONLY INSURANCE POLICY I HAVE.  It is expensive but worth it.  I feel that I cannot afford to not train like this.

It’s very expensive for me and the training is totally inaccessible for most people.  The crazy thing is that Krav Maga is the SAME training that is taught to police officers and military forces, because it is the martial art of the Israeli army (FREE PALESTINE).  I have political views that I must put aside while I train, and aside from the origin of the martial art, there is nothing that indoctrinates the state of Israel anywhere in the training center.  ALSO, interestingly enough the Deputy District attorney of Los Angeles (head honcho cop/lawyer) OWNS and is the Lead Instructor for Krav maga in LA.  I am thinking of approaching him about giving victims of violence who have filled out a police report 2 months of training for free.  It seems like it would be something that a cop/lawyer could go for since it advocates going to the police in some way and doesn’t mention the word sex worker even though many many sex workers would qualify.   I wonder how many of those training beside me ARE cops? are sex workers? or are training to defend against a partner in a domestic violence situation?  I am simmering on trying to pitch the idea to the owner, or just stay silent and anonymous..please check out www.kravamaga.com to find a training center near you!

Desiree Conference 2010!!

Desiree Alliance

In conjunction with BAYSWAN, Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP), Center for Sex and Culture (CSC), International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education (ISWFACE), St. James Infirmary, SWOP USA, SWOP Tucson, SWOP LV, SWOP Chicago, SWOP NorCal, SWOP Santa Cruz, Harm Reduction Coalition, Sex Work Awareness, and $pread Magazine

Presents

Working Sex: Power, Practice, and Politics

July 25 thru 30, 2010 in Sunny Las Vegas, NV!!

Join us for the Academic and Policy track. Network with established and developing scholars who are engaged with research, theory, and methods that impact the formation of policy and applied practices concerning sex work and sex workers. Academics have the opportunity to give back to the communities they study and create careers upon by participating in this dynamic space of diverse sex work scholar colleagues and diverse sex workers. Sex workers will have opportunities to interact with scholars who concern themselves with our issues while also sharing your own—and needed—perspective regarding where sex work scholarship has been and where it should be going.

We understand that within the Activism and Advocacy of Sex Work, there is such a huge range, from organizing national marches, decriminalization propositions, to organizing you and one other Sex Worker to come together and talk about your rights and safety. All are forms of activism. Coming out to a friend, meeting a fellow Sex Worker and being able to talk about your work can be a HUGE form of activism for some that have been hiding in the closet so long! Join other activists in a safe space to discuss and learn about activism and activist leadership in the sex work community!

Arts, Entertainment, and Media: From beautiful burlesque, to majestic music, to powerful poetry, various art forms have been important parts of sex worker justice advocacy, and art is also a great way to highlight the diversity of talents so many sex workers have. Sex worker artists have in fact had a vibrant face on this movement and have been a unifying element in resistance campaigns across the globe. Join us at the Desiree Alliance 2010 Conference to explore, learn about, experience, and create sex worker art, media, and entertainment!

Business Development: Increase your confidence and your bottom line by attending workshops taught by people who excel in their fields! Learn new techniques for increasing your earnings, using the tools of your trade, and improving your business model. You will find valuable tips to improve your business regardless of the area you work! From workshops on web design, advertising, and networking to health and safety, and tax-saving tips especially relevant to cash-based earners just like you, this conference will be an opportunity for you to improve your business and your cash flow!

Harm Reduction and Outreach: Whether your expertise is the street corner, the classroom, or the clinic we are looking for you to show us what’s wrong, what’s right, and what can come to be the future of Harm Reduction and Outreach Services for Sex Workers. Come share your innovative ideas or learn how to provide outreach services. Be a part of an event that will inspire and pioneer a fresh perspective on how harm reduction and outreach services can be fine tuned to the ones that need it the most. Enjoy workshops and presentations from the best and brightest giving their unique take on harm reduction and outreach services to sex workers.

Registration is open!
We are accepting Proposals for Presentations! Hurry- deadline for submissions is March 1st.

To get involved, go to http://www.DesireeAlliance.org/conference.htm or email: Desiree2010@desireealliance.org

We’ll See You in Sin City!!

Harm reduction and Human Rights (both) for Sex Work Plenary

I know some activists going to a harm-reduction conference called CLAT5 in Porto (Portugal) in the near future, where I’m to give a plenary talk at the opening session. The description of the conference in English: ‘Our aims for this event are to rethink – in a transnational way – the future of harm reduction and to question the actual (current) consensus about its policies and practices of intervention. For this we will stimulate a critical discussion based on the concepts and practices linked with harm reduction and also bring to the debate issues of human rights, South-North and East-West inequalities and social dialogue among key actors.’

I understand some people in the harm-reduction field don’t think sex work should be there and that it was a close thing whether any plenary speaker would address it. And I know that some people don’t like harm reduction as a way of thinking about sex work.  To put this in context, the conference has 6 streams:

1 Drugs on the Street
2 Parties: Pleasures Management and Risks Reduction
3 Alcohol and Harm Reduction
4 Sex: Pleasures, Risks and Sexual Work
5 Other addictions
6 Human Rights and Penal Control

There are five panels addressing sex/sex work and several good activists will speak, mixed with outreach/academic folk. Sex-work activists have gone to other harm-reduction conferences, of course, but here I’m to talk about human rights AND harm reduction, which feels challenging because they are both theoretical frames for thinking about the issues. And since globalisation is another of the event’s keywords I can talk about trafficking and anti-demand politics as well, but I’d rather not just spout a string of platitudes. Any ideas or tips from past experience?

Thanks, Laura

Laura María Agustín  Border Thinking

Urgent: Masseuse Advertising on Craig’s List Murdered

This is extremely important to know about, especially for sex workers traveling to Boston to meet clients.  This murder is possibly linked to another attempted armed robbery in a Boston hotel room:  http://www1. whdh.com/ news/articles/ local/BO110496/ .   Please circulate widely.

Social Justice and Peace Conference/Exhibition May 1

Below is information I received about a social justice and peace conference/exhibition.  Since we promote justice and peace for sex workers,  it would be great if sex workers’ rights activists could attend and participate.  One of the suggested topics is sex trafficking, so perhaps somebody could put together a presentation about sex workers’ rights approaches to human trafficking and how sex workers are being incacerated and subject to human rights abuses by law enforcement under the guise of fighting sex trafficking.  However, there are a variety of topics we can present about.  The topic ideas are very open.  The event will take place at the University of Texas-Pan American, which is located in the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S./Mexico border.  Here is the information I received: 

SOCIAL JUSTICE and PEACE CONFERENCE/EXHIBITION Conceptualizing In/Justice: Images/Voices of Resistance MAY 1st, 2009 CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS, EXHIBITIONS, POETRY & MUSIC Submissions due APRIL 1st, 2009 The UTPA Department of Criminal Justice is sponsoring an event to promote social justice and peace. The goal of this conference/exhibition is to engage the students, the community and the faculty in a dialogue about social problems that affect our lives locally, regionally, and globally. Not only do we want to raise social consciousness, we want to provide an avenue for discussing solutions to these problems. The purpose of this conference is to provide a safe space for dialogue and protest. Activists and campus organizations are invited to share their struggles, as well as their visions for a better future, including solutions we can implement as individuals. The Conference/Exhibition makes a call for artwork, poetry, music, photo-documentaries, documentaries, posters, presentations and other alternative forms of artistic expression. Please submit an abstract of 150 words or less. Provide the title, contact information, and affiliation if any. Please email to justiceconference@gmail.com or resendiz@utpa.edu Conference Date: May 1st, 2009 Deadline for Submissions: April 1st, 2009 Suggested Topics: Human Rights, Civil Rights, Immigration Rights and Violations, Labor Rights Inequalities, Discrimination, Racism, Classism, Sexism, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues Dehumanization, Exploitation, Torture, Sex Crimes and Sex Trafficking Environmental Justice and Pollution, Animal Rights Health, Education, Elderly Issues, Disabilities Economic Justice, Poverty, Class struggles, Protest Movements Imperialism, War, War on Drugs, Violation of Peace Treaties Religious Tolerance, Spirituality, Empowerment Peace and Legal Discourse, Criminal Justice and Peace-Making Criminology Border Issues, Militarization of the Border Prisons and Detention Centers Other Related Topics Welcome!

Trouble Viewing Dec. 17 Videos on BNG

I’m having trouble viewing the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers videos posted on BNG from my computer.  They’re coming up as empty squares with a box in the upper corner.  Is anybody else having this problem?

Sex workers do harm reduction

From moralhighground, a fantastic video on how, when it comes to harm reduction, sex work is not the harm we’re talking about: