Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Increased Policing of Sex Workers

Law enforcement at the federal, state and local level are working together on surveillance, sweeps and campaigns aimed at ending the sex trade. This hostile environment is fueled by abolitionists, anti-trafficking NGO’s and some feminists who push for tough-on-crime legislation and more crackdowns.  The result, according to activists, of harsh criminalization is primarily women of color, immigrants and transgender women are either arrested or forced into mandatory diversion programs.  With no focus on sex worker rights aggressive stings are increasing, discriminatory business practices are occurring, and on-line communities have been shut down.

While the Super Bowl sex trafficking hype is unfounded - reporters, politicians and law enforcement use it repeatedly as an excuse to increase anti-prostitution policing. “This is New York City and there is no shortage of offenders and with this event [Super Bowl] we are ramping up resources," said NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale, the vice department’s enforcement coordinator.

The increase in anti-sex work policing for this year’s Super Bowl resulted in hundreds of adult sex workers being arrested. The NYPD announced that there were 298 prostitution-related arrests through Jan. 26. In a separate operation, the FBI announced that they partnered with 50 law enforcement agencies to identify 16 minors, however they did not confirm how many of the 70 teens and adult sex workers had been arrested.

In June, the FBI conducted its annual nationwide prostitution sweep known as Operation Cross Country. Over 500 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,  an estimated 10,000 officers,  were involved in the week-long sting that identified 168 minors and arrested 281 pimps on various state and federal charges   primarily prostitution related.  According to social justice activist Emi Koyama, there were at least 1,000 sex workers who may have been arrested during this sweep. Arrested youth and adults face violent arrests, possible mandatory minimums, felony charges, loss of parental rights and deportation.

People in the sex industry face daily discrimination and have little or no legal basis to complain leading to more exploitation. A recent example is the termination of the bank accounts of hundreds of adult entertainers, stripping workers of their financial rights. 
 This past Monday, porn star Teagan Presley arrived home in Las Vegas from yet another whirlwind strip club appearance tour and found a letter from her bank.
Chase was closing her account, which was listed under her legal name, as well as the account of her husband.
When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered “high risk.” 
Some individuals, journalists, and civil rights organizations  believe the DOJ is telling banks to be cops as part of their anti-fraud initiative,  Operation Choke Point.  This initiative, launched in 2013, was supposed investigate banks and businesses that may be considered "high risk" for fraud. Chase denies that the shutting down of these accounts is related to the operation, but there’s evidence that suggests this is a continuation of years of discrimination against poor people and minorities. After just one year, the operation is being referred to as the stop-and-frisk for banks.
“We want no Gestapo or Secret Police,” Truman wrote in his diary, “FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail.”
The FBI’s Operation Cross Country raid peaked with the announcement of the seizure and shut down of SFRedbook.com, MyPinkBook.com, or MyRedBook.com. The FBI’s press release indicates the site was shut down because it was being used to facilitate prostitution and money laundering, while CNN ran a headline that tied the website to the national anti-prostitution sting.  Under the guise of fighting child sex trafficking, prostitution and money laundering, the FBI and IRS shut down has put sex worker's health at risk and done nothing to end exploitation.

MyRedBook has a long history of sex worker solidarity and provides a critical connection for thousands of sex workers including isolated and marginalized people. The community website functioned as a forum to offer advice and support, develop best practices, and was a way to conduct business safely.
"It's like sex workers lost their Yelp," said Bay Area sex worker and activist Siouxsie Q.
Meg Munoz told VICE that MyRedBook was “a huge asset when it came to survivors we knew and were following. It was actually a huge asset in helping us work with a survivor to set up an emergency relocation."
The FBI’s actions have some in the high-tech community wondering why the federal government is targeting sex workers and ignoring the First Amendment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will be monitoring the case closely; and they've archived prostitution lawsforums, and have provided a sex worker anonymity and privacy guide.

The over-policing of the sex industry is a misguided effort that pushes the most marginalized populations further underground. Criminalization creates a hostile environment for sex workers – it pushes sex workers into an unsafe work environment where they’re unable to screen clients, demand protection or report crimes. To create change, a focus on sex worker rights, gender rights, health policy and decriminalization of drugs and prostitution is essential. Decriminalization is the first step to protecting the safety and rights of sex workers by ensuring that they have full access to health, safety and human rights.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How End Demand Initiatives Increase The Rate of Prostitution Arrests

NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News


End demand stings show no sign of slowing and are being used to justify continued stings.

Henrico police stated that prostitution arrests rose to 75 last year - compared to only 4 arrests in 10 years prior.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guest Columnist: Carol Fenton on Sex Trafficking's Myths

Maggie McNeill invited me to write a blog post for the Honest Courtesan last March. This is a re-posting of it. 
I and others have often written about the origin of “sex trafficking” mythology in evangelical Christian theology, and many of the largest “anti-trafficking” NGOs have strong ties to anti-abortion and anti-gay groups.  Shared Hope International is one of those organizations, and its founder Linda Smith has been involved in anti-sex causes for three decades.  Since they are based in Washington state I asked Portland, Oregon-based activist Carol Fenton to give us a short introduction to Smith and Shared Hope…
Linda SmithLinda Smith boldly proclaims that the same beliefs that guide her anti-abortion and anti-gay politics are the same values that pilot her domestic minor sex trafficking efforts.  “I started as a pro-life activist,” she says; “The children I serve today are children of God, labeled, stripped of justice, denied life in many cases…[I use] many of the same arguments that I used fighting for the unborn for many years.”  Smith gained notoriety for her staunchly conservative views from the very beginning of her political career in Washington State in 1983, and she landed in the House of Representatives with support from the Christian Coalitionand “Linda’s Army”, a grassroots write-in campaign.  While in office, she worked to advance a fundamentalist agenda, formed relationships with Christian conservatives, and networked with a growing Evangelical base to promote her ideology.  After two terms in Congress, Smith started Shared Hope International, which she considers her ministry. Smith revealed, “My titles and political connections have opened doors for me around the world that wouldn’t have opened otherwise.”  In 2001, Smith kicked off the War Against Trafficking Alliance in conjunction with The Salvation Army, the International Justice Mission, and the Protection Project (founded by Laura Lederer, a Bush administration advisor and anti-pornography activist).  Along with Smith, the alliance worked to brand and sell anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking training as a human rights cause.
As the trafficking crusade continued to gain traction, funding began to pour into known “rescue” organizations including WATA, for which Smith obtained $1.8 million dollars for a global anti-trafficking conference in February of 2003.  During the first four years of the Bush administration, $300 million was awarded to anti-trafficking work, including Shared Hope International. With grants from the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Smith and SHI first released the DEMAND report in 2007, followed in 2009 by the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children, and in 2011 by the annual state report cards.  With DOJ funding, Smith and her team have gone undercover to obtain and create their own brand of “research” on the commercial sex industry.  The result is SHI’s Protected Innocence Challenge, a joint analysis done by SHI and the American Center for Law and Justice (founded by evangelical minister Pat Robertson).  In 2011, Smith promoted SHI’s state report cards and legislative framework to attendees at the Values Voters Summit in a breakout session entitled “Saving America’s Children From Pimps And Perverts: The Protected Innocence Initiative”.  The following year, while addressing a small crowd during one of the2012 Value Voters breakout sessions, Smith said that efforts to stop the sale and trade of minors in the sex industry should be an extension of the “pro-life” cause.  “Believers and conservatives should put this issue [domestic minor sex trafficking] in its proper position,” and not treat it as tangential.
But Shared Hope International’s authority and influence extends far beyond Smith’s base. In 2009, with DOJ funding, SHI developed and released Intervene training for “identifying and responding to America’s prostituted children”. The curriculum is marketed as a tool that builds awareness in social agency workers and those who are in contact with children and youth who may be at risk.  Whenever this training takes place, local reporters refer to anti-trafficking panelists as “experts”, say that training will create a bridge between social services and law enforcement, and claim that people can learn how to identify human trafficking and strengthen their state laws.
sleazy Shared Hope billboardTo gain continued political support for this issue, an integral part of each report is sensationalistic storytelling and stereotyping.  In Oregon, Shared Hope International advocates use fear-based stories and anecdotal evidenceto implement new legislation that is focused solely on domestic minor girls.  Joel Shapiro, a lobbyist with SHI, says “going after pimps and johns” is more difficult because the illicit business has gone from the streets to online.  Yet, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall views the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) as a high priority, the Sexual Assault Resource Team has five full-time staff members that respond exclusively to CSEC cases, and the Multnomah County DA formed a Human Trafficking  Team and is using additional funds to pay for another CSEC prosecutor; with this team in place Oregon is already 5th in the nation for CSEC prosecutions.  None of this is based in anything resembling sound research and data, a fact which the abolitionists themselves admit in statements buried deep with the hysteria:
The U.S. State Department Office of Accountability found gaps in data, numerical discrepancies, methodological weaknesses, and no coordinated strategy or way to gauge results, yet funding and resources keep being thrown at these false claims.  It’s past time for officials who are truly concerned about exploitation to distance themselves from agenda-driven ideologues like Smith and start addressing the push factors, listening to key populations, and focusing on evidence-based harm reduction and anti-criminalization efforts which create healthy and safe communities for everyone.
Additional Sources:
Shared Hope International Website:
The explosive DEMAND. report and video documentary uses undercover investigation to reveal the sophisticated business model behind sex trafficking and tourism in Jamaica, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States.
Acknowledgements section of Protected Innocence Legislative Framework:
The original legal analysis of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that laid the foundation for the Protected Innocence Legislative Framework application and resulting Protected Innocence Challenge Report Cards was accomplished through a partnership between Shared Hope International and the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ).


Monday, June 30, 2014

What's Next for the Minors the U.S. Deports?

Children and older youth who migrate to the U.S. and are deported will face debt bondage, violence and may try to migrate again. What's Next for the Children We Deport? | Mother Jones

DeSean Jackson, Richard Sherman, and black American economic mobility: Why neighborhoods matter.

“When white families advance in economic status...they are able to translate this economic advantage into spatial advantage by buying into communities that provide quality schools and healthy environments for children. The same isn’t true for black Americans, and some of the answer has to include present and ongoing housing discrimination. For example, in one study—conducted by the Department of Housing and the Urban Institute—black renters learned about fewer rental units and fewer homes than their white counterparts."read more here >>> DeSean Jackson, Richard Sherman, and black American economic mobility: Why neighborhoods matter.

Overcoming Prejudice: 'Crucial Unfinished Business' - Courant.com

"Racism...has been ingrained in our culture. People of every race still carry the deep-seated belief that led to enslavement, Jim Crow laws and every other form of discrimination — that dark skin somehow makes a person wholly inferior. That attitude...is a massive impediment to racial equality — the "toxic" idea of black inferiority."   read more here >>> Overcoming Prejudice: 'Crucial Unfinished Business' - Courant.com