This is going to be a lengthy post and for that I am sorry. However, I had an encounter with a survivor online at the beginning of the year that I want to share with you. Survivors do not all have the same level of recovery. I think it is important that we start studying the behaviors and attitudes of victims of trafficking. It’s important to listen to what is “not” being said. If you followed me on Facebook, you know that I said when we had our website up and working that I would share this conversation with you. Well it’s time to start taking notes. This is a tough one, but you have to know where the line in the sand is. It is women like the one who you will read below that need the prayer support in excess even if they never know they are receiving it. The question becomes, when is enough enough? You read this, and you decide.
*** WARNING *** strong language used. As you are reading this, I was really debating on whether to scratch out the language or not, but I feel that the victims need to be heard. Besides, let’s be a little real here…. if you read s*** you are already saying the word in your mind, so I’m not going to apologize for letting the victims be free in their language. It’s something we need to get a little thick skinned about when dealing with victims of trafficking.
* The name of the survivor is changed for her benefit (although she’s far from shy). Other’s who contributed to this conversation will be kept anonymous as well.
The conversation begins:
SURVIVOR: When I was trafficked as a homeless 13 yr old in 1980, over two-thirds of the johns who paid my traffickers for the “right” to sexually abuse and degrade me were Philadelphia cops. Like the majority of johns, most of these men were married (or had girlfriends), and many had daughters my age and older. They did not care that I was only a kid, that I could not legally consent to the sex I was arrested for being FORCED to sell to them, and they sure as hell didn’t care that I did NOT want to be where I was in the first place!
As a result of that prostitution arrest record, I spent the past THREE DECADES of my life after escaping from my traffickers in dire poverty; cycling in and out of homelessness, eating out of garbage cans, salvaging for scrap metal just to get barely enough money to stay alive; having all my top teeth rot out of my head by age 30 for lack of access to dental care (which left me unable to even get a minimum wage job at McDogfood’s or Wal-Fart’s during my younger working-age years); suffering an ENTIRE LIFETIME from not being able to get jobs (or keep them for very long) so that I could support myself and rebuild my life, no matter how hard I tried and no matter what I did to make myself “worthy” of a chance for a job—meaning that for the past 30 years, I was PREVENTED from being to earn a living, and hence, unable to pay anything into social security so at least I will have that to survive on IF I live to see age 65.
If not for an older eccentric widower on social security disability who was willing to marry me and support me on his $987/mo social security check so at least I’d have a house (albeit without heat and hot water), I’d have ended up DEAD long before now—FROM POVERTY.
I am 46 years old and will turn 47 this May. I had lost all hope years ago of every being able to rebuild my stolen life. If even a Bachelors degree in mathematics and an impressive writing portfolio of five self-published books failed to open any doors for me because of a prostitution “past” I did not have any agency in choosing, why would the additional skill of software developer result in a different outcome for me this time?
Ed, a combat vet and computer programmer and anti-trafficking activist, fought like hell to get me to the point of having enough hope to be willing to try learning yet another skill—software development—that should, in theory, open doors for me. Whether it does or not remains to be seen.
The way I got treated by the middle class and rich women that run the women’s programming groups like Girl Develop It—simply for being a poor sex trafficking survivor—I now cannot help but think that this is just more wasted effort on my part that will all be for nothing, too. I was kicked out of a Girl Develop It CSS/HTML class last October by these women (who laughably identify as feminists) SOLELY for my status as a poor sex trafficking survivor.
I have been struggling to learn multiple computer programming languages, but the eye strain makes it very hard for me—I have glaucoma which I am unable to get treated regularly without having to literally BEG for donations from the public at large so I hopefully don’t have to end up BLIND too on top of everything else.
The IT field is dominated by young rich white kids under age 30. I probably won’t be able to get a job with this new skill because now I am “too old”—NO ONE will hire me—after suffering an entire lifetime of traumatizing, life-threatening poverty from total social exclusion, from being unable to get a job because of being criminalized and stigmatized as punishment for being a VICTIM of socially approved commercial rape (and yes, that is exactly what prostitution is: COMMERCIAL RAPE).
I can’t get the help I need to be able to survive with just a little bit of human dignity, and to preserve my sight since blindness due to glaucoma is preventable if one isn’t poor and has access to medical care (Obamacare failed to help the poorest of the poor in the states that refused to expand Medicaid for the poor, leaving destitute sex trafficking survivors like me with absolutely NOTHING and NO real hope).
This society loves to talk about how we should all “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” It was under this same society’s watch that my shoes got stolen when I was 13 and thrown up over the wires on a utility pole, and then this same society enacted laws and abusive social and economic policies (including UNFAIR hiring practices that prevent poor, disadvantaged women from ever getting a chance!) that made it illegal or downright impossible for me to get a rickety old ladder and get my shoes back so at least I’d have something to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” with.
Think about that for a minute.
I am white but I am not from the middle class, and about the only way I could have had it any worse is if I were black or aboriginal on top of having had all this shit happen to me that this entire society had a hand in causing, and has allowed to continue, and still REFUSES to make right.
And then everybody else wonders *why* I am not all warm, cuddly and “nurturing” and *why* I refuse to be silent just so that those with privilege are not made “uncomfortable.”
MODERATOR: There has to discussion on services to human trafficking victims. Health care needs, shelter, job training, and ability to sue the traffickers and seize property and assets.
SURVIVOR: There also needs to be discussion seizing the money, property and other assets of the JOHNS whose MONEY drives the demand and fuels this industry in the first place. Johns are nothing but society-protected RAPISTS. Without their MONEY, traffickers and brothel owners would not even be in business in the first place.
And there needs to be a LOT more legislative action on actually guaranteeing poor trafficking survivors long-denied economic support, especially for those of us who are destitute and much older who have fought tooth and nail to remain free (what exactly does it mean to be free when you’re deprived of the right and ability to support yourself so that you can survive?) whose traffickers are conveniently no longer alive to be sued. That is to say, there needs to be discussion on better protecting disadvantaged sex trafficking survivors from UNFAIR hiring/pay practices and job discrimination due to our status as victims of commercial rape AND due to our socio-economic class status (i.e. poor).
What exactly does it mean to be free when you’re deprived of the right and ability to support yourself for the rest of your life (due to unfair hiring practices, abusive social and economic policies, and punitive laws that criminalize the VICTIMS) so that you can survive due to being permanently stigmatized and criminalized solely due to what others have done TO you?
BRANCH: The question is, what do you feel can be done rectify employment issues?
SURVIVOR: Changing laws and hiring policies. That’s what can be done. And how getting on the horn with employers, lawmakers and policymakers about NOT starving poor disadvantaged and marginalized women as a matter of policy, for a change? What is needed is enough people giving a crap enough to be proactive about this.
We could greatly reduce, if not end, the sex trafficking epidemic if people stopped being so damn privilege-blind, misogynistic, selfish, and social Darwinist and instead cared enough to PREVENT most of the sex trafficking by implementing a REAL economic safety net for poor women and kids (the very people who are at the highest risk of being trafficked) so that there isn’t a guaranteed, captive pool of poor vulnerable women and kids for traffickers and johns to prey on and abuse in the first place.
Funny how NO ONE wants to have *that* discussion, even though *everybody knows* that poverty due to job discrimination against women and lack of social programs for the poor (most whom are WOMEN) – including the lack of a real economic safety net for the jobless poor (especially when there are not enough jobs to go around for everybody) – is the main cause for pushing poor, abused and abandoned women and girls into prostitution in the first place.
BRANCH: Ok well let’s talk for a person like me who is in the midst of developing residential housing for soon-to-be-survivors, what can I do and put in place to make each person who comes through our doors successful for their needs?
SURVIVOR: In the US where the poorest of the poor who have been economically excluded, there is no safety net left. Obamacare has failed to bring access to medical care to the poorest of the poor, most who do not qualify for Medicaid because of being “able-bodied” (and therefore able to magically get a job even though there are 10 job applicants for every available job and NO ONE will hire the trafficking survivor with an unexpunged prostitution record on top of all the social disadvantages of being poor, or the middle-aged long-term unemployed).
Food stamps have been cut so much that you do not get enough of a monthly food stamp benefit to eat for more than a week even if you have ZERO income and are destitute. And the majority of the poorest of the poor are women and children due to entrenched inequalities and un-adressed job discrimination and lack of any real safety net to speak of. The economic terrorism of poverty claims real victims’ lives. People DIE from poverty in America, the “land of opportunity” (opportunity for WHOM?).
Being condemned to poverty in America is being beaten to death in slow motion. Being forced to “choose” between that or being fed to the prostitution machine in order to NOT die (maybe) constitutes force the same as being overtly trafficked and pressed into prostitution by physical threats of violence (which pimps routinely carry out).
BRANCH: Okay, but you still are not answering my question about what can I help do and work on as a residential care facility? I know the problems you have stated. I live near Detroit. We get those problems in excess. What can I specifically do?
SURVIVOR: I did answer your question. It just wasn’t the answer that you wanted to hear, or that would make you comfortable.
BRANCH: I’m not looking for comfortable. I’m not looking for any one who comes through my doors to be victimized further. I am so sorry that you have been treated unjustly by a system that sucks. I’m not looking for government programs to help people. What do I teach businesses that I come in partnership with? How do I reach out to businesses and educate them to place my soon to be survivors? It’s empowering both sides to help change the standard.
SURVIVOR: First, your being sorry does not make anything better. I don’t need your pity. I need justice and have needed justice these past 30 years. I did NOTHING to deserve to be robbed of my most basic human rights and be denied the ability to support myself and be able to survive.
Second, that “system” that treated me unfairly (an understatement) does not exist in a vacuum. It is upheld and maintained by SOCIETY, by PEOPLE, by individuals such as yourself who don’t want the government to provide real safety nets to help the people who really need to be protected from these atrocities occurring because of being vulnerable. And when there aren’t enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around for everybody, that creates a desperately poor pool of vulnerable people. Especially in the total absence of a real safety net.
Things don’t change unless employers who discriminate against women (particularly against poor sex trafficking survivors), and pimps and johns who drive the commercial rape racket, are motivated to stop doing what they do through laws and policies that motivate them by hitting them in the wallet.
That may not be what you want to hear, but if you really care enough to truly want to see real change happen, and not just be another charity NGO with their hand out for money from the government trough to capitalize on this human rights crisis, then these are *some* of the major things that have to be done.
BRANCH: First of all no offense but you don’t know me from Adam and I am NOT looking for government handouts to exploit the cause. You also don’t have my pity, you have my prayers. If you knew me you would know that I am not a favorite with legislators in my own state and with other organizations who are seeking government support. If you must know one of the ways I am raising funds for our home is by busting my butt in developing a recycling program for our income. I want to learn how to do things beyond the system and being hostile towards someone who is doing their small part in my area isn’t being effective. I truly do want to learn from you but maybe you can drop the anger to help me work towards real solutions. I have no pedigree behind my name, I am not associated with any organization or political party. I am one person who hates to see what is being done to people and doing something about it.
SURVIVOR: I have every right to be angry. This society has not been very nice to me. Or to any other survivors for that matter. What the hell did I do to deserve to be thrown under the bus beginning at age 13 when I was a trafficked homeless orphan? People have been anything BUT nice to me. I merely give back what I get, or have gotten. I owe NO ONE any warm fuzzy cuddly-ness. That’s not me. Warm and fuzzy may feel good, but does it solve anything? By my own experience, it has not.
You asked a question about what you can do to help, and I told you but you didn’t want to hear it: get on the horn with lawmakers and proactively support initiatives with employers that will help ensure that poor trafficking survivors actually have a place to go after they leave your safehouse—besides the gutter and an early grave, which thus far is the ONLY place this society is allowing most of us to have after throwing us away in the first place. For NO reason.
Convicted killers on death row are not deprived of three hot meals a day, a warm shower, medical and dental care and a warm bed until they’re executed. Yet poor women and girls who are sex trafficking survivors ARE. We’re denied the ability to support ourselves so we can survive, which is why sex trafficking survivors have the lowest life expectancy rate (an average age of 34) of any other group of people—usually dying from either poverty or suicide. In THIS country. As a result, over 90% of the 1% of victims that are actually rescued end up reluctantly returning to prostitution because society has allowed them no other place other than the gutter and an early grave. It’s pretty pathetic that this society takes better care of convicted axe murderers than VICTIMS of commercial rape.
BRANCH: You do have every right to be angry but I did nothing to you. People when you were 13 did. Tragic yes! It wasn’t your fault but there are people legitly doing their part to change things in the methods you mention. I do vote to work with my said legislators to help the victims and quit criminalizing them. But you are holding people at fault 30 years after the fact. I was a teenager 30 years ago. How was I supposed to help you? No one wants warm and cuddly from you nor expects it. But outside of legislation there has to be frontline work being done. How about educating employers on victim behaviors on the job? But to be honest, even if an employer does not know a victims past they do not owe an employee. The employee is paid to do a job and if they are failing at that task the employer has a choice to either work with an employee if they choose to do so or not. Sometimes an employee is accountable for their own behavior on the job. All that aside… Let me ask you with the glaucoma and all that you don’t have per your own words, what is it that you would truly like to do? Seriously! Any one of us can wallow in our own pains (I have a list of my own) but if you were honestly given a chance to do anything, what would you choose? Forget the convicted prisoners. Forget those that hurt you. Focusing on them is only feeding your anger and doing what for you? Lashing out is not a productive lifestyle. So what are you truly passionate about? What besides a change of legislation would truly be a desire of your heart?
SURVIVOR: It was not only those who trafficked and abused me 30 years ago. It was every cut in social programs to support the unemployable poor that got enacted by selfish “Me First” voting middle class public who never gave a thought for women and girls like me who were/are unable to get a job because of being so horribly disadvantaged through no fault of our own.
It was every employer who denied me a chance for a job afterwards because of being disadvantaged by a lack of references (who was I going to list as former employers? The men who trafficked me and the johns who paid for the “right” to sexually abuse and degrade me?) through NO fault of my own, who would not even give me a chance without even interviewing me (they found out about my prostitution “past” when they ran background checks using the social security number you’re required to put on every job application, even for a min wage Wal-Mart job), or who fired me after learning about my prostitution record a few days later after hiring me, and it is everybody else in society that continues to shit all over me for being poor and unable to support myself because of being totally socially excluded due to being criminalized and stigmatized for being the VICTIM of a CRIME.
The abuse and re-victimization never ended. It didn’t end 30 years ago after I finally managed to break free. Get it?
Here’s what I want (since you asked): Restorative justice. Reparations for my stolen life in the form of my $52K in student loan debt forgiven, liveable income support, and access to medical and dental care so I don’t have to end up blind too on top of everything else, or die from an untreated broken abscessed tooth (like I nearly did this past October). I want a sincere, genuine apology.
I think that’s only fair for the 30 years and counting of opportunities denied, and ability to survive with a little bit of human dignity that continues to be impeded and that occurred/is still occurring under this entire society’s watch and with society’s full blessing and approval (and selfish, social Darwinistic participation). The least this society can do is make reparations for throwing me away and then continuing to deprive me of any and all ability to support myself as punishment for what was done TO me so I can survive for what remains of my life with a little bit of human dignity.
This society IS collectively responsible for what I’ve had to suffer beginning when I was trafficked because of being female and POOR, and subsequently arrested by johns who were cops who should have protected me but didn’t when they KNEW I was only a child and that I was being forced, and for the life-threatening, soul-crushing poverty and total exclusion that I’ve had to suffer ever since as a result of that after escaping from my traffickers—for every year of my life thereafter. There is no statute of limitations on the valid claims for justice and the obligation of a society to make things right where human rights violations are concerned.
BRANCH: Well you are looking for handouts you probably will not get, so what happens if you never get restorative justice? Are you going to sue society for 52k in student loans? Are you ever going to move past all the injustices? YOU DID SURVIVE…. that is a form of justice. There are people suffering all over…. because of slavery awareness is being brought forth to transform laws to protect victims and help them. But you got screwed…. so you want to keep living that hostile?
No you couldn’t list other employers, but what can you do now? You have Obamacare that comes from the system. Again…. you did not answer my question of if you could do anything outside of legislation (your restorative justice), what would you like to do?
SURVIVOR: Being REPAID for MY STOLEN LIFE and all the abuse because of it is NOT a handout any more than Holocaust reparations were a handout. I did NOTHING to deserve the abuse I suffered, and I sure as hell did NOT deserve to be slapped with a LIFE SENTENCE of LIFE-THREATENING POVERTY for being a VICTIM. And get your facts straight: Obamacare does NOT help the jobless poor because the states that refused to expand Medicaid to the poorest of the poor.
BRANCH: But what if you cannot get repaid? You gonna die that angry and waiting?
SURVIVOR: I’m going to continue fighting for it til the day I die, because I DESERVE it and so does EVERY sex trafficking survivor like me whose lives got stolen. So let’s get a few things straight: I deserve to be MADE WHOLE and COMPENSATED for MY STOLEN LIFE that SOCIETY aided and abetted the traffickers and johns (who are nothing more than society-protected RAPISTS) in taking and destroying. Without due process and without just cause. Just because I was poor, homeless and female.
And get your facts straight on THIS: NOT being trafficked and dead is NOT a privilege I should have had to earn. So no, just because I managed to escape is NOT “justice.” What is it about “human rights” don’t you understand/give a crap about?
SO before you go patting yourself on the back: If NOT for poor survivors like me who REFUSED to shut up, who REFUSED to back down, who have been in the trenches fighting the Pimps & Johns Defenders Lobby WITHOUT a shit-ton of “faith-based initiatives” funding from the government to support OUR work (and WITHOUT any donations of badly needed money from the public , including “caring” individuals such as you think yourself to be) there would be NO anti-trafficking movement or any “awareness” so don’t try to steal credit for work that YOU (and every other opportunist and issue tourist who didn’t give a shit until now) did NOT do.
Do you even give a shit about those poor girls you claim to want to help? Do you seriously expect ME to believe that you give a shit about what happens to them AFTER their staying time at your safehouse is up? You don’t even CARE about justice for survivors who are NOT coming to you in need of help! You just want to feel good about yourself while you blame the victim like every other piece of shit, privilege-blind, selfish, middle class hypocrite Xtian asshole clinging to Jeebus with one hand while giving the poorest and most downtrodden a backhand with the other that is part of the problem with this movement. I can read people like you a mile away. You don’t fool me for a new jack minute.
BRANCH: First of all, don’t EVER accuse me since you do not know me. I care so much, I’ve put a major chunk of my finances into play to provide a home. I AM WORKING ON SOLUTIONS IN MY AREA…. you want to talk, let’s talk….
I’m not just working on providing a safe house. Since you need to discover a bit more about me, I AM working on employers and providing employment through a variety of avenues. I am NOT doing things like most organizations. I AM working on developing a large property that will work with businesses to hire a percentage of victims from our organization that forces them to keep them and mentor them. Let’s get that out there now. But how can I work with people such as yourself who just keep blaming, blaming, blaming and can’t see beyond the red in front of their eyes?
You are pissed off employers treated you like crap…. keep playing that victim card. People are going to dig their feet in even more to not help you because you do not even make an effort to get past the lousy way your “family” hurt you or the crap that foolish employers behaved. I’m sure not going to take the heat for your misery. I am doing my part to ease victims back into a lifestyle that makes sense, not just providing a temporary solution as you accuse me of.
What does middle-class voting have to do with what happened to you? At 13 years of age, your parents and those responsible for you failed you. Your employers failed you. I am middle class. Who is going to pick up my bills for all that we (middle-class) pick up for everyone else. You are not the only one that has had a stolen life. Many others have, but they have moved past their past. As a middle-class person, what do we get in return? We don’t get cut a break either. We are owed a bit of respect for what we provide as well and we get nothing more than taxed to death for more programs and typically it all goes to government that doesn’t do jack squat for people.
Your focus is on society, but your anger is really directed at those who failed you as a child and as an employee. You need to work on that. The reason you are not getting ahead is because you cannot get past the anger. Its not my fault. It’s not my husband’s fault. Society is at fault for not paying attention to the issue. We are now. We are now doing something, but you probably will not get paid back your 52k student loan. Well, ya know what…. I didn’t get paid back for plenty of loans I gave people on good faith. I don’t go raving about that. I move on with a bit more wisdom.
You want insurance…. go to Obamacare. You want dental and such…. maybe try losing the hostility towards people. Doctors have worked with plenty of people without insurance. I know, because I’ve done it. You are looking for a government to provide you and pay you back, well sorry to hear that.
Helping victims is something I have had a heart for for 25+ years, but could do jack squat about it because of situations I was in. Now is the time to do it due to a drastic change in my life. So don’t EVER accuse me for not knowing me, but I will help you to find something that you are passionate about doing when it becomes a work-related issue and not a society owes you whine. You are 47 years old. Time to start acting like it. You are a beautiful woman. I’m sure you have a lot to offer if you would get off the whoa is me. It sucks to have a childhood you had. I thank God I didn’t have to go through that (came awfully close as a child), but I made it through. Its time to stop blaming and move forward.
All I wanted to know is besides your justice, is there anything you love to do? With glaucoma what would you like to do for work? Are you getting paid to be hostile?
SURVIVOR: My words stand. I am OWED reparations for MY STOLEN LIFE. My parents didn’t “fail” me, I was orphaned. Do you NOT understand the definition of the word “orphan?” Must I parse that for you and draw that out for you in crayon, too? What happened to me IS society’s goddamn fault for ALLOWING it! What society allows, continues. I realize you might have difficulty grasping this basic concept given your middle class privilege when there but for the grace of the flying spaghetti monster it could have been YOU that got trafficked and slapped with a LIFE SENTENCE as a result of it, and NOT me. So you needn’t sit there thinking you’re so much better than some poor trafficking survivor, because you’re NOT.
Whatever I want or would love to do doesn’t matter because this society is full of way too many selfish, ignorant, egotistical privilege-clingers like YOU who think they’re so much better than those who are less fortunate, people like YOU who would NEVER EVER let me have a fuckin’ thing or do a fuckin’ thing so there’s NO use for me to want or love ANYTHING or even THINK about it. So I no longer want or love ANYTHING or ANYONE. That ship sailed a LONG time ago.
For the past 30 years I couldn’t even get my basic NEEDS met—by reason of OTHERS’ choices and abuse of privileges, and this was allowed to happen because selfish sanctimonious assholes like YOU that never EVER cared about the injustice of THAT kind of shit because in your own words, those of us who “got screwed” should just suck it up and “move on.” (Because VICTIMS apparently don’t deserve justice.)
And yeah, I have EVERY right to judge you for that, and for being another self-serving POS who only gives a damn about yourself instead of really helping trafficking victims by doing what’s right—by doing a few simple things to fight for justice and stand on the side of the oppressed on whose backs YOU stand while claiming to be “doing good.” You’re NOT doing good. End of.
BRANCH: Have fun with that attitude. I was actually going to ask you if you were interested in teaching and training, but your attitude is just about as much as I can take. I was never trying to be high and mighty with you and I NEVER CLAIMED TO BE BETTER THAN SOME POOR TRAFFICKING SURVIVOR.
You will be in my prayers. You obviously just live for misery. Sorry to hear that.
SURVIVOR: I don’t want to teach and train ANYONE (except other women like myself who have an actual interest in learning software development). I want to continue using my IT skills to jam porn sites and actually make the Patriot Act work in survivors’ favor for once.
BRANCH: I think that’s awesome you are wanting to do that. I’d love to hear the jamming success! Hopefully you get past the anger and hostility. You are not getting paid for that and it will affect your health. It doesn’t sound like you need any more health issues. I will be keeping you in prayer.
SURVIVOR: Me and two other exited wims who are software devs got three sites investigated last week and taken down. :>
BRANCH: Good for you.
SURVIVOR: Not good for me, good for survivors and victims. Because those images that are sold and resold continue to harm survivors and victims. And any man who pays to view those rapes on film deserves a nasty rootkit, IMHO, and should NOT be allowed to have access to buttons.
BRANCH: I meant good that you are getting websites investigated to help victims. Really you are this combative even in taking a compliment?
SURVIVOR: I’m not combative. And I didn’t know it was a compliment.
BRANCH: Okay. I was paying you a nice compliment. I know that you are protecting victims and survivors.
SURVIVOR: Me and these other two exited women who are software devs had this plan. We were going to go for some venture capital or other funding to try and get a gig off the ground that would pay a living wage stipend to software development students, and the students we were seeking to EXCLUSIVELY serve would be trafficking victims. Because we know how bad things are for disadvantaged women and girls who are trafficking victims (I am one, recall). And we know that this society is NOT interested in being the least bit fair to poor trafficking survivors at all, that NO ONE will extend a helping hand up as a genuine and sincere gesture to say “Hey, I care, and you did not deserve what happened to you.”
But when we saw how hard it is for even US to get any jobs because of being women who are sex trafficking survivors, and poor, we gave up on that goal. Because what would be the point in giving false hopes to other poor trafficking victims, only for them to have their ONE hope of being able to get on their feet and rebuild their lives crushed underfoot after working hard to master a difficult new skill that was supposed to open doors for them so they can rebuild their lives.
BRANCH: Forgive me for sounding a bit naive, but why can’t you still do it? Take advantage of the awareness that is now going on? Maybe its just looking at things from a different perspective???? (and please do not say “…this society is NOT interested in being the least bit fair to poor trafficking survivors at all…” etc) There ARE people, just far and few between.
SURVIVOR: Because money in the IT world is all in the hands of rich white males (most whom are misogynistic porn sots and johns, BTW) who have ZERO interest in investing in poor, disprivileged women. Nobody supports poor women. Nobody cares about poor women.
People don’t care unless it directly affects THEM. They’re content to just write a $50 check to some charity, without even caring if most of their donation actually goes directly to material help for those in need or not. It’s just another form of conscience-laundering. Meanwhile, the structural inequalities and injustices that cause the problems remain un-addressed.
BRANCH: Well, that’s where awareness comes in. Things are changing just not at a pace you may be happy with. So besides jamming and getting these sites investigated, which is AWESOME, what else are you working on But you have to start cutting some people a break. They start where they can. What would it take to start getting your venture to go in the beginning stages?
BRANCH: Well as crazy as this is going to sound to you…. let’s start praying about it and start putting that need out there to do what you want to do to help victims.
SURVIVOR: Sorry, but I don’t believe in gods or any mythology so I don’t pray. But you’re more than welcome to do so if that makes you feel good. I won’t hold that against you.
BRANCH: LOL, no problem. I figured as much from you. But don’t count out prayer completely LOL (I won’t hold it against you)
SURVIVOR: My best friend is a Xtian [Christian]. I don’t hold it against him either. ANd he’s cool w/ my being agnostic. In fact, in another anti-trafficking group, I had to CORRECT another atheist because he wrongfully blamed Xtians for the trafficking problem, because of Xtianity being patriarchal and all that. I told him he was wrong (because he was wrong): it is systemic inequalities and entrenched misogyny monetized by traffickers and economically supported by johns that cause trafficking. Because if it were Xtians that were to blame for trafficking, then only Xtian countries would have a sex trafficking problem. And we know that is not the case.
BRANCH: Well its no one religion or lack thereof obviously. We could talk forever on that I’m sure.
SURVIVOR: What it would take to get our venture started: $2 million. And that’s just to pay the students, the instructors, (coz we would need to cover living expenses for the one-year period) and buy the laptop computers for the students. We would still need a place to set up the school with some good wifi.
BRANCH: Well here’s a thought… (you can take it or leave it), but maybe if you lost the anger mentality exposed in our conversation, things could possibly change for you and someone could donate the needs you require in stages. Like I said, you can take it or leave it
SURVIVOR: We would want to be able to make sure that the students’ stipend would be a living wage monthly income for the duration. And then the students upon graduating would be able to list the projects worked on during the training as work exp and the instructors as references
BRANCH: I think its a great idea! I am trying to locate some information that is along a similar premise that I think would be a great benefit to you. Look into College Plus. This starts off in teen years, but progresses into colleges and has a very unique way of working things. It may help you with your venture.
SURVIVOR: Thanks. Me and the other two devs thought so too. But Leah (another exited woman) and I would NOT want for our students to graduate, leave the school and paid training, only to get totally crushed because the rest of the world being unwilling to give them a chance. We have been there ourselves. We have struggled with suicide in our pasts. We know the heartbreak. We would not wish for that to happen to other trafficking victims. Which is why I am such a colossal pain in the ass about fighting for changes in laws and policies. Because I fear that without that, what we would be doing would be futile.
A very nice lady in NC who runs a safehouse told me of a girl she gave a job to, AFTER rescuing her and helping her to get cleaned up and detoxed. The survivor had previously been rescued from being trafficked. But after leaving the residential care/safehouse she was at the first time, with nothing but one or two changes of clothes and NO money at all or even the guarantee of a job, she pounded the pavements trying to get a job and reluctantly returned to prostitution because NO ONE would hire her and she had NO OTHER WAY of being able to economically survive and get on her feet because there is no economic safety net for the jobless poor whom no one will hire.
Unfortunately, the second time she entered and was rescued she was not so luycky: she ended up infected with Hep-C (40% of johns REFUSE to wear condoms and knowingly, deliberately infect their victims with diseases).
BRANCH: Well unfortunately, you cannot control everyone’s path, but you can provide as many options as possible. I’ve heard those stories time and time again from various organizations and its heart breaking. But you have to know that for you, you are doing all you can to the max, but it will not give you a perfect track record. That’s why I am running into so many issues. I’m not looking to do things like everyone else here and I’m getting a LOT of grief for it. But I’m not worried. I know what the true task is.
SURVIVOR: I don’t know what College Plus is, I just know how similar IT schools that offer students a monthly stipend for them to cover their living expenses are all funded by rich white male IT company owners. ANd make NO mistake about it, they’re the LAST ones who have any vested interest in helping trafficked women get a leg up. Remember the Grail Question: who is best served under the status quo? (HINT: It ain’t POOR women!)
BRANCH: I think you should investigate College Plus more and quit worrying about rich white male IT owners. Set a trend and start going after those who aren’t what you loathe. They do exist. Think outside the box. Start things from another perspective. There is corruption and “villains” in every type of business and organization. The key is finding those who are not and willing to be a part of your vision. Then have safeguards in place to handle trouble IF it occurs.
SURVIVOR: My “bad attitude” is my safeguard.
BRANCH: Yeah, but its not getting you anywhere (especially if you need partnerships to help you get this off the ground)
SURVIVOR: Yes it did. It forced some things to the fore that were being IGNORED before. Being nice got me walked on and treated like crap. Being a total bitch got me some respect and put all the issue tourists and opportunists who don’t really care about stopping sex trafficking but instead are only in this for themselves on notice: namely that there are survivors who are watching them and who WILL take ’em down for screwing over trafficking victims.
BRANCH: Okay, is this you not being vicious again? But being a total b* is not always acceptable or workable. Sometimes you have to make attempts at being a bit more …. well, less argumentative. :X
SURVIVOR: This is serious shit. And there are real people’s lives at stake. For me and other survivors, this is not a joke.
BRANCH: Listen… I’m gonna be on the front lines of this crap dealing with my family’s life at stake… I get how serious this is!!! If you think pimps and johns are going to say to me, “Hey, go ahead and take her and help her… really, its okay”, that’s freaking delusional! LOL I’m a vicious brute when I need to be, but I’m not rude or obnoxious to people (well, okay, depends who you ask) LOL
I have not invested all I have to not take this seriously. Believe you me…. I KNOW what I’m stepping into and to be honest…. when I feel like bailing, the first thought that comes across my mind is, if I’m feeling like this and I haven’t been trafficked, imagine what the person going through it is experiencing. Then I ask myself could I back out knowing that I’m abandoning the people who need the help? To know me is to know my answer is NO WAY! I get it…. BELIEVE ME!!!
SURVIVOR: Well then let us hope that you don’t ever have to deal with a situation like I had last summer when the traffickers followed the extraction team to the safehouse door—all because some class-privileged know-it-all refused to give the victim a replacement cell phone and ditch the one she had on her (which serves as a GPS tracking device which is how the traffickers followed her). Because of the actions of ONE PhD candidate’s (a college intern) ego in feeling that she was the “expert” and knew more than a rag-tag bunch of poor “ex-prostitutes”, an entire extraction team, including the victim they were rescuing, and the exited woman running one of the underground railroad points out of her home, damn near could have gotten killed. I’m the one who got the call while in the middle of a Ruby on Rails conference. It was NOT the sort of phone call I wanted to get. Believe that.
BRANCH: Oh I go toe-to-toe with the “experts” on a regular basis. Believe you me…. we think on two completely opposite planes. Now on that person’s part, that was pure stupidity. Oh I’m already putting security measures in place, and the home is already being discussed on various options and such. I’m not real thrilled at prospects of being on those front lines, believe me when I tell you that, but what you won’t believe is that I know where I need to be. None of this is by coincidence and none of it has gone without serious thoughts.
I read the testimonies of the ex-prostitutes, I listen to all those testimonies. I don’t listen to the “professionals”. They have no clue. The only way you learn is by going to the source of those who have encountered this first hand.
SURVIVOR: We’re not “ex-prostitutes”, we are victims/survivors of commercial rape. We are prostituted women. Or women who had been prostituted. Language matters. Referring to a trafficking survivor as a prostitute or ex-prostitute is actually very dehumanizing. It reduces her to a disposable THING slated for the trash can. Now, I know that you did not mean that. But…for future reference. I thought you should know this. (Not to be argumentative or anything )
BRANCH: understood… just using words from your statement… “and knew more than a rag-tag bunch of poor “ex-prostitutes”, an entire extraction team” I get it… I’ve already been converting my language.
SURVIVOR: That is what the intern “expert” referred to me and the women on the extraction team as: “rag-tag ex-prostitutes.”
BRANCH: I’m sure you just wanted to slap that intern. :X
SURVIVOR: Actually, after that crap, I felt like depositing her ass on a brothel’s doorstep myself. Let her see how it feels. And then have other people call HER a “rag-tag ex-prostitute” and see how she liked it.
BRANCH: Yep, that would be an education for sure. :X
SURVIVOR: Food for thought: Why is it that over 90% of those trapped in prostitution say that the one thing they need/want the most is to be able to EXIT prostitution but cannot because ALL OTHER OPTIONS are DENIED to them and that it was the ABSENCE of options that pushed them into prostitution in the first place?
BRANCH: Well my understanding from some victims is that they have been threatened where they live in fear of exiting. Some have been so “conditioned” (for lack of a better term) that they feel like they are in love or cannot leave their “boyfriend”. Some testimonies I read, they will leave no matter what if given the opportunity. Some just can’t and don’t have the emotional strength. Some think their families don’t want them (there are those with loving parents). Some are hopeless. So again perhaps we should chew on a solution that doesn’t involve government support.
SURVIVOR: Or maybe we should chew on ALL the feasible solutions, and not write off government support in the face of a real lack of enough jobs to go around for everyone who needs one—with poor disadvantaged and marginalized sex trafficking victims standing NO chance at all for jobs so we can support ourselves and live with some basic human dignity.
When organizations cash in on public tax dollars slotted for “faith-based initiatives” block grants from the government trough, yet fail to reduce sex trafficking and fail to help people in need to prevent them from dying from poverty just because society turfed them out, there is NO defensible case for denying destitute sex trafficking survivors, or highly at-risk vulnerable women and kids, badly needed income support and access to medical care and food.
What this boils down to is deciding whether society cares enough to stop creating fodder for traffickers and johns or not. We can either support filthy rich corporations who have no loyalty to anything but the Almighty Dollar, or we can support the people in the most need. We can continue to support johns and traffickers, or we can start supporting victims of commercial rape. Its that simple.
If government support and protection for society’s most vulnerable is NOT desirable, then what truly is the function of government in the first place if NOT to protect the most vulnerable of this nation’s citizens?
[Another survivor] just posted this in another group about a meeting she attended yesterday, and the gist of that meeting (which was with a Women’s Consortium regarding how the rest of society can help victims of sex trafficking without “government support” being the answer):
“The Women’s Consortium founder brought up criminal backgrounds and asked if we could get it into policy that after so much time these charges would come off our records. She said “I was talking with a friend who was a nurse, & she said it would be a good idea, just not in her profession.” Because you see if victims get out the ALWAYS remain tainted for the rest of their lives , right? ”
BRANCH: Well society through awareness is working on caring enough by changing laws. Feasible solutions are still working within our communities to do something. No offense, but government is representative of the people. If the heart of the people are not made aware of the issues and problems that you had along with many others, the government won’t do jack squat. The government comes from the people.
You cannot bully people into compassion, nor can you harass people into caring. As much as you are against the almighty dollar, I’m thinking that you also told me in an earlier response that you need two million dollars in order to get your project off the ground. Well…. how that money is obtained is the real question isn’t it. There are scum bags and there are legitimate business owners. Telling the tale of survivors is what brings about change to help this cause. Some people and organizations do it better than others, but the fact remains…. money is the key.
Let’s talk feasible solutions. What about building housing for foster kids and orphans that age out of the system that gets them before the pimps? Have houses that will give kids options… but wait…. government run ones haven’t done too much for that cause either. Last time I checked there were houses that were trafficking children as well and a small percentage of money actually goes towards administrative instead of the children.
So maybe it is time for faith-based organizations to start stepping up to the plate more than they have been. But even for my organization, it takes money. The difference between you and I is the fact that I believe in a God who is Creator of heaven and earth and if He can create something so detailed, He can surely provide for His children that are hurting. I’ve been getting scoffed at left and right even from members of the church about funding. So be it!
The problem being is that the “church” or Xtians as you call them (which I find offensive, we are Christians), have been chasing the government for funding. They have not been seeking the God they serve for the needs that they have to provide for trafficking victims. They have tuned out and closed their ears to what God is desiring from them. Obviously it has not been successful.
YES, we need to get the money from the pimps and johns, but who is going to manage it? GOVERNMENT??? OH PLEASE!!! We’ve seen how that works now how many trillions later? I’m with you, but I think we have to start changing our perspectives on how we look at solutions.
SURVIVOR: There is a reason why pimps have become so emboldened such that they even advertise their “products” and “services” on billboards and are using the classified adds to target cash-strapped college students now. Taking effective measures to end a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion that has been a HUGE human rights problem that has been devastating society for far too long is not “bullying people into compassion.” It is taking a stand for human rights. If we forego that in lieu of “what the people want”, well, we all know how well that worked out for Jews in Nazi Germany, don’t we?
BRANCH: And again, it goes to the heart of the people. Look at what people in this country are electing. Taking away rights of people one by one that our Constitution actually protects if we would actually invest time in reading.
And look with Hitler how it took ONE person to create such a travesty for the Jews and how many people blindly followed. So if we study the methods of Hitler, he didn’t seem like such a tyrant to people close to him did they?
People are at the heart. Changes come by one person within a community making a difference and swimming upstream. Look at how Obama has affected our country…. it wasn’t by yelling or kicking up a fuss. It was by being socialable, smiling, waving, etc. That is how we need to do it.
Victims who are able to share their testimonies should shed light on the snakes in the grass who are abusing, killing and kidnapping victims. Victims need to be encouraged when possible to share their stories. Its not further exploitation it is exposing the dark secret that has laid hidden FOREVER.
SURVIVOR: I get what you’re saying, but the bottom line is that as long as there is no vested interest in preventing women and kids from being made vulnerable so that they’re fodder for traffickers and johns in the first place, or for helping and supporting sex trafficking victims/survivors to get a leg up, and as long as there is no vested interest in promoting socially responsible business practices, the problem will continue to get worse.
I don’t care if someone is a Christian or not—non-Christians are no less deserving of human rights, and speaking of which: life-threatening poverty and sex trafficking are human rights issues shredding the social fabric of this entire society.
I don’t think we can just pray, cry, beg and plead with johns to have a change of heart so long as there is nothing to legally and economically motivate them to stop enriching the traffickers (and enriching traffickers is exactly what they’re doing when they’re buying prostituted women and kids and they know it).
These socially approved rapists know that the women and kids they’re paying for the “right” to harm don’t want to be in prostitution. They know there is force involved. And they know that the bodies they’re buying to use as masturbatory meat-puppets are often younger than their own children. But they don’t care because they don’t *have to.*
Now if the social and economic costs (like the lifelong sentence of jobless poverty due to unemployability by reason of stigma that survivors have been suffering unjustly) of prostitution were shifted from the prostituted and the survivors onto the johns and pimps, things would change for the better in short order, so that maybe the upcoming generation of girls will not inherit a worse mess than the one we’ve got now.
BRANCH: And you are right… the vested interest is not being held within the church plain and simple. Government has their job of protecting its citizens (even when it comes to slavery) by developing the laws to protect them, HOWEVER, the churches job is to help its people, but it cannot when even simple basic ethical principles are clouded. We have higher divorce rates within the church. We have people of “faith” who are running to the government for the money and having their faith in the wrong places. We have a lot of issues that have now crossed wires and the church is failing as well as the government because each does not know their role.
It is that simple. Human rights are God-given and regardless of if you believe in Him or not, when we start seeking those rights from government and not Him, we are going to completely screw up!!! We’ve proven that time and time again.
But those johns and pimps…. were someone’s kids. Just like trafficking victims are someone’s kids. What would have happened if a decent man came along side a young man and said, “Hey, that’s not how you treat women.” or just mentored them. What if a woman became a mother to a child who was left out in the streets and took the risk. There would be more morality instead of immorality and I can guarantee a change in the spectrum.
Tolerance is our enemy. We bow and cave to people who think things like immorality are okay. Well that immorality is leading to men of stature seeking out young girls and women for sex not giving a crap. Well I guess now we are finally giving a crap, but that immorality has taken root so deep, its going to be hard to severe.
We get vested by starting to invest in people at a younger age. YES, we need to start penalizing the johns because I guarantee when they have to shell out five thousand dollars for being arrested for having sex with a minor, they are going to be humiliated in front of their families once their wives find out. I agree the penalties should be high…. but that is still not getting to the root of the problem.
Being invested takes more than penalties. It takes getting serious about the root causes. THATs how you transform human rights!
SURVIVOR: I don’t know if I can buy that there really is a god, but I DO agree with you that laws are only as good as the courts that uphold them and the governments that enact them—as survivors like myself have witnessed with the UN’s latest fig newton folly of moving to give positive sanctions to nations that have legalized prostitution. You would not believe the most craptastic excuses for legalizing prostitution (which causes trafficking to skyrocket) put forth by Michal Sidibe, the UN Undersecretary and director of UNAIDS (a UN body that is primarily concerned with addressing the AIDS epidemic).
As to the root causes: male privilege due to 6,000 yrs and counting of male supremacy (patriarchy), imbalance of power, greed, and the eroticizing of power and cruelty.
BRANCH: Well I’m not here to get into you buying in if there is a God or not. That’s for you to find out in your own time if ever…. however, our Constitution was based on Biblical principles for this country (not the UN, which is not our administration) based on what offered the most freedom. Freedom costs. Choices of freedom costs. Vegas is legal “prostitution”. But you still have to start on a local level because those locally will eventually end up as leaders in higher positions of authority that can help change the fabric of trafficking.
SURV #2: BRANCH -> this.
SURV #2: Get it together.
BRANCH: I think you misunderstood my comments. Being from a different viewpoint does not mean I don’t help lift the fallen. I just choose to believe in (and for me, know) that God heals. That does not make me judgmental. That allows me to extend more mercy and compassion to help lift up.
SURV #2: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people” <- Curious why you think your perspective is so dramatically different. (Who the fuck do you think you are, anyway? Step down.)
BRANCH: First, don’t make accusations toward someone you do not know. I have and am soaking a lot of not only my money, but myself into something I thoroughly believe in helping. I have been seeking doing this for 25 years, but because of some things (fairly drastic) occurring in my life, I have not been able to invest fully in it until now. But I have soaked a fortune of my own money (not seeking government assistance, not seeking grants, etc) to start this whole thing for my area because of the desperate need. I have been unemployed for two years while doing this. I’m insulted, criticized, mocked by my own peers for what I am choosing to do, but yet…. I still continue. Most would bail.
I think SURVIVOR is incredible. I’m not arguing that fact and the mere thing if I could honestly afford to get her heating back on and all that it takes, to be quite honest I would. Not that I have to defend my actions, but apparently you think that believing in “my God” makes me less capable of giving. So let me scratch the surface of some important things I have done to you…..
Well I have supported a woman for almost 20 years who is struggling. I paid for a car I had to be completely refurbished (engine work, body work, detailing etc) to give to she and her husband because they had no vehicle. I have provided gift cards for grocery cards to them because I do not live any where near them. I have given dentures to another person needing them without ever asking for a dime when she promised to pay back. I rent an extra home I have to a single mother taking a loss on it paying for her utilities so she can survive and work on providing for her family. I pay taxes on it to the hilt and take the financial hits so their lives are made easier. I haven’t raised their rent once because I know how she struggles. There is only my husband and I but I constantly cook like I have a family of 5-10 and provide awesome leftover meals for those whom I know that are struggling. By the way, I’m sure you know the cost of food, so buying groceries is also a challenge. My husband if you must know makes the average wage of a non-union shop worker. Every one who comes through our doors we make feel at home. We share our home openly. The only thing we don’t have are the bedrooms (because our house is so small) to accommodate those needing beds. SURVIVOR has a house twice the size of ours. That’s just the few things I can recall in the last three years.
On top of that all, I have purchased a home that needs complete gutting to provide a home for trafficked victims. I AM sinking a fortune into this home all my own. I have not asked the government for one dime!!! You know how I’m looking to raise funds? By recycling. That’s right…. I spend 7 days a week collecting paper, cardboard, bottles and cans and turning them in for money.
Each week I handle just in cardboard and paper alone between 4,500-6,000 lbs just to earn under $200 a month just to help raise funds for the home while trying to get others to help contribute. I have NO staff to help me. My contractor graciously offers his time and gas without question AND helps me unload all of this with NO questions asked.
So you want to talk again about my lack of mercy and grace? You apparently are not extending that same thing you complain about to me.
Secondly, I’m not arguing perspectives, but you seem to be rather perturbed by mine. That’s fine. You have a problem not believing in God, that’s fine too…. I never asked you to. I’m sure that a lot of “Christians” have hurt you and others. I’ve grown up in the church and I’ll be honest, majority give Christianity a bad name and God for that matter, but you already know that, so no need to rehash. But that does not put me above you or anyone else. I am thankful for each experience and I choose to give that thanks to God.
Healing…. all it really means is just basically less pain over time to numbing. I can talk about situations now that just a few years ago, I could not talk about without raging anger or just an emotional break down. Yeah… I mentioned counseling for two decades, but how I came into counseling, I still to this day will defend to the death how an angel brought me to the counselor I had. You can think as you wish, but either way, I will NOT back down in gratitude to God just because you do not like my perspective.
Just like I cannot walk in SURVIVOR’S shoes, you or SURVIVOR cannot walk in mine. All I can speak from is my own experience of being a survivor from my experiences. No, I was not trafficked, but I stood tall in the midst of some extreme circumstances in my life with about two decades of counseling to help me through every stage.
You want to talk mercy and grace… when we go through things, it teaches us to be merciful to others who are struggling. For instance I understand narcissism because I was neck deep in it for about 40+ years of my life. I learned how to be a survivor in that. Now when I deal with someone who has a narcissist in their life, I can extend a little more patience, a little more compassion and extend a little more grace while they go through that instead of just saying “get over it” where I know many people do.
Thank God you do what you do for SURVIVOR. I think she’s an incredible woman and I wish she was closer. She would definitely be at our dinner table often. So I think as far as the apologies, I don’t owe anyone an apology. I think we each need to look at each other through the eyes of compassion and empathy from wherever we draw our experience and start acting a bit more civil don’t you agree?
SURVIVOR: With the lack of any real help and support poor trafficking victims/survivors get, and the abuse we get on top of that from most of the so-called “anti-trafficking allies” in the anti-trafficking movement who are clearly only out for themselves since NONE of ’em can ever be bothered to help the survivor in need standing right in front of ’em (we can freeze to death in 40-degree homes with no heat and starve for all most people give a shit)…..What are neglected survivors supposed to think?
Here is an example of the kind of help and support I got as a destitute survivor in another anti-trafficking group when I complained about the lack of help I got while struggling in extreme poverty to NOT die from freezing to death in a 40-degree home (my ONLY source of winter heat, a used pellet stove, died three days ago and I don’t have any way of coming up with $4K to replace it.
I got nothing but abuse and NO help and support at all from ANY of the “anti-trafficking activists” lucky to have good jobs, plenty of money, food, and warm homes with hot water to bathe properly with…
The ONLY help I got was a pizza that SURV #2 called in and had delivered to me as I sit in a 40-ish degree house with no heat and nowhere to go stay temporarily so I don’t die from the cold. Yet all these bigshot “anti-trafficking NGO’s are raking in piles of money for themselves and aren’t helping the poor older survivors who have no families to fall back on and no other source of support.
I can’t help but think that most Americans – including so-called social justice activists claiming to be all about “fighting trafficking” – are nothing but a bunch of selfish fuck-faces who don’t care about poor American trafficking victims/survivors. Because they sure don’t give a fuck about the poor survivor in need of help and support standing right in front of ’em.