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.

Complaint Filed Against Melissa Farley

Dr. Callum Bennachie, from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, filed a complaint with the American Psychology Association asking that they rescind the membership of Melissa Farley.

In the introduction to the complaint, Dr. Bennachie writes:

Over the years, Dr Farley has published a number of papers and documents about sex work, making claims that all sex work is a form of violence against women.  She has used several of her studies to back this up.

In 2008 Dr Farley published the paper What Really Happened in New Zealand after Prostitution was Decriminalized in 2003? on her website critiquing the Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee.  This critique contains several errors of fact that appear to be deliberately designed to mislead people.  Many of the false allegations made by Dr. Farley in this paper have been repeated by her in her efforts to stigmatise sex workers and keep them criminal.  Dr. Farley appears to have read the complete report, but has only reported or critiqued those parts that match her ideology.  In investigating her comments on this paper further, it was discovered that Dr Farley had completed research in New Zealand in 2003 without seeking ethical approval from the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS).  It was also discovered that during the course of this research, she claimed to be able to diagnose sex workers as having post-traumatic stress disorder, despite using a flawed questionnaire, and not doing in depth interviews.

It is noted that Dr Farley has also completed other studies overseas, and investigations this year indicate that she never sought ethical approval, and sought to deliberately deceive the groups who facilitated the research for her.  She has also been cited as an expert witness, yet the testimony given is false or misleading.  Finally, the Canadian courts have found Dr Farley to be a less than reliable witness, finding her evidence “to be problematic”.  For the reasons in the text below, I believe her work is unethical, unbecoming of a psychologist, and is in breach of at least sections 5.01 and 8.10 of the APA’s Code of Ethics, perhaps more.  I believe that because of these breaches, Dr Farley should be removed from the membership of the APA.

You can read the full text of the complaint here.

I applaud Dr. Bennachie for taking this action. I hope something comes from his complaint, and that other medical professionals are finally ready to open their eyes to the sham research Melissa Farley has paraded around for far too long. Furthermore, please let the impressionable future scholars who look up to her see that she offers a solid lesson in what not to do, and does not represent a figure that any respectable academic should aspire to become.

Newsweek Article Bashing Sex Work Clients

I’m surprised this hasn’t been brought up on BNG yet, but many of you may be aware of the Newsweek article titled “The John Next Door” bashing our clients and focused on Melissa Farley’s input.
Though several pages of comments were posted (many of which very critical of the article), only the most recent page of comments now appears, so many excellent comments are no longer visible.
Considering that, I provided a forum on my blog where people can comment along with at link to the article: http://veganvixen1.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/newsweek-article-bashing-sex-work-clients/ .

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.

Trafficking Numerology

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers. –  Plato

The Western mind adores numbers; it finds them impressive and magical, and the less an individual understands about math the more numbers impress him (especially if they’re large numbers).  The quickest way to win the typical modern dullard’s respect is to throw some very large figure at him; in most cases he’ll simply accept it without even thinking about what it really means in terms of human experience.  On my own blog yesterday I mentioned that the trafficking fetishists call their propaganda of “100,000 trafficked girls” in the United States (or “100,000 trafficked children” depending on the writer) a conservative estimate, and claim that 300,000 is closer to the mark.  These numbers are repeated endlessly (including in CNN’s “special report” Selling the Girl Next Door which aired last night) despite the fact that they have no basis in fact whatsoever, and nobody ever bothers to think about what 300,000 girls really means.

The only places in which any hard facts about prostitution can be uncovered are those in which our profession is entirely decriminalized, and there aren’t many of those; luckily, New Zealand took the trouble to study prostitution in depth in order to answer fanatics who predicted disaster when decriminalization was implemented there in 2003.  In a survey done in 2005, researchers found that there were a total of 5932 prostitutes of all levels in New Zealand, of which 210 were underage.  Furthermore, 75% of underage girls were working only on the street, which leaves only about 53 wh0 could be advertising on the internet (but also may not).  In other words, 5722 of New Zealand’s prostitutes – 96.46% – are legal adults.  And given that this is the ONLY methodologically sound study available for any portion of the English-speaking world, it’s the best estimate we have for the United States or ever will have until and unless prostitution is fully decriminalized here and whores can therefore feel safe in answering such surveys.

According to the 2006 census the population of New Zealand was 4,143,279, of whom approximately 2,082,049 were female; active, declared prostitutes (excluding part-timers, party girls, strippers, gold-diggers etc) were 5932 of those women or 0.285%.  Since this jibes very closely with the standard 1% estimate of all women who prostitute themselves to one degree or another it seems very reasonable and we can therefore apply it to the American population as the best estimate we’re likely to get in the lifetime of anyone reading this.  According to the most recent estimates (2009) there are about 155,600,000 women in the United States, which after applying the New Zealand estimate gives us a figure of 443,323 active, declared prostitutes in this country – of which trafficking fetishists wish us to believe about two-thirds are involuntary, “trafficked” underage girls.  In truth, the number (again, by application of the New Zealand estimate) is 15,694, of which 75% (11,770) are only working on the street.  That gives us a rough estimate of 3924 who might be advertised on the internet…a far cry from the “Wal-Mart of sex trafficking” declared by CNN.  Furthermore, not all of these girls are involuntarily involved, which makes the number of “internet sex-slave children” still lower even if we allow the equation of “legal minor” with “child” and “pimped hooker” with “slave”.

I’m sure anyone with half a brain can look at these figures and recognize them as far more realistic than the “300,000” figure touted by the fetishists.  The reason their wild exaggerations aren’t discarded out of hand is that, as I said in the first paragraph, most Americans are unable to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the claims. Of the 155,600,000 American women I mentioned earlier, 17.4% are older than 4 but younger than 18; that’s a total of roughly 27,074,400 school-age girls in the US, of which the media wants you to believe 300,000 – in other words, 1.11% – are held in sexual bondage. According to trafficking fanatics, the percentage of underage girls in “sex slavery” is almost FOUR TIMES the best estimate we have for the total percentage of women of ALL ages involved in any kind of formal prostitution.  And if we only consider the ages most trafficking “authorities” claim as the majority of underage prostitutes (namely 13-17) it’s more like ten times the percentage.

Nobody in his right mind could believe these figures, yet the mainstream media irresponsibly parrots them without question.  I wrote this article, research and all, in about ninety minutes; any reporter could have found the same figures I did from the same online sources, but they don’t bother because inflammatory lies are more interesting to the lowest common denominator than mundane truth.  Ignorance is one thing and willful misrepresentation another; since Amber Lyon of CNN and her cronies on other networks could find the same information I did, I can only conclude they don’t want to find it.  And that places their actions beyond the bounds of mere ratings-seeking hype and into the realm of pure criminal negligence.

Average Age of Entry

We’ve all heard the popular prohibitionist claim that the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13”.  And though we all know that’s rubbish, we’ve never had any kind of figures on what the REAL average age of entry might be…until now.

A friend of mine who is still a working escort recently conducted a poll of 100 escorts who frequent a message board of which she is a member.  She asked at what age they started the trade, and her results were as follows:

Younger than 15: 3%
15-17: 11%
18-20: 13%
21-23: 18%
24-26: 16%
27-29: 10%
30-32: 10%
Older than 32: 19%

She polled the “older than 32” respondents separately and the average age for that category was 42; she estimated the average for the “under 15” category at 13.  Given these figures, the average age of entry into prostitution for American escorts is 26.46.

It’s difficult to know what percentage of all American prostitutes are escorts, but I would suspect 60% is a good guesstimate; the National Taskforce on Prostitution estimates about 15% are streetwalkers, so that allows 25% in brothels and massage parlors.  Estimating the average age of streetwalkers is tricky; I’m going to be really generous and pretend that HALF of all streetwalkers are underage.  Now, by all reasonable estimates that’s much higher than the reality but I want to err on the side of caution.  Let’s presume adult streetwalkers enter at roughly the same times as escorts (average 26); what’s the average for underage girls?  Well, guess what; it still isn’t 13 even for them.  As explained in this analysis, it’s about 16.  If we average the two figures (26 for adult streetwalkers and 16 for underage) we arrive at an average streetwalker entry age of 21, a far cry from 13 even if we assume HALF of streetwalkers are underage!  We have no stats on brothel or massage girls, so again I’m going to be incredibly generous to the liars and fanatics and estimate that the average for that group is the same as among streetwalkers, namely 21.

So let’s crunch the numbers:  if 60% start at an average age of 26 and 40% at an average age of 21, the average age at which American prostitutes enter the profession is 24, which I think everyone can agree is safely into the adult range.   Obviously, this is a rough estimate, but it’s a lot closer to reality than that ridiculous “13” figure; maybe if we all start spreading these figures around we can combat some of the misinformation, at least in the minds of those who are willing to listen.

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)

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

Outdoor “street” work question answered.

I get asked a lot about street work, or as I like to call it Outdoor work.  These are my experiences and understanding, and may not be the same as someone else’s.

Briefly my experiences:  I’ve worked outdoors for a while, once while homeless, and more recently I’ve worked in front of grocery stores and the like.  I have done the ‘stroll’ type work, but only in small cities and towns, never in larger cities like LA or SF.

Experiences in larger cities, I can only speculate on, or share from friends/family that have done that type of work.  Also, I’m trans* not cisgendered, and that makes a difference in experiences as well.  I’m not trying to say these conclusions or thoughts below are always correct, but that from my perspective at this time, they seem correct.  My goal is only to help people realize that:

1) Not all outdoor work is unsafe (and that you can do any work safely)

2) It’s not like the stereotypical 3am drug addicted street walker who spends their entire career trying to avoid rape and get high, while avoiding physical abuse from their pimp, like in the movies.

YAY! On to the show and tell then:

Outdoor or (street) work is a very WIDE and BROAD subject, just like indoor work is.  People just assume the worst whenever I speak of outdoor work.
First, while 3AM walking the street in the worst neighborhoods does happen, it’s not as common in street or ‘outdoor’ work as one might think. (it’s much more common in BIG cities), but in smaller cities and towns it’s much less common.  (I’ve only worked in smaller towns and cities).
So, in outdoor work, there is homeless work, where you are always working, and your clientele is of the lower income variety.  (I’ve done this work), it’s mostly a lot of trade for sex work, and not a lot of actual cash.
Another type of work is opportunity work, i.e. someone hits on you while you are out doing your normal routine.  Most every woman has had the beginnings of this experience but few turn it into an opportunity to make money.
Another type is daytime work.  This can be waiting where people tend to congregate. Malls, grocery stores, big chain stores, stuff like that.  (I like grocery stores myself).  Obviously this is only valid during the day, and evening.  Trying to work from these places at 3AM is pointless as there is no foot traffic.
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of the varied outdoor work environments.
As for safety, some types of outdoor work can be unsafe, especially if you don’t know your fellow workers.  But to last out there you form relationships with as many as you can, and try to create a safe situation for yourself and others. Also the other difference is you get to look the client in the eyes, well before you agree to anything.  (unlike with indoor work)  All types of work require a ‘screening’ as we call it. Where we check the client over and get a feel for them as a person.  Some people do this better in person, and may be better situated for outdoor work, vs people doing this via email or telephone.  So
I wouldn’t say that it’s a LOT less safe, I would just say it’s a different type of safety.
For me, I love being outside, and would spend time out there anyway, so if there is an easy way to make a few dollars while hanging out outside, why shouldn’t I take the opportunity?

I’ll just wrap up and say one more thing about outdoor work (but also important in any work), boundaries are crazy important.  Think about and set hard firm boundaries of what you are willing and not willing to do.  Your boundaries WILL get tested, and you WILL get asked crazy ridiculous things.   Will you do Anal? Will  you do blowjobs? Condoms? Fluid Barriers for blowjobs or facials? These questions are the tip of the iceberg.

If you have experience (directly or indirectly) I’d love your thoughts and comments on what outdoor work is like for you.  I think the better we can share our experiences, the more people will come to think of street or outdoor work as not something ‘BAD’, but just different.

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

New Report Examines the Use of Raids to Fight Trafficking in Persons

On Friday, January 9th, The Sex Workers Project, at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, released a new report, Kicking Down the Door, that analyzes the use of “rescue” raids in the fight against human trafficking.

The report “summarizes findings from interviews with 46 people with experience of such raids, including service providers who have worked with hundreds of trafficking victims, law enforcement personnel, and 15 immigrant women who have been trafficked,” and “concludes that so-called “rescue” raids are not an effective way to stop trafficking in persons and in fact can be counter-productive.”

From PlanetWire.org:

WASHINGTON DC, Jan. 9 – Law enforcement raids designed to rescue victims of human trafficking may do more harm than good for the victims and are ineffective or even counter-productive in curbing the practice, a coalition of advocates for sex workers said today. They urged President-elect Obama to adopt a rights-based approach to the problem.

The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, a New York-based coalition of service providers, researchers, advocates, donors and sex workers, released a report analyzing the experiences of 46 people involved in such raids during 2007 and 2008.

“The findings suggest that vice raids are an ineffective means of locating and identifying trafficked persons,” said Dr. Melissa Ditmore, primary author of the study, during an audio news conference announcing the release. “They are often accompanied by violations of human rights of the trafficked persons and sex workers and are therefore counterproductive to their own goals.”

Kicking Down the Door concludes with a lengthy list of recommendations for the US government, law enforcement personnel, and service providers. For some of us, these recommendations are common sense, but most of us also know that common sense isn’t really the cornerstone of policies involving sex work.

The Sex Workers Project (SWP) provides legal services and legal training, and engages in documentation and policy advocacy, for sex workers. Using a harm reduction and human rights model, we protect the rights and safety of sex workers who by choice, circumstance, or coercion remain in the industry. They released two previous reports, Revolving Door and Behind Closed Doors, which examined street-based sex work and indoor sex work in New York City, respectively.

Again with the fourteen year olds.

A rather typical story about the “rise” of prostitution (this time, in Hawaii) quotes without comment the following two statistics:

Here are a few more statistics on prostitution from the FBI:

  • The FBI states the average age of entry into prostitution is 14-years-old.
  • The average life expectancy of a prostitute is 5 to 7 years.

This thing about fourteen being the “average” age of entry into prostitution has been showing up even more lately. Can anyone find an original citation for the stat?

(I’ve added a Bust Tracker to the right sidebar here at Bound, not Gagged. When we find news stories about busts or increases in policing, we’ll be adding them there first. You can subscribe to the RSS feed of our Bust Tracker here.)

Move Along

Last week, I was reading over “Move Along: Policing Sex Work in Washington, D.C.”. I expected to find a post about the report up on BnG, but alas, there has been no mention as far as I can tell. And that’s a shame.

Released on May 1, 2008, the study is “the product of a year-long community based research project.” “The project is the result of work by representatives of communities affected by policing in the District including sex workers, transgender people, and immigrants.”

Key findings in the study include:

Survey respondents who had interactions with police reported negative experiences six times more often than positive experiences during those interactions and when locked up. These experiences included confiscation of condoms and other safe sex supplies by police, assault, strip search, being asked to provide sexual favors to the police, verbal abuse, discrimination and false arrest because officers profiled the person as a prostitute, and anti-immigrant discrimination.

Latinos, transgender people and youth and young adults were disproportionately subjected to police mistreatment and abuse “They attacked me instead of helping me,” said a young Latina transgender woman when describing the police reaction when she called for help after being sexually assaulted.

Communities affected by policing of prostitution want to see the District change its approach to the issue of commercial sex, including considering stopping prostitution-related arrests, holding police accountable for abuse, changing prostitution laws, increasing resources for services, and supporting sex workers and others to organize to defend their human rights.

To read more, you can view the Executive Summary and the full report
on the Different Avenues website. (Both documents are in pdf format.) The Executive Summary concludes with a list of Key Recommendations that BnG readers will appreciate!

Symposium: “The Sexualization of Childhood”, Featuring Our Favorite Researcher

Point Park University Presents:
The Eighth Annual Childhood and Society Symposium

The Sexualization of Childhood, June 13 – 14, Pittsburgh 

Co-Sponsored by A Home Within 
Up to 8 Continuing Education Units for Psychologists 

Featuring Nationally Renowned Childhood Experts:                
              
Sharon Cooper               
Gail Dines               
Matt Ezzell               
Melissa Farley               
Diane Levin               
Susan Linn               
Sharna Olfman               
Sandra Steingraber               
Carolyn West

This symposium will address: 

• How boys' & girls' gender & sexual development is impacted by our sexualized culture
• Sexual exploitation of children through internet crimes and prostitution
• The dramatic rise in the production and consumption of child pornography
• The exploitation of black adolescent girls through rap music and hip hop culture
• The falling age of puberty in girls as a result of toxic chemical exposures
• What professionals, policy makers and parents can do to make a difference

The Childhood Abuse Myth

According to this highly informal survey of women coming to this site (about Internet dating), more than half have been molested as a child. Does this mean they’re all sex workers? According to popular myth, they should be. I’m guessing most aren’t.

This survey only means that women — as a group — suffer childhood sexual abuse. Since the majority of sex workers seem to be women, it stands to reason that many have abuse in their past too, just like any other woman. But it doesn’t mean only sex workers have such a history. If this casual, anonymous survey is to be believed, a lot of non-sex workers share the same history.

Obviously abuse does not have to lead to sex work.

Thanks to Chris and Elizabeth at SITPS for hosting a very interesting forum!

sex work forum banner

 

Summary Statement, Special Forum on Sex Work, Trafficking and Human Rights

With the participation of over a dozen prominent sex worker advocates, researchers and writers, we’ve had a very productive week! If you’re into numbers, during the forum we had about 4,000 visits from nearly 3,500 unique visitors for a total of nearly 10,500 page views. While the forum officially ends today, the forum topics will remain on the site and active so we can continue the conversations as we like.

The forum addressed a range of topics from labor rights to immigration, and from variations in individual experiences in sex work to the way that consumers in the sex industry are understood. We think that the following are some of the most important points to emerge from the discussions:

  • Sex work must be destigmatized and ultimately decriminalized in order to protect sex workers, their clients, and their communities.
  • Negative attitudes toward sexual freedom itself are part of the problem and need to be addressed at the individual and cultural levels.
  • Sex work meets the economic needs of the people who perform it and meets social, sexual, educational, and emotional needs of those who consume it. The problems with sex work lie not in the work itself but in the cultural stigma surrounding it, and in the exploitive economic systems that sex work, along with most work, is performed.
  • There is a huge divergence between the reality of “human trafficking” and the portrayal of it by media and political figures. This divergence includes hugely inflated numbers based on studies with flawed methodology; an over-emphasis on “sex slavery” at the expense of more common labor exploitation, like manufacturing of consumer goods and domestic help; and a paternalistic view of sex workers and migrant workers in general as the “other.”
  • U.S. anti-trafficking policies actually make it harder to find and help real victims because resources are diverted to antiprostitution efforts, which do not help the majority of real trafficking victims. Those efforts also interfere with public health projects in other countries by refusing USAID money to any group that does not actively work against prostitution.
  • Human trafficking needs to be understood in the context of international (and intra-national) labor migration patterns and in the context of global inequality. Much of what we call trafficking begins as voluntary migration from one economically depressed area to a less depressed area. Barriers to legal migration make those workers vulnerable to other human rights abuses.
  • Politicians and media personalities scapegoat sex workers and their clients in such a way as to direct attention away from larger social and economic problems like poverty, consumer culture, racism, sexism, and the growing gap between the wealthy and everybody else.
  • Sex workers are not a homogeneous group and they should not be treated as one.
  • Research that relies on poor methodology needs to be publicly criticized. Policy should be directed by reliable, valid research.
  • Academic researchers, activists, sex workers, and consumers need to talk to each other and listen to each other. And policy makers need to listen to all of them!

Survey: Sex Workers and Law Enforcement

I’m simply passing this along:

The Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) of the Open Society Institute’s Public Health Program is dedicated to improving the health and protecting the rights of people who are stigmatized because of their sexual practices, real or perceived sexual orientation, and/ or gender identity. SHARP works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers, particularly to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS, by increasing access to equitable health and social care services and promoting laws, policies and practices that bring an end to discrimination and abuse.

Due to extreme marginalization and criminalization in many societies, sex workers are unable to access basic health and education services for fear of punishment, and are limited in their freedom of movement. These barriers have led to increased health risks for and human rights violations against sex workers worldwide. Stronger and more positive relationships with law enforcement may help reduce these barriers and allow sex workers to more fully realize their rights and protect their health. Examining programs and interventions used around the world to address law enforcement-sex worker relations will allow for the development of a list of effective strategies and lessons learned which can guide existing programs and help build new ones.

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SAVE THE DATE: The 2008 Sex Worker Convergence is hitting Chi-Town!

On July 16-20 of 2008, hundreds of sex workers and sex worker activists will converge on Chicago at the Desiree Alliance Conference:

“Pulling Back the Sheets: Sex, Work, and Social Justice”

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. They provide leadership development and create space for sex workers and supporters to come together to advocate for human, labor and civil rights for all workers in the sex industry.

The time is NOW to get active in the movement, so go to the Desiree Alliance site and click on the link to join the yahoo group!

You will receive a monthly update or two as Desiree Alliance starts to collect “calls for presentations” (got something to say?), registration for the conference, and general updates about the national movement of sex workers and the 2008 Desiree Alliance Conference.

Thinking about sharing an abstract, workshop, or training at the 2008 conference? Got something to share with other sex workers? Wanna learn new skills in both sex work and sex work activism? Just want to hang out with hundreds of radical hookers? Join the Group!

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act Sign-on Letter to Senate 1/23/08

Dear Chairman Leahy, Chairman Biden, Ranking Member Specter, Ranking Member Lugar and Ranking Member Brownback,

The undersigned anti-trafficking service providers, advocates, scholars, civil and human rights lawyers and other individuals are writing in support of your leadership in the development of a strong bill reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). We are pleased with the majority of the House bill, H.R. 3887, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007. However, we are extremely concerned that several provisions will lead to harmful unintended consequences. We urge you to consider these concerns as you craft the Senate reauthorization bill.

The collective expertise and experience of the signatories to this letter is notable. Many of us have assisted trafficked persons with their legal, social, psychological and family issues; worked on issues of violence against women, participated in the development of the TVPA as well as the UN Trafficking Protocol; written extensively about trafficking and related issues; and opposed slavery and forced labor in all forms within the United States and abroad. As such, we share a profound concern about the desperate situation of immigrants and citizens who are trafficked into and within the U.S. We know that you also have the same concerns and so we would like to share the following thoughts about certain provisions in H.R. 3887.

Please view the attached PDF for the full text and list of signatories: tvpra-senate-letter-1-23-08.pdf