Archive | March, 2012
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Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Inspire Each Other

20 Mar
 Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Inspire Each Other
oscar romero, 9to20blog, survivors connect, human trafficking

"I am in the process of freedom"

 
I found these beautiful words on the blog of another trafficking survivor:
 
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
 In realizing that. This enables us to do something,
 And to do it very well.
 
– Oscar Romero
 
This survivor blogs at http://www.9to20.wordpress.com  I’m so moved by her bio:
 
I’m willing to take the risk if you are– to become uncomfortable. I’m willing …to share with you my story of being sexually trafficked right here in America, if you’re willing to listen. What I do not want however, if for this to be a story of despair– because it’s not. It’s a story of hope. There is a thrasher-filled road of healing ahead of me yes, but I am in the process of freedom. 
 
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Eden Movie, Based on the Life of Trafficking Survivor, Activist & Artist Chong Kim

16 Mar

chong kim, eden movie, jamie chung, south by southwest festival, mcweeny, human trafficking, sex work, prostitution, slavery, Korean, warehouses

I’m over the moon about the movie Eden, based on the life of sister survivor Chong Kim, who’s an activist, writer and artist.   Chong inspires trafficking/prostitution survivors whereever she goes. She received screen credit for her story.  I’m so teary, happy and proud.

Eden, starring Jamie Chung and Beau Bridges,  was a huge hit at the South by Southwest Arts Festival.  It won  the Women’s Director Award and the Narrative Feature Audience Award.  Jamie Chung won a special jury prize for her acting performance.

Here’s an excerpt of a rave review by Drew McWeeney:

I will definitely catch up with it, because I thought her new film, “Eden,” was a strong, simple presentation of a harrowing story, with a great performance from Jamie Chung to ground the whole thing.  Based on the real life of Chong Kim, who gets a co-story credit, “Eden” tells the story of a young Korean girl who works for her parents in their store and who is just starting to experiment with freedom, sneaking out with her friend, smoking cigarettes.  She’s very young, and despite her little white lies, she seems like a fairly innocent girl.

That ends one night when she uses a fake ID to go to a bar where she meets Jesse (Scott Mechlowicz).  She decides to go home with him, and instead ends up abducted, then driven to her new home, a prison-like bunker where she’s kept with other underage prostitutes.  The main face she sees each day belongs to Vaughan (Matt O’Leary), who works for Bob Gault (Beau Bridges), a law-enforcement officer who is running a fairly major network of flesh-peddling on many levels.

Read more here

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We can’t celebrate International Women’s Day until …

10 Mar

survivors connect, prostitution, rebecca mott, international women's day, feminism, women's rights, women's movement, human trafficking

Sister survivor Rebecca Mott has a powerful new post about International Women’s Day up on her blog.  She says she can’t celebrate International Women’s Day until trafficking/prostitution becomes a central issue in the women’s movement, not a sidebar.   She can’t celebrate until survivors are allowed to lead the anti-trafficking movement.   Many of us survivors feel the same.   Here’s an excerpt of her ice clear post:

I cannot celebrate as prostitution and violence inside porn becomes just an appendix to the feminist revolution – or our lives and truths are just viewed as a terrible example, but ignored for it’s too big to deal with.

I cannot celebrate when always voices of amazing exited women are side-lined in the campaign for abolition – our voices are made statistics, made part of some academic book, used as quotes – we are spoken over, spoken through, and spoken around.

I cannot celebrate until the abolitionist movement put the voices and writings of exited women in a leadership role – we are not your token prostitute, we will not be treated like pets.

I cannot celebrate as every day I feel in my gut what is happening in hotels, in flats, on the streets – that so many walk pass and say is normal.

…..

I cannot celebrate when all round images of the prostitutes are just the happy hooker or the dead victim – there is no reality to these images, and they drown out any truths spoken.

I will celebrate IWD – when all prostituted women and girls have complete freedom, are give a voice, and are made fully human.

I cannot celebrate until then.

Read more of this post at Rebecca’s blog.

A Sex Trafficking Survivor’s Letter to Her Younger Self

2 Mar

Stella Marr, my body the city, prostitution, sex work, younger self, trauma, new york, manhattan, columbia university, human trafficking, sex worker, prostitution, sexual exploitation

Dear twenty-year old Stella,

Work hard on learning to ask for help.  It’s the only way you’ll ever  break free.  No one ever does anything alone.  You don’t have to.

You’ll learn how to make the men happy.  The happier they are the nicer they treat you.  You’ll get very good at being a hooker.  But when the Johns say “baby you were born for this” that doesn’t mean its true.

Now when most men come near you  feel a stabbing at your eyes, your throat, and your gut that you know isn’t real.  You don’t want to admit it but you’re terrified.  You start, you tremble.  Your hands shake.  Think about it, you’re being stabbed a lot these days.  This is a quite reasonable reaction to being used by man after man, day after day, in this prison of a brothel.  It doesn’t mean you are so miserably flawed that you can’t do anything but prostitution.

Being sold for sex doesn’t make you subhuman.  It’s not OK for your (white) pimps to smack you and tell you they’ll kill you.

You have to work up the nerve to pay a cashier for a soda.  You’re too scared to ask that guy behind the deli counter to make you a sandwich.   This isn’t weakness, it’s biology.  Trauma changes your brain.    Your hippocampus, where you form narrative memory in the brain, shrinks.  This is a symptom of PTSD —  a neurophysiologic response to repetitive trauma –not evidence that you deserve to be in prostitution.

In the middle of the winter in the middle of the night when that guy in the Doubletree suite invites you to sit while he pours you a seltzer trust your gut and back out of there before the five guys you can’t see who are waiting in the bedroom have a chance to get between you and the door.

Being vulnerable means you’re alive.   There’s no shame in it.  It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.  You don’t have to apologize for doing what you must to survive.

When Samantha tries to stop working for your pimp Johnny.  make her get out of the city.  Otherwise two weeks later Nicole, the madam who works with Johnny,  will show you Samantha’s diamond initial ring and tell you Johnny murdered her.  Though you’ll always hope she was lying, you doubt it.

You’ve lost all sense of the linear — time  disappeared and you felt it leave.  Now you’re living in the immediate and eternity.  It’s scary and bewildering, but you need this — you need each moment to stretch infinitely so that you can be acutely aware of each man’s tiny movements and shifts in expression,  which can reveal a threat before it happens.  This hyperawareness will save your life.  One day you’ll see this being untethered from time as a kind of grace.

When that shiny classical pianist you meet at Au Bon Pain says he wants to know everything about you don’t believe him.

A lot of what’s happening doesn’t make sense now but it will later.  That habit you have of writing poems in your mind to the beloved you haven’t met yet, as you’re riding in cabs to calls?  There’s something to it.

Your ability to perceive beauty is part of your resilience and survival.  When a man is on top of you watch the wind-swirled leaves out his window.  Seize the gusty joy you feel as you run three blocks to a bodega to buy condoms between calls at 3 AM.  When you think for a minute you see that friend,  who’s death you never got over,  standing in the brassy light under a weeping linden, be grateful.  All this has a purpose.

Being in prostitution can seem to mean you’ve lost everything you hoped to be, but that’s not true.  You’ve splintered into a million pieces, but you’re still you. You’re alive.    It’s in the spaces between those pieces where you learn to feel how other people are feeling.  It hurts so much you’re sure it’ll kill you, but it won’t.  Later when you’re out of the life it’ll be so easy to be happy.  The mundane will buoy you.

When your madam sends you to the Parker Meridien at 3 AM and you meet a British professor who says he wants to help you, believe him.  He will set you up in a beautiful condominium across from Lincoln Center that he deeds in your name.  Of course you’ll have everything to do with this — you are so “good” at being a “hooker,: so “good” at fucking that you can make a guy want to buy you a condo.  Shame is a hollow stone in the throat.

During the two years that this voracious man ‘keeps’ you as his private prostitute the condo will come to feel like a platinum trap.  But it’s still your chance to get out and heal. Take it.

After you’ve sold the condominium and are living in a graduate dorm at Columbia University, a man with eyes like blue shattered glass will sit beside you in the cafeteria.  When he begins to speak you know he’s the unmet beloved you’ve been writing poems to all these years.  You’ll try to run away, but he won’t let you.  Fourteen years later the two of you will be hiking through pink granite outcroppings with your Labrador retriever.  You’ll  feel like the freest woman in the world.

One afternoon when you’re twenty-one you’ll be at the Museum of Metropolitan of Art with your best friend Gabriel, who’s a hustler, a male prostitute.  When he says you ‘remind him of his death’, don’t lash back.  Even though he told you the doctor said he didn’t have that rare new virus named AIDS, it would behoove you to realize he’s still coughing.

Stop thinking about your own hurt.  Don’t lash back with that phrase your mother’s said to you so many times  –” I hope you die a slow death.”  Don’t tell Gabriel  you never want to see him again and storm out of the  sculpture gallery.   Or it will be the last time you see him.  Gabriel will die of AIDS five months later.  When he said you reminded him of ‘his own death’ he was trying to tell you he was dying.   You’ll regret what you said for the rest of your life.  But even more you’ll regret running away from his friendship.

Say forgive me.

Say I love you.

Stay connected.

Love,

Stella

P.S.  I’m sure my mom learned to say “I hope you die a slow death” from her dad.

This is a tribute to Cheryl Strayed‘s transcendent letter to her younger self.  Her letter’s form gave me a pitcher that I filled with my life.  A big shout out to Dublin Call Girl who’s thank you letter to punters is already a classic.