End The Demand... for sex?
“End the demand” actions and legislation have increased violence toward sex workers in every country in which it has been implemented. Even that bastion of liberalism, Sweden got it wrong. Yet in New Zealand where prostitution is decriminalized they haven't had a trafficking case since 2003. Even if they could scare the majority of men who would into not seeking paid sexual services, why don’t they seem to care if the women can pay their rent and feed their kids?
In my role as director of the Rhode Island Chapter of Coyote, I attended the “Trafficking Task Force” event in Rhode Island in April 2015.
During the event, a trafficking NGO called Dayoneri publicly admitted that they can not offer emergency housing to trafficking victims and all they can do is try to find the victim a bed in a shelter. During this discussion it was concluded that shelters won't take in juvenile trafficking victims and that sex workers are not welcome at Domestic Violence shelters, because the “other women” are scared of the stigma attached to sex workers. Yet, if my house burns down the Red Cross will put me in a hotel for at least a week; maybe up to a month. In Rhode Island, trafficking victims can not access emergency housing.
The anti-trafficking NGOs are funded to the tune of $686 million a year, and most of that money is wasted, “creating awareness about trafficking”. Many of the board members of these NGOs are making 6 figure salaries and not one of them provides for emergency housing, jobs that pay a living wage, or a higher education without insurmountable debt to these victims. Around the globe, the anti-prostitution advocates spend most of their effort - and dollars - promoting a negative stigma and license to commit violence toward sex workers. Every effort is made to make life more difficult for sex workers.
This was not my first encounter with Dayoneri, as I also confronted them during the screening of the film “A Path Appears” and asked them why they are telling people that there are 300,000 kids being exploited in the US and that the average age of entry into prostitution was just 13 or 14. I had previous explained this to them, yet they were still sticking with the false data, and even had signs with this fake data at the “Trafficking Task Force Event”.
Dayoneri was also suggesting that we train U.S. postal workers to spot residential brothels. Residential brothels are - more likely than not - 2 or 3 women sharing a space to ensure their safety, and that the end result of these "brothels" being identified may be that these women may be charged with trafficking. I wonder if their plan was to teach postal workers to look out for Asian women moving mattresses!
I also pointed out that a 2014 research study in NYC, found almost 300 people that entered into survival sex while minors did so because they could not access shelter and other vital services from the state or federal government. Only 6% of the women in the study felt that they had been exploited and they reported that they taught each other how to find clients safely. More often than not, there is no big bad pimp exploiting sex workers.
The Task Force also included the Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, representatives from the Office of Homeland Security, the Providence Police, and a clinician from Hasbro’s Child Protection Center. Each one of these promoted the "End the Demand" campaign.
Rhode Island instituted this campaign, and within 30 days, a 24 year old escort named Ashley Masi was murdered. I told them that I had just begun interviewing Rhode Island sex workers and that my second interview was with a woman who had survivor's guilt because she had been attacked by a man posing as a client a year before, and she had not reported it. She thought he may be the man who killed Ashley.
I explained my concern that sex workers could not safely report violence to law enforcement without fear of prosecution, and asked what we plan to do about that. Harm reduction policies didn't seem to be on the table. Providence Detective Michael Correia weighed in and said he would provide the victim with witness protection. I doubt the detective can even authorize this without an OK from the prosecutor, and even if granted, would the victim be offered immunity, or would she still be subject to arrest or investigation for being a sex worker? Next, I mentioned how the police are allowed to have sex with prostitutes and then arrest them for prostitution! Detective Correia screamed out, “not true!” We agreed that this is common practice in many states, yet Correria says it NEVER happens in Rhode Island. As if...
I sat there wanting to pull my hair out as I listened to the false claims; Claims of a huge increase in trafficking and underage prostitution. When we look at the data from the Dept. of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation websites, we can see that when looking at ALL prostitution and disorderly conduct arrests for a 30 year period that only 1.8% of those arrests involved minors. In fact, more women were being arrested for prostitution in Rhode Island, prior to 2009, when indoor prostitution was criminalized!