Tag Archives: trafficking

The Anti-trafficking Movement Needs Survivor Voices: Why Are We Ignored?

2 Apr

human trafficking, slavery, prostitution, sex work, survivors connect, stella marr, sex industry, feminism, ptsd, trauma

My sister survivor Holly Austin Smith has a great new post on her blog, titled The Importance of the Survivor Voice.  She discusses an issue that’s central to most  of us:  Why aren’t more survivors being uplifted to lead the anti-trafficking movement?  Sister  survivor Rachel Lloyd is a splendid exception to this rule, as are  Vednita Carter and Kristy Childs.  But so many of us our ignored and discarded after we’ve been used by anti-trafficking organizations once or twice to tell our story.  No one knows more about the sex industry and human trafficking than we do.  No one knows more about recovery from trafficking/prostitution than us.  The absence of  survivor leaders  in most  major anti-trafficking organizations creates a hole in the movement.   Much more would accomplished much faster if we were given the chance to lead.  Because so few of us are empowered to lead,  so much time is wasted — so much knowledge and insight lost.

What’s especially troubling is that even when survivors find ways to lead on our own we’re ignored or talked through.  Our Canadian sister survivors in the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, Educating Voices, LaCLES, and SexTrade101  have been valiantly educating the public about the harms of the Bedford ruling — which upholds the criminalization of prostitutes on the street — who are crime victims– while it empowers and legitimizes their predators, the male and female pimps and traffickers who own brothels and escort services.  While some of the major anti-trafficking organizations have commented on the ruling or written documents concerning its issues, there’s been precious little support and acknowledgement of the brave work of these Canadian survivors.

The 34 members of Survivors Connect recently voted to issue a statement of support for our Canadian sisters against the Bedford decision.  34 prostitution/trafficking survivors joining our voices  in political action is a big deal.  It was a historic moment, and marked a big change in how survivors participate in the movement.  But there was no response by the big anti-trafficking organizations.  A  few wonderful women within these large anti-trafficking organizations  have reached out to me — there are great people in these groups, of course.  But in general survivors are ignored, not uplifted.

What can survivors do about this situation?  What we’ve been through in the sex industry unites us.  We must remember our voices are powerful, form survivors groups where there are none, and join existing survivor groups.  Sometimes nonprofit organizations become competitive and don’t work together.  We can’t afford this.  It’s important that our different survivor groups work and flow together as one so that our voices aren’t fragmented.

Survivors Connect is an international online leaderless network.  We already have 34 survivor members, and we’ve only been around for two months.  We joyfully welcome new sister survivor members. Here’s how to join us.

In response to the need for survivors’ voices,  Holly Austin Smith has started a speaker’s bureau called Survivor Strong.  Here’s an excerpt from her brilliant post on the subject:

 I am in touch with survivors from around the world: new survivors, empowered survivors, educated survivors, struggling survivors, and scared survivors.  We unite under these umbrella organizations to offer each other support, guidance, and empathy and to work together on survivor-inspired projects.

There is a particular topic which has been surfacing lately on many of these forums and that is the lack of survivor invitations to participate in local and national conferences, symposiums, workshops, etc.  Often, survivors are requested to recount the details of their testimonies, and then they are excused from further participation.  This is baffling to me.  If there is to be a discussion regarding the prevention of human trafficking and the protection of survivors, shouldn’t there be a survivor’s perspective present?

Please realize I recognize that many organizations involved in such events are survivor-informed; however, I still believe that empowered survivors whom are able to attend the event should be invited to participate.  What better way to convey to new survivors that their futures hold promise but by providing a place and by lifting the voices of survivors who are ready to come forward?

Read more.

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Aside

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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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.

How a Call Girl Feels When She’s “Reviewed” Online

17 Feb

human trafficking prostitution dublin call girl sex work sex positive feminism

My friend and colleague Dublin Call Girl has a blazingly honest new post up on her blog.  It’s about how she felt when Johns/punters reviewed her online.  This is a revolting practice where online “escort” sites encourage the men to post reviews of each  girl after they’ve used her.  It’s not new.  Even before the internet there used to be creepy “adult entertainment” news sheets (kind of like today’s backpage) where men wrote these sorts of reviews.  But the internet has increased the impact of this dehumanizing practice on prostitutedwomen’s lives.  Here’s an excerpt:

This is another review, from someone else, that worries me. This is hardly unique, it took me two seconds to find, there are hundreds of this type (and worse) of review. This is the really sinister side of reviews. Men will visit a girl who clearly, and the men admit this quite openly, doesn’t want to be there, is unhappy, is reluctant. And they review her anyway. They review her in such a way that completely and cleverly avoids any consideration for her, or why she is ‘lifeless’ or why she is ‘mechanical’ or whatever else. Instead of wondering why and how the girl is in this position of unwillingly having sex for money, they are pissed off, indignant about their wasted money. This is what paying does; it takes the responsibility out of the punter’s hands. It takes the human out of both sides.

DURATION:

45 Minutes

COST:

€180

REVIEW:

First I chose Vicky based on her pics and Favourites. I fancied a bit of (A).   Location was easy to find and excellent directions given.When the door opened there stood a pretty young lady but not in my opinion the girl in the Photo’s.Smaller not as slim but nice none the less.Then It started to go down hill. Paid the €180 (20) for A.Guess what she diden’t want to do A. “i don’t like” was what i got.Got down to biz anyway but there was no life in this girl at all.  I’m more French than she is. East European at a guess.

Got a bit of OWO but she kept stopping to wipe yer man with a piece ofKitchen paper. Sex was like riding an ironing board.

Kissing was OK but she kept turning away most times i tried to kiss her.

This girl just was not into it no matter how hard i tried. Got more entertainment from the radio on in the backround.

Half way through round 2 she announced that time was up. Paid for an hour and was in and out in 45mins.

Waste of time and money which is a bummer when you save for ages for this and don’t get the chance to punt very often.

Trapped Indoors: Survivor Interview in the Irish Examiner

15 Feb

prostitution survivor trafficking interview irish examiner sex work feminism women rants

There’s an extremely important interview with a trafficking/prostitution survivor in the Irish Examiner.  So many of my experiences mirror what this eloquent, brave woman describes. Here’s an excerpt

“Under Irish law, the abusive nature of prostitution has been allowed to  flourish unhindered and it is a living hell for the women struggling to survive  within it. It is primarily for the sake of these women, but also for all of us  who want to live in a gender-equal society, that I am gladdened to see the Irish  Government finally pledge to tackle this issue.

“I only hope that they  go the right way about it, which is to criminalise the purchase of sex, because  nothing will change for prostituted women and girls until the commercialisation  of female bodies is dealt the hammer-blow it so richly deserves.

“To  those who would say legalisation would make prostitution safer: I think the same  thing any former prostitute I’ve ever spoken to thinks, which is that you may as  well legalise rape and battery to try to make them safer. You cannot legislate  away the dehumanising, degrading trauma of prostitution, and if you try to, you  are accepting a separate class of women should exist who have no access to the  human rights everyone else takes for granted.”

Read more.

Reclaiming a Space For a Voice

7 Feb

stellamarr:

Piercing words on prostitution by the great Rebecca Mott:

Originally posted on Rebecca Mott:

There are expressions that I use and is used commonly by abolitionists, that make many uncomfortable. For me, it is interesting that words that defined our reality, are the words that are so often written out.

I use words with care and with the knowledge that language can and does shock others out of complacency.

For that reason, I think expressions such as “prostituted woman or girl”, “sex trade”, “profiteers” and “torture” are vital to set the terms of why I and many abolitionists.

Prostituted women or girl is a vital expression to place who and what the role is that these women and girls are made by the sex trade.

To be prostituted is to be made sub-human, it is to be moulded to fit what the profiteers and consumers of the sex trade want and need her to be.

It not that she is a victim – rather she made to be…

View original 737 more words

You might kill me

7 Feb

I pity you

though you might kill me

 

I am a piano and the keys

at my crotch are seaglass

Worn away by pound

by touch

 

Manhattan makes wraiths

of women like me

At 4 AM this January morning

 

I’ve searched the interstellar dark

even though I’ve heard

Once torn away

like lost summer nights

Time won’t come back.

 

Time lived between my legs

Till they ripped Time out,

leaving me

Only the Immediate

and Eternity

 

In August the wanting sex

from stoop-sitting boys

pulses rhythmic as traffic

Hyacinth kisses shiver in thick

shadows behind their knees

 

Now Ice rusts their throats

 

How many voices are impaled on the

razorwire strangling vacant lots?

 

How many murdered girls cry out

from the park’s dark clarinet?

 

These nights I walk through ice,

dragging sleep meant for men impaled

by the view out their window

Men drowned in constellations

shot dead as they fled the sky

 

Tongues wait in the

fire escape shadows

Torn out like Time

they’ll never speak

 

I am a piano and the

keys at my crotch

are sidewalks

jellyfished with brine

 

I knock hoping you won’t open

but if you do I hope you won’t

see the murdered clarinets

in the dark behind my teeth

 

You’re wearing the thick terry robe

barely tied

Your room moisturized with the luxury

of a gardenia holding absence

 

You give me your fear and

your voice’s glass dust

in a box

You will make me  open carefully

 

I can tell by your eyes

you’ve seen the vacant buildings’

toothless mouths

 

I can tell by the tense of your lips

you’ve heard the murdered girls cry

As vacuumous cold

hides thick within your cheeks

 

The dullness at the windows

is all that remains

of the flypaper that once wrapped you,

That you can’t rinse away

from your sleep

 

I am a mirror that wants to incarnate

All  the tenderness

We’ve never found before it smashes

 

The closer you come the more

Space inside me explodes

against my throat

 

You live in my thighs and aching fingers

a skyscraper of  lack

I rub serpentines into your shoulders

You rub money into my hips

Your pubic hair sticks to my cheek

 

Pinning me to the mattress

Is how you refuse to use a condom

 

This darkness is not as light to us

though sometimes

I see light bubbling

from my breath

During my dives

in the Night underneath you

 

Fling me across the bed

in rips of shipwrecked sail

Till I cling in curling seaweed at your feet

 

I Implore you

 

Throw me back into the Oceanic night

Which is my only Freedom from you

 

Where I wait for  the first

panted breaths between stars

And gulp cold-throated rain

 

This is a sketch of what it feels like to be trafficked in prostitution in Manhattan