SWOP-Chicago Responds to Murder of Sex Worker at Downtown Hotel

For more on this case, please visit- http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-bail-set-at-1m-in-slaying-of-woman-in-chicago-hotel-20111014,0,7982823.story

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, October 14, 2011

Contact: Serpent, (312) 252-3880

serpent@swop-chicago.org

www.swop-chicago.org

CHICAGO – Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-Chicago) were saddened by the recent tragedy in a Chicago hotel which resulted in the senseless violence against and murder of Sarai Michaels, of Wisconsin. As fellow sex workers and allies, SWOP-Chicago extends its sympathies to the family of Sarai Michaels.

The Chicago Police Department are to be commended for their quick work in catching the perpetrator so that he can be brought to justice. Additionally, the high bail set by the Cook County Prosecutor’s office and the presiding judge appropriately express that violence against sex-workers should not be, nor will not be, tolerated.

“When prostitution is criminalized, sex workers become alienated from law enforcement and as a result, vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, assault, and murder. Because sex workers fear entrapment and arrest by law enforcement, they come to fear law enforcement representatives and also, perhaps, to feel that while engaging in sex work, they do not have the same right to police and law enforcement protection and support as all American citizens.” says Hannah Talos-Roddam, an organizer with SWOP-Chicago. “Thus, when a sex worker feels threatened by a client, when confronted with violence or threats of violence, sex workers often weigh these perceived threats against the threat of legal repercussions, and, as a result, do not seek aid from police or other law enforcement representatives.”

“We believe that recognizing the legitimacy of sex work and working to building alliances between particularly vulnerable populations in sex work and law enforcement officials would greatly reduce the amount of violence against sex workers, as has been sufficiently demonstrated in areas where such efforts have been made.” adds Jeffery Walsh, SWOP-Chicago member. “Decriminalization would create a safer environment for sex workers, free from stigma and discrimination.”

It is important to remember that sex workers are human. They are someone’s daughter, son, parent, sister, brother, wife or husband. Like most working Americans, many sex workers are trying to survive these tough economic conditions and provide for themselves and, often, families as well. Criminalization of prostitution dehumanizes the sex worker and makes them unprotected targets of violence.

Sex workers are not targeted because sex work is inherently dangerous. Sex workers are targeted because perpetrators know prostitutes are afraid of law enforcement and won’t seek the aid of law enforcement until it’s too late. They are targeted because of the stigma surrounding sex work. This stigma is constantly regenerated in the way politicians, end-demand advocates, and media representatives talk about prostitution.

On December 17, 2011, SWOP-Chicago will be participating in the annual “International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.” Sarai Michaels will be remembered in this year’s events.

For more information on this event, please contact SWOP-Chicago at sexworkchicago@gmail.com

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

Sex Worker Groups Respond to Long Island Murders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, April 8, 2011
Contact: Dylan Wolf, SWANK, 347-748-9163, swank@riseup.net
Sarah Jenny Bleviss, swop.nyc@gmail.com

New York – Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK) and Sex Workers Outreach Project NYC (SWOP-NYC) are dismayed that four more bodies were discovered on Long Island earlier this week. Police believe that a serial killer is responsible for murdering at least eight people found on a remote Suffolk County beach since December. Reports indicate the murder victims were in the sex trade. As sex workers and allies, SWANK and SWOP-NYC mourn the lives of these individuals and extend our sympathies to their families and communities.

“Sex workers are targeted for violence because of the stigma against what we do,” Dylan Wolf, a SWANK member said, “People think they can do whatever they want to us and they won’t get caught. And because of bad laws, social isolation and discrimination, they get away with it all the time. But like those murdered, we’re not disposable, bad people – we have lives that matter and people that love us. No matter who we are or what we do to make ends meet, we don’t deserve to die – we deserve good lives.”

A recent New York Times article suggested that dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the sex industry have been murdered in New York State since 1990. “Stories like what’s happened on Long Island make us fear for our safety,” said SWANK member Michael Bottoms, “As sex workers, we already know that stigma puts us at risk for being targeted, and so we take as many precautions as we can. But if we do experience violence, most of us can’t go to the cops, because we could get arrested, they might not take us seriously, or they could have been the ones who were violent to us in the first place.”

“When we ignore violence against sex workers, we support a culture where a serial killer can murder eight, twelve, or even dozens of sex workers without the media, the police or the general public being outraged or even thinking twice,” said Maryse Mitchell-Brody, a SWOP-NYC organizer, “We won’t end this violence by keeping the sex trade illegal, because it isn’t going anywhere – this just drives people further underground and makes them more vulnerable to violence. Murders like these show that we must use new strategies to create safety and dignity that don’t reinforce stigma or discrimination.”

To learn more about what you can do to support the rights of current and former sex workers and those with experience in the sex trade to safety and well-being, visit www.swop-nyc.org.

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Human Trafficking Program in Chicago

One of my regular readers in the Chicago area forwarded this to me.  SWOP Chicago is involved, and some points we often make are on the agenda so those who will be in Chicago in two weeks may be interested.

THURSDAY April 14
6:30-8:30pm
Human Trafficking: Strategies and Solutions
*Featuring our own Serpent Libertine!

http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/_programsevents/_upcomingevents/_2011/_human%20Trafficking/apr14.html

Human trafficking, for sex, for other forms of labor, or any purpose of involuntary servitude, is an exploitative practice that is prevalent in countries all around the globe, including the United States.

Activists and scholars fervently debate the definition of trafficking, moral distinctions that are often made between labor and sex work, various understandings of victimhood, and questions about the intent and success rate of “rescue operations.” In addition, there are complexities of migration to consider and debates about the relationship between forced labor and the global economy.

Join us for an evening of discussion and education. Scholars and activists working to end trafficking will discuss their strategies and positions. Hull-House history and Jane Addams’ relationship with the movement to end “white slavery” will be highlighted.

Panelists represent the following organizations:
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
The International Organization for Adolescents
National Immigrant Justice Center at the Heartland Alliance
Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago

Kristin Davis May Run for Mayor if Spitzer Enters the Race

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
25 March 2011
press@manhattanmadam.com
Contact: 917-791-0445

EX-MADAM WILL RUN FOR MAYOR IF SPITZER THROWS HIS BLACK SOCKS IN THE RING

To mark the third anniversary of her arrest Ex-Madam Kristin Davis who supplied high priced call girls for former Governor Eliot Spitzer said she will jump in the 2013 New York City Mayor’s Race if the former Governor, now a CNN talk show host makes a bid.

Davis filed 18,000 signatures to get on the ballot last year, participated in the televised debate between Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino last year and got nearly 30,000 votes in the race for Governor running on a libertarian platform.

“If Spitzer throws his black socks in the ring I may have to throw in my lacy brassiere” said Davis who once ran the most successful high end escort service in US history.

“I had pretty much decided to focus on the sex trafficking issue and not to run for public office again,” said Davis. “I am working to take the GOLD program, put forward by an advocacy group in Miami to combat sex trafficking nationwide.” Davis kicked off Hope House, a New York based non profit to fight the conscription of women into prostitution last month.

“The women who worked for me chose to be sex workers,” said Davis. “80% of the women working as escorts are doing so against their will,” said Davis. “Until prostitution is decriminalized we must provide an escape from this life for thousands of young women”.

“Running for Governor was great fun and very educational but I decided to pursue advocacy activity and some entrepreneurial efforts in legal industries,” said the ex Hedge Fund Vice president. “The one thing that could probably get me off the bench is a Mayor candidacy by Eliot Spitzer. I’d have to look at it. The opportunity to expose the inequality in our Justice system may be too great”.

SWOP East Radio on XXBN International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17, 2009 2 PM Eastern Listen to the Show

In honor of International Day to end Violence against Sex Workers Jill Brenneman and Renegade Evolution discuss progress and set backs facing Sex Workers Rights Movements all over the world. From laws to social attitudes, allies to enemies, the personal to the political, a lot of change has happened in the last 365 days, so please join us and feel free to call in at 646.200.3136 regarding this topic.

Presented by SWOP East Nuanced Humanism

Loved Ones Fear Truck Driver May Be Linked To California Missing

CUE Center For Missing Persons
PO Box 12714
Wilmington, NC 28405
Contact:
Monica Caison
(910) 343-1131
(910) 232-1687
cuecenter@aol.com

www.ncmissingpersons.org

For immediate release:
April 23, 2009

Note left behind reveals that a body can be found on the “15”

Wilmington, NC: April Pitzer vanished on June 28, 2004 and despite multiple searchers, public awareness campaigns, national coverage and pleas to the Newberry community; she remains missing. “It has been a long road paved with many tears”, said Gloria Denton, Pitzer’s, mother; “she has two little girls and a family who loves and misses her deeply,” she added. April was last seen in Newberry Springs, California; it is believed she took a ride with a trucker with plans to travel to her mother’s home in Arkansas, but never arrived. April called her grandmother from Arizona while traveling with a truck driver advising her of this information; a note was found in a bathroom stall at a pilot truck stop in Oregon possibly referencing a connection to April Pitzer’s case.

The family of Catherine Marie Lique is very concerned with the media headlines of woman’s remains being located and the recent FBI announcement of a possible serial trucker driver killer; leaving all to wonder if Catherine may have took a ride or trusted someone that she may have not known. At the time of her disappearance it was believed that Catherine was prostituting at area truck stops to support her long term drug addition and was last seen in Barstow/New Berry Spring, California areas.

“Two families brought together for one reason, to help each other search for their missing loved ones”; “something often seen in the world of those who suffer a missing person”, said, CUE founder, Monica Caison. “We will continue to search for these woman and all of our cases for any links to this serial truck driver, it is important to have all missing person cases reviewed at this point” she added. Families who have not had their DNA entered into CODIS should explore that option for a positive identification and to avoid the missing person from becoming a Jane/John Doe somewhere. CODIS is a free resource service offered to law officials across the country for the DNA process and the purpose of identifying missing individuals.

For more information on CODIS
http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/codis/clickmap.htm
DNA.gov: What is CODIS?

Tags: ireport_for_cnn, april beth pitzer, catherine lique, cue center for missing persons, monica caison

In response to assignment: iReport for CNN