Thursday, December 11, 2008

What is violence against women?

As part of GABNET's 16 Days of Activism, we asked people to talk about violence against women...

Gina George
"[To end violence against women] it has to be a life-long struggle for women, for men. We can't do it in one effort, one event or effort; we have to do it consistently in our lives whether that's publicly or privately..." Listen to audio interview

"G.," 12-years-old
"I guess violence would be aggressive force against an individual or group of individuals..." Listen to audio interview

Garrett Kaske
"Non-physical forms of violence come in many different ways. A lot of [women] working for less pay in comparison to a man's pay, that can definitely be construed as a form of violence..." Listen to audio interview

Oi Hu
a) How have you been a survivor/victim of violence, a witness of violence against women or a perpetrator of violence against women? I have never been a victim of violence, a witness to violence or a perpetrator of violence. I hope that I would be smart enough not to surround myself with people who have violent tendencies or display abusive behavior. Non-Physical Violence? Insulting/Belittling, Yelling, Controlling and overbearing attitudes. Another one is guilt - inflicting guilt. Telling someone they are childish or that they are "disappointed" in them for silly things. These types of actions do bring a person's perception of their own self worth down several notches. Making a person feel less worthy and trapped can lead to suicide or attempted suicide. Thinking about guilting a woman brings me to thinking about how not just partners/spouses/boyfriends can do this to a woman, but how parents, family and friends can also do this to a person.

b) What do you consider as violence against women? Obviously the physical abuse immediately comes to mind as violence against women. Hitting, spitting, beating, and belittling. Most definitely, domestic abuse comes to mind as well. No [I don't violence is perpetrated only against/by individuals]. I think parents, family and "friends" which can be groups of people can inflict a woman with both verbal and physical abuse. I believe that a person prone to abuse and violence, whether it is physical or not has a history of doing it to others in the past or even multiple people at once. Bullies usually don't have just one victim.

c) What do you think is the main source of violence against women? Domestic partners/or the person you are in a relationship with. Domestic abuse is the biggest problem, because a person is torn by their feelings for the perpetrator and what would happen if they reported them. This is probably what makes this type of abuse so common and the most dangerous. Common because you see the abuser so often. Dangerous because you do not want to report them because of love or loyalty. Most times, I believe that a person has low self-esteem or has been traumatized into thinking that they deserve or warrant the abuse. This type of thinking is what makes certain women (people in general) an easy prey for perpetrators of abuse. I know I am wrong though. So many women who are strong and intelligent never imagine themselves to be victims of violence/abuse, but do end up as victims. I don't want it to sound like I am making excuses for the men who abuse women. I am not. I believe that they purposely take advantage of what they mightknow about a person and use that to insult them or to hit them. I think it is a predator who knows how to pick and pull apart their victim that makes a predator so powerful. Usually the predator would have to be fairly close to a person to be able to break them down in such a manner. A person is probably extra vulnerable when they are overcome by their personal feelings (usually love or loyalty) for a person and just swallows the abuse. I feel women are more vulnerable to violence because women are more compassionate and sympathetic to their abusers than men might be.

d) How do we end violence against women? Educate women. Educate men. Make people aware that violence is not acceptable and to treat women with respect. Make women aware of their self worth so that they are not easily targeted. learn self-defense, build communities. Educating people is the only thing I can think of. Community programs. Educational PSAs. More general awareness. Believe it or not, those Truth ads about smoking do impact people. Ads with women with black eyes or hospitalized and making statistics known are also very powerful. I've seen a few in the past, but not so often. Awareness. Seems to be a big factor. those who are not aware they are victims or victimizers may get the message. Maybe not, but if others can identify the abuse, it could save a woman's life.

We asked people:
a) How have you been a survivor/victim of violence, a witness of violence against women or a perpetrator of violence against women?
b) What do you consider as violence against women?
c) What do you think is the main source of violence against women?
d) How do we end violence against women?

>>Read more

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

International Human Rights Day

BURN IT DOWN!


In commemoration of International Human Rights Day and in culmination of GABnet's 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women, GABNet NYNJ spoke to the women closest to us - our mothers, sisters, friends and allies -- about how violence against women has touched their lives. Their answers, posted below, offer a sobering picture, proving that violence doesn't just happen in far away places to people we don't know. In fact, these testimonials illustrate the violence that occurs every day, in our most intimate spaces.

Burn It Down, a video produced by GABNet NYNJ, also debuts today, communicating the source of violence for women and girls all around the world.

For far too long, those residing in powerful countries like the United States or those who occupy positions of privilege in life - whether it be through race, class or sex -- have separated themselves from their sisters living in the margins.

GABNet NYNJ knows that if we women are serious about fighting violence at home, we must also fight it every where else in the world where it occurs - whether in the conflict zones in the Congo, the war in Iraq, jails in Palestine and the United States, brothels in India or even in the pages of magazines. We know that not one woman is free until all of us are free.

How have you been a survivor/victim of violence, a witness of violence against women or a perpetrator of violence against women? What do you consider as violence against women? What do you think is the main source of violence against women? How do we end violence against women?

"I witnessed violence against a woman for the first time at about the age of two or three. Daddy was beating Mama. Shoving her up against the wall and punching her while she screamed, "Not in front of the children not in front of the children!" She was crying covering her face and trying to escape him. I moved out of their way to avoid the fury and up against I don't know what and all I heard in my head almost as loud as Mama's plea was 'Why?' 'Why is Daddy hitting Mama?'"


Incomprehensible. Thick as the thickest fog in the blackest night. Having a suffocating pillow pressed on your head so hard you feel the air leaving your body. Drowning and seeing the light of day fade. No answer. Blank. Nothing.

That's one of my earliest memories. And most disturbing memories.

My father was a raging alcoholic. Surely the source of his violence was in the bottle but not solely. I never knew much about his childhood because when I asked my grandparents they were vague. Was he repeating his childhood beatings? My brother did, after being beat by my father too. My father beat him and he beat my little brother and I.
Ending the violence against women? Stopping the pattern of domestic violence is just one way. Today with my own daughter that is how I am choosing to stop the violence against women. Ensuring that she has a safe home to grow in."


***

I was raised in a house where my father objectified women, and i was urged by my mother to not confront him when he manipulated his rights as a man and as a father. I grew up with a father who had no respect for the innate fragility and vulnerability of a girl's burgeoning sexuality and no respect for the strength of a woman. Because of this, I have scar tissue and obstacles around my heart and my ability to love and trust men. I am afraid to be vulnerable when sometimes vulnerability means intimacy.

I feel like we are constantly involved in one way or another with violence towards women. Spending eight months in a small coastal town in Spain, I was followed home a handful of times, many times with men masturbating as they walked behind me in the dark alleys to my apartment.

I also witnessed a lot, A LOT of verbal abuse towards women working as a bartender for many years. And in all of these cases, every single one, I feel like the man was not even thinking he might be doing something wrong. There's always an attitude of self-righteousness, as if it were his birthright to behave towards women this way.

We have to change the next generation by how we raise our children. I will try to teach our sons about a masculinity where abuse of his power in a patriarchal society is not an option, where his masculinity is complex and beautiful and not a weapon. And I will try to teach our daughters about a world where her femininity is strong and important, a world where she won't have to feel like she is compromising herself to love and be loved."

***

"We tend to think of violence as something that happens on a super scale, during war, in other countries, to other people, other women, not us. We are trained to ignore the violence that occurs and is directed toward us on a daily basis. This includes the objectification of women in advertisements that loom giant, over us constantly, in the city, the images we are bombarded with in magazines, television, movies and in the mainstream news media. And when we experience physical violence, either personally or through a friend, we internalize it and mold it into denial, shame, and self-hatred, or we lash out at other women, both personally and as an entire gender.

Then there is the institutional violence that manifests itself through the exploitation of over one million women a year in the sex and labor market. Some might consider this violence on a super scale, yet this large number is made up of individual women who experience violence on the personal level, both physically and emotionally. We can't separate ourselves from these millions. Their struggle is inextricably connected to ours.

I survived my father. I survived what that did to my self worth. I survived how that made me interact with boys and men. I have worked double time to love myself and my intelligence. I survived several alcoholic boyfriends. I survived an abusive relationship. I survived hearing the stories of nearly every one of my women friends. I watched my dear friend clench at the hands of the US sex industry. I survived and am surviving growing up in a world that hates women.

Violence against women is the direct result of thousands of years of a system that considers women to have very limited functions. It has a name: Patriarchy.

We have to begin to build alternative images, music, art, writing, relationships, families, education, communities, culture, and selves. We have to reassess our priorities and remember our global responsibilities to each other. And we have to say ENOUGH. We have to stop participating and corroborating in a system that is based on our subjugation."

****


a.) Yes I have been a victim of violence against women. My first week of college in Switzerland, I was followed home, held at gunpoint and robbed by a man who was never caught. He stole my cell phone, credit cards, three hundred dollars cash and my keys so I was paranoid for a long time and eventually moved apartments. Also, when I was seventeen, I was drugged at a club in Brazil and felt up. It sucked because I was wearing a skirt, fill in the blank.

b.) I define violence against women as a normal part of a woman's life. All women are bound to encounter some form of gendered violence at some point in their lives and this is totally unacceptable to me. From being psychologically bombarded with images and ideas of what to think about one's body and sexuality and what's "acceptable" behavior ... to verbal, mental, and sexual abuse taken from a dad, a sibling or a lover...to outright enslavement and wholesale torture/harassment/rape.

c.) The main source of violence against women is apathy and ignorance. It is caused by the belief of BOTH men and women that violence against women is limited to the physical. It is deepened by the denial of BOTH men and women that women's unequal recognition, treatment, security, autonomy, and history permeates our society, our world, at every level and at every stage of life
( P to the ATRIARCHY).

d.) Burn this shit down and start over.”

****

a) I have never been a victim of violence, a witness to violence or a perpetrator of violence. I hope that I would be smart enough not to surround myself with people who have violent tendencies or display abusive behavior. Non-Physical Violence? Insulting/Belittling, Yelling, Controlling and overbearing attitudes. Another one is guilt - inflicting guilt. Telling someone they are childish or that they are "disappointed" in them for silly things. These types of actions do bring a person's perception of their own self worth down several notches. Making a person feel less worthy and trapped can lead to suicide or attempted suicide. Thinking about guilting a woman brings me to thinking about how not just partners/spouses/boyfriends can do this to a woman, but how parents, family and friends can also do this to a person.

b) Obviously the physical abuse immediately comes to mind as violence against women. Hitting, spitting, beating, and belittling. Most definitely, domestic abuse comes to mind as well. No [I don't violence is perpetrated only against/by individuals]. I think parents, family and "friends" which can be groups of people can inflict a woman with both verbal and physical abuse. I believe that a person prone to abuse and violence, whether it is physical or not has a history of doing it to others in the past or even multiple people at once. Bullies usually don't have just one victim.

c) Domestic partners/or the person you are in a relationship with. Domestic abuse is the biggest problem, because a person is torn by their feelings for the perpetrator and what would happen if they reported them. This is probably what makes this type of abuse so common and the most dangerous. Common because you see the abuser so often. Dangerous because you do not want to report them because of love or loyalty. Most times, I believe that a person has low self-esteem or has been traumatized into thinking that they deserve or warrant the abuse. This type of thinking is what makes certain women (people in general) an easy prey for perpetrators of abuse. I know I am wrong though. So many women who are strong and intelligent never imagine themselves to be victims of violence/abuse, but do end up as victims. I don't want it to sound like I am making excuses for the men who abuse women. I am not. I believe that they purposely take advantage of what they might know about a person and use that to insult them or to hit them. I think it is a predator who knows how to pick and pull apart their victim that makes a predator so powerful. Usually the predator would have to be fairly close to a person to be able to break them down in such a manner. A person is probably extra vulnerable when they are overcome by their personal feelings (usually love or loyalty) for a person and just swallows the abuse. I feel women are more vulnerable to violence because women are more compassionate and sympathetic to their abusers than men might be.

d) Educate women. Educate men. Make people aware that violence is not acceptable and to treat women with respect. Make women aware of their self worth so that they are not easily targeted. learn self-defense, build communities. Educating people is the only thing I can think of. Community programs. Educational PSAs. More general awareness. Believe it or not, those Truth ads about smoking do impact people. Ads with women with black eyes or hospitalized and making statistics known are also very powerful. I've seen a few in the past, but not so often. Awareness. Seems to be a big factor. those who are not aware they are victims or victimizers may get the message. Maybe not, but if others can identify the abuse, it could save a woman's life.

GABNet NYNJ invites you to post your own answers to the questions we posed (in the comments section below). Sometimes, the first step towards ending violence is to break down the wall of silence that surrounds it.
>>Read more

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Many Transgender Young People Turn to Prostitution to Buy Illegal Hormones

"It's very class related... When we look at who murder victims are, they're generally young low-income trans women of color and very often immigrants. If you're any of those things you are more susceptible to violence and disrespect. If you're all of those things, you probably feel like you have a bull's-eye on your back."

Cast Out of Their Homes and Unable to Find Work, Many Transgender Young People Turn to Prostitution to Buy Illegal Hormones
May 10, 2007, ABC News

Kenyatta can't talk long; she has a date.

"We call them dates," she said of the men with whom she has sex for money.

Anxiously, she brushes her long dark hair off her slight shoulders and out of her smoky eyes.

Once you know that Kenyatta, 22, was born a male, her large hands and Adam's apple seem obvious. But at first -- and even second -- glance, there is little to suggest that she wasn't a girl her entire life.

She prostitutes herself "about twice a month" in order to buy the black market hormones that enlarge her breasts, raise the pitch of her voice and keep hair from growing on her face.

"Honestly," she said, "I have to pull a trick to pay for hormones."

Kenyatta is one of 25 young people spending the night at Sylvia's Place, an emergency homeless shelter for New York City's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.

A third of the people here this Tuesday night, like most nights, are low-income transgender women who were born male. Kicked out of their homes and ostracized by their peers, they look to each other for solace and to the streets to make a living.

In an effort to make their bodies more feminine, some "trans women" take unregulated doses of hormones bought on the black market and pump industrial silicone -- the same stuff used in brake fluid -- into their breasts. Many have hurt themselves or attempted suicide.

Being transgender is costly. It costs people their families, homes, health, educations and jobs.

It also costs a lot of money.

To pay for their transitions, many of these young women have not only lived on the streets but worked there as well. They sell their bodies to afford the treatments and trappings necessary to make those bodies look to the world as they do in their heads.

Wealthier parents with a child who begins to present as transgender, sometimes as early as 5 years old, will seek information on the Internet, with a family physician, or through a community organization. But many low-income parents can't afford access to those resources.

Children from poorer families are more likely to be thrown out of their homes and end up on the streets.

Though the transgender community in the United States is small, roughly estimated at between 1 and 3 million people, it represents a broad diversity of people.

"Transgender can be anything from feeling internal body dysmorphia [an altered body image] to acting on it, as with cross-dressing, to actually changing your body through hormones, silicone injections and surgery," said Cris Beam, a journalist who spent seven years following a group of transgender youths on the streets of Los Angeles for her book "Transparent."

Those who want surgery and can afford it can spend $10,000 to $20,000 for a sex-change operation.

But for most transgender people, surgery is not an option. Their primary concern is simply making ends meet.

"The vast majority of [transgender] people are poor," said Chris Daley, director of the Transgender Law Center. "Being trans affects their economic health and means unemployment and underemployment. There is a real material cost in transitioning."

In San Francisco -- arguably the most transgender friendly city in the country and home to the minority's largest population -- 60 percent of transgender people make less than $15,300.

Experts and advocates say that people obviously in the middle of transition are often discriminated against when looking for work. Those with jobs often cannot get their health insurance to cover the cost of hormone therapy.

"They're often turned away from places like McDonald's if they're visibly trans -- the most basic workplaces and most basic jobs," said Ray Carannante, associate director of the Gender Identity Project at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York.

"They're out there and they often have to rely on sex work. Very often, trans young people have to rely on sex work regardless of what other skills they have."

Britney Spears, who took her new name from the pop singer she loves, was born 22 years ago in Queens, N.Y. Then named Nick, she began wearing her younger sister's clothing when she was 5 years old -- at home and even at school.

When her mother died a few years ago, Britney went to live with a grandmother in Baltimore who later kicked her out.

Now unemployed and living at Sylvia's Place, she tried working at McDonald's and "even [has] the scars to prove it."

"I worked at McDonald's, but it was horrible," she said. "They made me dress as a boy. When I went to the interview, I was all dressed up and I looked beautiful, but the manager said, 'Don't do it around the other workers cause it makes them uncomfortable.'"

Black Market Hormones and Silicone Injections

Many transgender people use hormones to alter their sex characteristics. Estrogen adds breasts to men, stops facial hair from growing and raises the voice.

Costs for hormones vary from place to place and depend upon a person's needs. Medicaid will not pay for most hormone treatments because it considers the therapies optional.

Most transgender people cannot afford to see doctors and get the necessary tests. Instead, they buy hormones on the black market -- usually hormone replacement therapies for menopausal women smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

"The costs vary," said Carannante. "I might be able to get hormones on the street for $20, but someone else might pay $100 dollars for the same thing. The majority of trans youth of color are not getting hormones by prescription."

Janet, 25, hasn't uttered her birth name in almost a decade. She began her transition to become a woman at 14. At about the same time, she began robbing houses to afford black market hormones.

She has criss-crossed the country and bought illegal hormones in California, New York and Texas.

"Just go into any transsexual bar and someone there will be selling," she said.

The only time she ever received hormones by prescription and at regulated doses was at a county jail in San Francisco. After being raped in another prison, she contracted HIV.

On the black market, she said, 1 cc of estrogen costs around $15. A physician might charge more than five times that amount.

She has also spent $800 on laser hair removal and at one time considered pumping industrial silicone into her breasts.

Dr. Ward Carpenter, a physician at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center who works with transgender patients, said there were numerous risks associated with both silicone injections and unregulated hormone use.

"Silicone is a huge health problem & One patient has had 20 surgeries to remove all the silicone injected into her hips 30 years ago. It solidifies, becomes very hard, and clumps into rocks," he said.

"Silicone has a tendency to migrate in the body," he added. "It can be injected in the hips and then you end up in the emergency room with silicone in the lungs."

There are also health risks associated with illegal hormones. Progesterone has been linked to breast cancer and estrogen can cause deadly blood clots in the "lungs, legs, heart and brain."
Class Matters

Low income "trans men" also face challenges in their transition from females to men.
Born Raquel Samantha Hall, 20-year-old Kels never felt comfortable in his body.

"My body never felt right to me," he said. "I always wanted to dress boyish and do boyish things. The body I'm in, I hate. I don't like my breasts or my voice.

"I want to chop off my breasts, but that will cost $8,000. I don't even have good enough credit to get $8,000. I don't even have good enough credit to get a credit card."

Affording their transition is not all low-income transgender people have to worry about.

Young transgender children in wealthier families often receive the benefit of their parents' education and access to information.

Children attending smaller schools in wealthier districts are more likely to have adults advocating for them than those in poor areas where funding is spread thin, said Daley.

Transgender people also must regularly contend with acts of violence. The young people interviewed by ABCNEWS.com all said they had been verbally harassed and some had been physically assaulted.

"For the last decade or two, about one trans person is murdered every month," said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "We know that number is actually higher because a lot of trans people's murders go unreported either because the police are confused or are trying to help victim's family by masking the person's identity."

"It's very class related," she added. "When we look at who murder victims are, they're generally young low-income trans women of color and very often immigrants. If you're any of those things you are more susceptible to violence and disrespect. If you're all of those things, you probably feel like you have a bull's-eye on your back."
>>Read more

TRAFFICKING & TECHNOLOGY: Underage prostitutes marketed on Internet

Underage prostitutes marketed on Internet
May 18, 2008, Sacramento Bee

If she tried hard, 14-year-old Jasmine could have sex with nine men a day. She'd start posting ads online at 2 or 3 p.m., in time to set up appointments with early commuters.

She'd finish by 5:30 a.m., exhausted and disgusted. The money – about $100 per trick – went to whichever pimp was profiting from her lost innocence.

In September, Sacramento police Sgt. Pam Seyffert and her vice unit picked up Jasmine at a Good Nite Inn near California State University, Sacramento. They'd found her the same way so many men had: on craigslist.

Well-known as a free online community bulletin board, craigslist has gained the dubious distinction of being a popular site for pimps to market young girls to customers, or "johns."

The young prostitutes often are disguised behind photos advertising older women, Seyffert says, and almost always claim to be at least 18.

It is difficult to estimate just how many children are being pimped out, either locally or nationally. In 2003, the FBI reported about 1,400 juveniles were arrested nationally for prostitution.

Most believe the problem is much larger than that number suggests. Estimates vary wildly and are considered, by law enforcement and other experts, to be based on shaky methodology.

What Seyffert knows is this: In Sacramento, the trade in sex with underage girls is thriving. Between 2005 and 2007, her department picked up at least 65 girls, and she feels certain many more are out there.

As prostitution increasingly moves to the Web, she says, the girls are just getting harder for police to find.

For this report, The Bee interviewed three prostitutes, ages 14 and 15, along with experts, police officers and youth advocates. The newspaper is using pseudonyms for the girls because they are minors, and each girl is a victim of a sex crime...

In the shadows

Since August 2006, Seyffert and her team of four plainclothes detectives have teamed with FBI agent Minerva Shelton to recover underage prostitutes – that is, locate them and place them in another environment. They post pictures of the girls they've found on a wall in their office on Freeport Boulevard. A few smile; most look sullen. One has a black eye.

"We've opened a Pandora's box," Seyffert said.

She worries that the girls face new dangers as teen prostitution moves from the strolls of Stockton and Del Paso boulevards to the Internet. Posting from motel rooms, girls are less visible to the police and community. They can't rely on gut instinct to decide if it's safe to accept a "date."

Frequently, the detectives say, pimps pass girls along a multicity circuit; their ads go up in Oakland one week, then Sacramento, then Reno. The unit has recovered girls shipped to Sacramento from Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and Montana.

Some Web sites, such as myredbook.com, specifically showcase "adult content and sexually explicit material." By contrast, prostitution postings on craigslist are buried in one corner of the site, past the section for furniture and collectibles.

Clicking on the "erotic services" link brings up a disclaimer releasing craigslist from any liability. Another click leads to a list of posts featuring scantily clad young women promising pleasure in exchange for "donations" or "roses." All claim to be at least 18; police say many are not.

Jim Buckmaster, craigslist's CEO, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee that "there is nothing more gut-wrenching to our staff … than to hear that our site has been abused to exploit a child."

He said craigslist bans illegal activity and urges users to watch for exploited minors. Staff recently implemented new measures, including verifying phone numbers. The changes have reduced the volume of erotic services ads by 80 percent, he said.

Ron Weitzer, a sociology professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who studies the sex industry, says craigslist bears no legal responsibility for the exploitation of minors.

Since 1996, federal law has protected Web sites from such liability; legal experts say sites such as craigslist – which has about 30 million free postings each month – cannot be expected to monitor such a large volume of content.

In March, the Connecticut attorney general became the latest law enforcement official to raise concerns about craigslist and prostitution, demanding the site purge explicit ads. But some advocates think young girls posting on a well-known site, where police can search for them, is better than elsewhere on the Web.

"The illusion that shutting craigslist down would even put a dent in (the problem) is really a false illusion," said David Batstone, co-founder of Not for Sale, a San Francisco anti-trafficking organization.

A difficult search

On a recent evening, Seyffert and her detectives convened at a Starbucks on Alhambra Boulevard. She wore her traditional uniform: jeans and a T-shirt. The men had scruffy beards and wore beanies and cargo pants. None of the patrons appeared to notice them.

Despite the chill, the group set up shop at a table out back, armed with mochas and Americanos, laptops and cell phones.

Detective Aaron Borg opened a browser window. Click. Click.

"Sassy & Classy w4m – 18," read one ad.

"Come have some fun with Monica tonight – 18," suggested another.

The group studied the photos, trying – unscientifically – to decide if the girls were minors.

Finally, Borg picked up the phone and dialed. "Hey is Monica there?" Using a pseudonym, he requested an hourong "date." She told him to drive to Madison and Interstate 80, then call her again.

"She sounds young," Borg said, as they walked to their cars.

The detectives say that in the past 18 months, they've changed their attitudes about these girls. They see them as victims now – not lawbreakers. Most girls eventually share that they've been raped or molested by relatives or family friends. Many are runaways or foster children.

Low self-esteem is universal, and pimps prey on it. Many pimps are current or former drug dealers who've discovered that trade in sex is lucrative and often carries lighter penalties. Initially, they shower the girls with everything they crave: new clothing, affection, praise. According to the detectives and the girls, a new pattern of abuse kicks in: beatings, rapes, verbal lacerations.

As such, Seyffert's team has refocused on two missions: Rescue the girls. Nail their pimps.

Arrest statistics bear out the department's change in attitude. In 2005, the team arrested two men for pimping juveniles. In 2006, they arrested one. But in 2007, arrests jumped to 12. In the first four months of this year, they netted seven.

Over the same time period, arrests of juveniles have dropped. In 2005, they arrested 23 girls for prostitution; in 2006 they arrested 24. But they arrested just eight of the 18 underage girls they picked up in 2007.

Detectives now see incarceration as a last resort. They dislike the notion of holding young sex-abuse victims behind bars. Whenever possible, the team tries to send girls to live in foster homes, or with caring relatives.

Unfortunately, Seyffert says, if they pick up a girl in the middle of the night, juvenile hall is often the only safe place to put her.

After racing out of Starbucks the other night, the vice team hit a dead end – Monica wanted to have the "date" in an apartment that the team thought sounded risky.

They pulled into a church parking lot, and sat in their cars scrolling through the craigslist postings. "Just turned 18 and ready for fun," offered one ad. The detectives started calling.

Around 10:15 p.m., one detective arranged a date at a Motel 6 with a blonde who claimed to be 20. He went inside, carrying a wad of money. The others followed soon after.

They found the girl sitting on a neatly made bed.

She was, indeed, 20, but Seyffert felt no less determined to catch her pimp.

"Who do you work for?" she asked.

"Myself," the girl whispered, her lower lip quivering.

"Why are you protecting this guy?" Seyffert pushed.

"I'm not protecting him," the girl sniffled.

Seyffert found a laptop in a desk drawer. She noted some bank deposit slips and receipts for jewelry, and pointed out the girl's tattoo: her pimp's initials.

"You don't need to be doing this anymore," Seyffert said, wiping away the girl's tears.

Childhood lost

What is it that lures a young girl to prostitution?

For Jasmine, it started with a rape when she was 11.

She was living in her grandparents' North Sacramento home, attending elementary school. Her mother was addicted to drugs, she said. Her father was physically abusive.

She said she confided to her mother about the attack, and her mother responded that it was the girl's own fault. Jasmine ran then – first to the streets, then to a friend's house.

There, she met a man who told her all kinds of nice things – compliments she'd rarely heard. He also gave her physical affection. "In other words, sex," she said recently, her big brown eyes unblinking as she sat in Seyffert's office.

Before long, the pimp taught Jasmine to sell her body, sometimes for $80, sometimes $300. He kept the profits, buying her cheeseburgers and sexy clothes.

From him – and the other five pimps she worked for between ages 11 and 14 – she learned to keep her eyes trained on the ground, and to shut off her mind when johns climbed on top of her.

She wrote about her experiences:

"We wanted so desperately to believe that the physical, mental and emotional abuse was over. We trained ourselves to believe the lies because we wanted to believe we had found someone."

Jasmine shared this writing sample in January. She was living then with her grandmother and said she wanted to become a pediatrician. By March, detectives had found her back on craigslist.

Many girls say that, though they feel repulsed by the fast life, its pull is difficult to overcome.

"It feels like once you're in it, you're stuck in it," explained 14-year-old Ashley, a pretty, blue-eyed girl who was sitting in a south Sacramento Starbucks with Shelton on a recent afternoon. Ashley said she was lured into prostitution by a man who saw her walking through her neighborhood in a suburb south of Sacramento. He invited her home and asked if she would like to be paid to perform oral sex.

Ashley was depressed. Her family was broke, and she fought with her mother. At 12, she already was having sex, and said she was intrigued by the prospect of getting paid for it.

"Let me sample what I'm going to be selling," the man told her. Then the spiral began.

She left home to work for the man. Soon after, that first pimp sent her to another, who in turn put her on a plane to a pimp in another state. She arrived in the airport with just the clothes she was wearing – and her first pimp's name, freshly tattooed on her adolescent torso.

One john pulled a gun on her. Another stabbed her in the leg. By 13, she'd had two miscarriages.

But, until officers finally picked her up, she never thought to go home.

"It's so hard to get out of it unless you're pulled out of it," she said.

Finding a safe haven

For Seyffert, Shelton and the detectives, pulling young girls out of prostitution has become a calling.

The real dilemma comes afterward, when they can't figure out how to keep them safe.

Most officers and advocates agree that rescuing child prostitutes will prove successful only if they have a secure, therapeutic place in which to heal.

Tasha Norris, director of the WIND Center for Homeless Teens, said many of the teenagers she works with engage in survival sex. She's often reluctant to ask them what they've been through, since her agency doesn't have the resources necessary to help.

"We're overwhelmed by the trauma," she said.

The other day, Lauren, a 15-year-old with almond eyes, sat in a classroom at Norris' center, and recalled being raped by a relative and a baby sitter at 11, then gang-raped at 13.

For a while, Lauren lived in a car with the mother of a friend – the woman made her work Del Paso Boulevard. She would cry as she walked, thinking she was supposed to be in school. She picked up chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital warts.

Despite the adults who have failed her, she recently placed her faith in a new pimp, who promised a big house in the suburbs with a Jacuzzi, a pool and a photo shoot.

"He only wants the best for us," she said. "He said, 'You ain't walking no more. That's what the photo shoot is. You're going to be on craigslist.' "

In hopes of breaking the cycle, Seyffert's team has sent a few girls, including Ashley and Jasmine, to a Los Angeles program for child prostitutes called Children of the Night.

They've also begun conversations with people interested in starting a similar program in Sacramento.

Among them is Dellena Hoyer, a 46-year-old former child prostitute who now does marketing for a drug and alcohol mental health treatment provider.

Hoyer recently purchased a three-bedroom home in Elk Grove. Once she completes her foster care certification, she plans to take in adolescent girls.

"The one thing a child needs more than anything is love," she said. "If somebody knows they're loved, that can change the world."
>>Read more

Monday, December 1, 2008

TRAFFICKING & AIDS: Sex Slavery Reaps Increase in AIDS

In commemoration of World AIDS day, below is an article published last summer regarding one of the first medical reports linking AIDS and trafficking. For the complete medical report, click here.

SEX SLAVERY REAPS INCREASE IN AIDS
Published: August 1, 2007, International Herald Tribune
http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/08/01/healthscience/aids.1-106866.php

Adding another bleak dimension to the sordid world of sex slavery, young girls who have been trafficked abroad into prostitution are emerging as an AIDS risk factor in their home countries.

Girls who were forced into prostitution before age 15 and girls traded between brothels are particularly likely to be infected, the study found. Shunned by their families and villages on their return, they sometimes end up selling themselves again, increasing the risk.

The study, which was published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, concerns girls from Nepal trafficked into bordellos in India, but the problem is also emerging elsewhere, said the lead author, Jay Silverman, a professor of human development at Harvard University's School of Public Health.

Girls from Yunnan Province in China sold to Southeast Asian brothels, Iraqi girls from refugee camps in Syria and Jordan, and Afghan girls driven into Iran or Pakistan all appear to be victims of the same pattern, he said, and are presumably contributing to the outbreaks of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in southern China, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"Most authorities fighting human trafficking don't see it as having anything to do with HIV," Silverman said. "It is just not being documented."

Aurorita Mendoza, a former Nepal coordinator for the United Nations AIDS agency, Unaids, called the study very important.

"It's the first I know of that's linked HIV to sex-trafficked girls," she said.
Nepal - a poor, religiously conservative country in the Himalayas - has until recently had relatively few AIDS cases. The government estimates that it has only about 10,000. The official Unaids estimate is 75,000, but that may be too high, given that some previous estimates for other countries have been wrong. One month ago, for example, Unaids cut its official estimate for neighboring India by 56 percent, to 2.5 million infected, more than anywhere except South Africa and Nigeria.

The study was paid for by the U.S. State Department's Office of Trafficking in Persons and by Harvard and Boston Universities. It tested 287 girls and women being helped by a charity called Maiti Nepal, or Nepali Mother's Home, in the capital, Katmandu. Most had been sent home by Indian anti-prostitution groups working with the police.

Thirty-eight percent of the Nepali women tested by Silverman's team were infected with HIV. But among the youngest - the 33 girls who had been sent into sex slavery before they were 15 years old - the infection rate was 61 percent.

Brothel owners pay twice as much for young girls, Silverman said, and charge more for sex with them, sometimes presenting them as virgins, because men think young girls have fewer diseases or believe the myth, common in some countries, that sex with a virgin cures AIDS.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," Silverman said. "Some of them are just shells, and shells of very young human beings. It's every father of a daughter's worst nightmare."

About half of those tested had been lured to India by promises of jobs as maids or in restaurants. Some were invited on family visits or pilgrimages and then sold, sometimes by relatives. Some were falsely promised marriage. Some were simply drugged and kidnapped, often by older women offering a cup of tea or a soft drink in a public market or train station, Silverman said.

Not all Nepali women are kidnapped or tricked, said Mendoza, the former Unaids official, since poverty drives some into prostitution knowingly.

Romesh Bhattacharji, a former national law enforcement official in India, said, "This heartless 'trade' has been popular for more than six decades in the subcontinent. In some parts of northern Nepal, one can tell which house has a girl working in an Indian brothel by its roof. If it's tin, that's brothel money."

Mendoza said returning girls may be rejected by their families and villages because of fear that they will either corrupt other girls or will so taint the village's reputation that no one will marry its young women.

As a result, these victims of kidnapping and rape may be forced to keep selling themselves. One survey of Katmandu prostitutes, Silverman said, found that half had worked in India. They may also become pregnant and, without treatment, infect their children.

Working in a brothel in Mumbai, one of the world's largest cities, was a risk factor in itself, the study found. The youngest also tended to have been in multiple brothels and in them for more than a year, raising their risk.

India's epidemic, concentrated among sex workers, truckers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs, is most common in its industrialized south and in the heroin-smuggling areas near Pakistan and Myanmar, not in regions bordering Nepal.

Worldwide, about 500,000 young women are trafficked each year, according to the State Department. Most of the 150,000 trafficked in southern Asia end up working as prostitutes in Indian cities, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

To view the entire report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, go to http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/298/5/536
>>Read more

Friday, November 28, 2008

TRAFFICKING & PROSTITUTION

Prostitution realities are unlike glamor myth in wake of Spitzer scandal

March 18, 2008, AP: The call girl in the Eliot Spitzer scandal appeared to be leading a glamorous life – staying in an upscale Manhattan high-rise, traveling to seduce powerful men in swanky hotel rooms, making more than $4,000 in one night.

But the reality for most prostitutes is far different.

Many come from broken homes, were homeless at some point, were abused as children and suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, says Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program in the Center for Cognitive Therapy at University of Pennsylvania. She says many are not making any money because of a drug habit and a pimp or madam who takes half their earnings.

“The idea of 'Pretty Woman' is a huge lie,” says Layden, referring to the hit movie about a man (Richard Gere) who hires a prostitute (Julia Roberts) and falls in love with her. “Most prostitutes spiral downward.”

Ashley Alexandra Dupre – the 22-year-old identified as “Kristen” in court documents accusing the former New York Governor of paying thousands for prostitutes' services – doesn't seem to be “Pretty Woman” either. Her MySpace page portrays her as a New Jersey native who left a broken home to pursue a music career in New York.

“I have been alone,” she wrote. “I have abused drugs. I have been broke and homeless. But, I survived, on my own.”

Prostitution takes many forms, from homeless teens who prostitute out of desperation to women and children who are trafficked from other countries and high-end escorts who drum up business online. This last group, with its seeming hint of glamour, has gotten the most media attention in the wake of the Spitzer scandal.

Former prostitute Norma Hotaling, who walked the streets and worked for an escort service, says it felt glamorous at first.

“I felt an incredible sense of power,” she said. “'Here's a way I can make money. I can work any hours that I want to work. I can call my own shots. I don't have to take the dates I don't want. It's like, 'I have my own business. Isn't this amazing?'”

But those feelings didn't last long. She was addicted to heroin; she was homeless at times; she was beaten and raped. She began to be horrified that her livelihood depended on sex with strangers on a regular basis.

“It makes it so appealing to think that it's an easy life, and it's not,” says Hotaling. “You don't find a whole lot of women speaking out about how glamorous it was.”

Melissa Farley, a research psychologist who has been studying prostitution for the last 14 years, estimates that 80 percent of prostitution is done indoors, including massage parlors, champagne rooms in strip clubs, health clubs and hotel rooms. She has interviewed 900 prostitutes in 10 countries. She says about 90 percent say they want to get out.

University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, of “Freakonomics” fame, recently studied street-level prostitution in Chicago, and estimated there were about 4,400 prostitutes active there in an average week. They made an average of about $25 an hour, a far cry from the thousands of dollars charged by the Emperor's Club VIP.

The Chicago prostitutes were also more likely to have sex with a police officer than to be arrested by one, and used condoms only a quarter of the time, Levitt found.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sudhir Venkatesh, a Columbia sociologist who collaborated with Levitt, says it is not uncommon to find prostitutes charging $10,000 per session. Still, he says those women report getting abused twice a year. (Street prostitutes report three times that amount of abuse.)

Some current and former sex workers who push for legalizing prostitution say most of the data on the subject is flawed because it is based on interviews with street hookers who are arrested, in battered women's shelters, or enrolled in drug treatment programs.

Former sex worker Veronica Monet says she was working in the business world when she decided to become a high-end prostitute. She has never worked on the streets or for a madam. She made as much as $15,000 a night as an escort, in addition to her own private hotel suite, spa services, dinner and entertainment.

“It's professional dating,” says Monet, a sexologist and sex educator. “It's not complicated. People do this all the time for free. We have learned to charge for it.”

Robyn Few, also a former prostitute and co-founder of SWOP-USA (Sex Workers Outreach Project) says she has met thousands of sex workers, many of whom are middle-class women who run their business on the Internet and consider themselves entrepreneurs. She advises against street prostitution.

“I can promise you we're not all drug addicts,” she says. “We're not all abused. We're all human. We have desires, wants, needs. 'Kristen' has huge desires. She wants to be a singer. She found a way to work towards those goals.”

Many prostitutes believe their life is glamorous, says Martha L. Shockey-Eckles, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Saint Louis University, whether they came from lower class or middle upper class or are using prostitution to make money while pursuing another career.

She has interviewed medical school students who said they were only prostituting to pay for school. But they abandoned those aspirations after becoming enthralled with the accouterments that came with the work – she says it's not uncommon for a high-end escort to make $3,500 to $4,000 a night.

So in essence those students say, “'You know what? I'm already successful,'” she says.
But that “success” can come at a price.

For every Veronica Monet, there are horrific stories that point to the ill effects of prostitution, says Layden. There are stories of prostitutes as young as 13, women being beaten and raped by the pimp, abused by the clients, contracting HIV, committing suicide because they don't see a way out.

“The story you're not hearing being told is the violence in the sex trade, the story of the degradation, the large amount of women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder on par with returning veterans,” says Rachel Durschlag, founder and director of The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE).

There is no bright future in prostitution, says Hotaling, founder of the SAGE Project (Standing Against Global Exploitation), which helps women leave and recover from sex work. Besides the physical and emotional effects, and the risk of jail time, women eventually find it hard to compete with younger and trafficked women. She says they are left penniless (most weren't investing) with no education, social life (most of their friends were in the industry) or life skills (many have never even had a bank account).

Dupre has not commented about her life as a prostitute, except to tell The New York Times she does not want to be thought of as a monster.

She has become a high-profile symbol, both as a victim – a young dropout with a drug problem – and as a woman who defies stereotypes. Madeleine Dash, a sex worker and co-founder of the Sex Workers Action New York, says “Kristen” proves that not all prostitutes are forced into this line of work out of desperation.

But Farley says prostitution is a dead-end. She says homicide is the most frequent cause of death for women in prostitution. Durschlag says prostitution impacts more than the prostitute and the client.

“When you glamorize prostitution, it doesn't just affect 'Kristen,'” she says. “But it affects all these other young vulnerable individuals because it becomes normal.”

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20080318-1108-fea-lifestyles-prostitutionrealities.html
>>Read more

Thursday, November 27, 2008

TRAFFICKING: THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE INDUSTRY

GABNet cited in Women's eNews article about the mail order bride industry

Mail Order Brides Find U.S. Land of Milk, Battery
By Asjylyn Loder, WeNews correspondent
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1390/context/archive

As Congress considers the need for greater regulation of international marriage brokers, a Ukrainian woman is suing the brokerage that united her with her now ex-husband who, she claims, battered her and is also abusing his latest "mail-order bride."

This summer, members of Congress are expected to introduce legislation that would give a foreign woman the chance to look at a U.S. man's criminal record before accepting a commercially brokered offer of marriage from him.

The proposed legislation would mandate disclosure of past restraining orders against the man and would require immigration services to inform the woman about domestic violence protections available to her. Washington State recently passed similar legislation.

The legislative push coincides with the case of Nataliya Fox, a so-called mail-order bride who sued Encounters International, a well-known marriage agency based in Bethesda, Md., that specializes in matching Russian and Ukrainian women with U.S. husbands. Fox sued Encounters International in the U.S. District Court of Maryland for failing to give her information about domestic violence and for fraudulently informing her that she would be deported if she left her abusive husband, James M. Fox Jr., an Encounters International client. No trial date has been set for the case filed in April 2002.

Natasha Spivack, founder and owner of Encounters International, denied the charges. "This is a major scam and she happened to push all the right buttons," Spivack said of Nataliya Fox, "If you look at her, she looks very honest, like all con-artists do." Spivack, who emigrated to the U.S. from Moscow, claims that Nataliya Fox manufactured evidence of abuse and lied on her immigration applications. Spivack started Encounters International in 1993 using a fax machine and regular mail services before shifting to Web-based services as the Internet became widely available.

"In July 2000, James Fox attacked me," Nataliya Fox wrote in her declaration to the court in June 2002. "The beating lasted approximately two hours." James Fox was arrested for Nataliya's attempted murder in July 2000. In a recent telephone interview, he denied hitting Nataliya and said that his record had been expunged.

Randall Miller, a lawyer with Arnold and Porter, the prominent D.C. law firm that took Nataliya Fox's case pro bono, said in a recent telephone interview that James Fox expunged his record by completing a batterer's class. The Tahirih Justice Center, an immigrant women's rights advocacy group based in Falls Church, Va., joined Arnold and Porter as co-counsel. Tahirih has been the leading force behind the upcoming congressional initiative that would regulate the industry.
"During the entire time of my association with Encounters International and Natasha Spivack, I was never told about my rights should I encounter domestic abuse," Nataliya Fox's declaration states. "She said that if I ever left James I would likely be deported."

James Fox obtained a Haitian divorce decree from Nataliya in January 2001. In October of that year, he married Inna Fox, a woman he met through an Internet marriage agency that has since closed down, James Fox said. According to court records in her case, Nataliya Fox believes that her ex-husband is abusing his new wife. Encounters petitioned to find out the basis for Nataliya's suspicion, but the judge ruled that the potential risk to the safety of the person who is the source of Nataliya's information overrode the defense's need to know.

Thousands of Women Applying to Become U.S. Wives

Some women who enter commercially arranged marriages hope for a prince. Others just want a ticket out of economic desperation. Whatever the reason, thousands of foreign women marry near-strangers from the U.S. each year.

While services and costs vary, it generally works like this: men purchase addresses and profiles of women from a broker and initiate correspondence with the women they like. As the relationship progresses, men can choose to pay the matchmaker to send the women flowers or gifts. This is followed by a visit (immigration law requires that U.S. citizens meet their immigrating fiancee at least once), for which the matchmaker may arrange hotels, transportation, and translators--all for a fee, of course.

Because the "mail-order bride" business is almost entirely unregulated, there are no reliable statistics about how many women enter the U.S. each year to begin marriages with men they hardly know.

Between 1998 and 2001, the number of foreign fiancees entering the United States nearly doubled, from 12,306 in 1998 to 23,634 in 2001. Although no agency tracks how many of those fiancees are coming as a result of brokered matches, an Immigration and Naturalization Service report to Congress in 1999 estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 brokered brides entered the United States in 1998.

Estimating the number of fiancees in brokered matches is something more akin to divination than hard statistics. The 1998 figures--themselves an estimate--indicate that one-third to one-half of all entering fiancees met their intended through a matchmaker. If the percentage holds true, then the number of mail-order brides that entered the U.S. in 2001 could range from approximately 8,000 to 12,000.

GABRIELA Network, a Filipina advocacy group with offices throughout the U.S., believes that the congressional figure is low. It claims that more than 5,000 Filipina brides depart for the United States every year. Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the former Soviet states all boast thriving online matchmaking industries. The 1999 Immigration report found that most brides entering the U.S. came from the Philippines or former Soviet states.

No Government Oversight Leaves Brides Vulnerable

The lack of governmental oversight of the industry, critics say, leaves foreign women vulnerable to violence and abuse. Brokered brides leave familiar support networks and rely on near-strangers for financial security and immigration status. Many do not know that they can leave an abusive mate without being deported. And, while the women undergo rigorous background checks, their future husbands do not.

A 1996 law passed by Congress required that matchmakers provide women with domestic violence information or face a $20,000 fine. Regulations have never been put in place to implement that law and it has not been enforced. Nataliya Fox is the first woman to seek redress under that law.

"The agencies have a financial incentive to ensure the satisfaction of their paying clients--the men--but there is no comparable incentive to safeguard the woman," said Layli Miller-Muro, executive director of Tahirih.

Internet marriage agencies thrived with the rapid expansion of Web-based commerce and communication. The 1999 report found that approximately 200 international marriage brokers were operating in the U.S. In a recent count, Tahirih found more than 400 Internet marriage agencies.

Larry Gucciardo, owner of the Angelika Russian Marriage Agency Network, one of the largest U.S. marriage agencies, saw his opportunity in the Internet after his own frustratingly slow international courtship via regular post, he said in a recent phone interview.

In addition to faster communication, the Internet eliminated the start-up costs involved in producing and mailing a printed catalog, and could feature a greater number of profiles than a bulky book. "We have almost 100 Web sites," Gucciardo said. "We have 155,000 clients and about 20,000 girls. We add about 100 to 200 new girls every week."

Another problem with the business, say critics, is that it fuels men and women with false expectations about the quality of the prospective marriage. "The problem is that the organizations that market these relationships, that market these women, market stereotypes, to both sides," said Leslye Orloff, an expert on battered immigrants with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington, D.C. "What they're doing is setting up an atmosphere that is ripe, potentially, for abuse."

U.S. men looking for foreign wives can search for such a partner by her height, weight, age and country of origin. The Christian Singles Registry promises, "Virgin Brides from 60 Countries." Another site called eMates markets "Quality Women," while One True Love--an Angelika Network site--advises potential customers that Russian women, unlike their American counterparts, "are not spoiled or greedy."

Some foreign women, like Fox, are finding that their American dreamboats turn into nightmares after marriage. One Russian woman, Svetlana, used a pseudonym out of fear of reprisal from her ex-husband. Svetlana nervously recounted how her husband repeatedly raped, beat and choked her during their 10-month marriage. When she turned to the marriage broker for help, they told her: "'It's just a different culture,'" Svetlana claimed.

"I didn't know. Is this normal marriage? My father, he never shook the shoulders of my mom, or choked her, or hit my mother's head against the wall," she said during an interview in the unmarked, secure offices of Tahirih.

Miller-Muro of Tahirih, which arranged the interview, added: "The barbarity of her torture is so severe that I think that as Americans we should be profoundly embarrassed that there's an industry that facilitates this."

Tahirih is not the only agency reporting a recent up-tick in the number of abused brides. Lillian Bykhovsky said in a recent telephone interview from her shelter for battered immigrant women in Atlanta that the abuse of mail-order brides "is quite a trend." Bykhovsky had assisted two such brides just that week. Sophia Lutsky, a counselor in Seattle, said by phone that she was currently seeing more than 10 abused brides and that she had seen an increase in such cases over the last several years.

In Colorado, Valyeria Roussakova, who came to the United States as a result of a brokered marriage, recently spoke in a phone interview about her own experiences. She said her husband terrorized her and her 9-year-old son by a previous marriage so badly that her son had frequent nightmares. Roussakova said her husband abused her emotionally and threatened her with deportation. "He said, 'If you don't like it, you can always leave,'" Roussakova said.
After she left him, Roussakova said her husband withdrew her work permit and she lost her job. According to Roussakova, the marriage agency told her that they take no responsibility for the outcome of a marriage.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that a lot of the women you see on these sites come from very disadvantaged backgrounds," said Vivian Kutchon in a telephone interview, a victim's advocate with the GABRIELA Network in the Philippines. "It's just another level of control."

Recently, Encounters International held a social gathering in suburban Maryland for some its clients. Bill Lawson, an enthusiastic Encounters' client, disagreed that women who agree to these arranged marriages are being exploited. "We're not taking advantage of the women. We're taking advantage of an opportunity." He described Russian women as "a little more old-fashioned, as far as values go. A little more like American women in the 1950s or the 1930s."

Encounters' Web site says that the agency has facilitated almost 250 marriages, with only 25 divorces. Ken Meyers, an as-yet-unmarried client, hosted the recent social at his Germantown, Md., townhouse where Spivack's success was evident. One client, married eight years, held his 6-year-old daughter on his knee. Another, Joe, smiles at his wife of just over three months. A young Marine and his wife, married three years, humorously recount hard times on a rural base.

In the next room, however, an elegant Russian woman who sat with her manicured hands clasped tightly in her lap did not appear so well-adjusted to her new life. In 2000, she married a man--her "soul mate," as the Encounters' Web site described him, who had been an agency member for just two months.

"Potentially we could be a very good couple," she said, but her husband is isolated, moody, and frequently yells at her. He did not want her to learn to drive, hold a job or join a gym. On her birthday, he took out a pistol, one of his 17 guns, and put the barrel in his mouth and threatened to shoot himself. "He always carries a gun," she said. She did not want her name used for fear of angering her husband.

After the woman left the gathering, Spivack mocked the nervousness the woman had expressed to her about having possibly spoken too candidly with a reporter. "She says to me, 'I am worried I have said something wrong,'" Spivack said. She imitated the woman, by wringing her hands and continuing to quote her. "'I am afraid because my husband he has so many guns'" Spivack broke into her wide-toothed smile. As she laughed, several of her clients laughed with her.

Asjylyn Loder is a freelance writer in New York.

For more information:
>>Read more

THE TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN: A Presentation by GABNet

GABNet NYNJ 2007

**NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT OF GABRIELA NETWORK. Contact: gabnetnynj@gmail.com**

In 2006, Christmas, a runaway Filipino maid in Kuwait was abducted and gang-raped by 17 men in desert camps. The woman who had escaped her employer’s house was found by four men who took her to a desert camp where they raped her. They then offered the maid to six of their friends who again raped her at a second camp before delivering her to seven others who finished the gang-raped her at a third camp. She was violated over and over again.

Meanwhile, earlier that summer the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration exposed a human-trafficking ring in Dubai that falsely recruited young Filipinas –mostly in their 20’s -- ostensibly as waitresses, salesgirls, mall or hotel employees but instead forced them into prostitution for bar owners and pimps when they arrived. Most of the victims who have sought the help of the Philippine consulate in Dubai were some of the lucky ones, able to escape from their pimps and recruiters. The victims experienced severe trauma, exploitation and abuse while in the custody of these syndicates.

5 coffins a day land at the Manila International Airport; three contain the bodies of Filipina women who died or were killed elsewhere in the world.

Battery, rape and murder are the top occupational hazards for Filipina who work overseas.

What circumstances have exposed these women to such danger and atrocities?

In today’s globalized world, where capital’s relentless and ruthless pursuit for markets and profits have been glossed over by multinational corporations, dubious international bodies and national governments, human trafficking – the Recruiting, Harboring & Transportation of a person by use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjecting them to sexual and/or labor exploitation -- has become our very own modern-day slavery.

Human Trafficking, with an annual profit of $5-7 billion is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world today, after arms and drug dealing. As many as 2 million women are trafficked across borders annually. Women are typically recruited with promises of good jobs in other countries or provinces and lacking better options at home “agree” to migrate. An estimated 20 million women and children are in the global sex trade.

Although sex trafficking – which involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, mail-order bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children -- is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, trafficking for labor exploitation is also increasing. In fact, the sex trade is the second most likely employment for Filipinas going abroad, the first is domestic work.

Reports have come in telling of Filipinas jumping from buildings to escape the abusive practices of their employers, some of whom have treated them little more than animals – feeding them scraps, locking them in a room and refusing payment for their work.

Filipina domestic workers all over the Middle East, where the majority of them work, have taken to wearing multiple underwear garments to sleep to prevent employers from raping them.

But the Philippine government – much like a pimp – continues to search the globe for countries to take its "surplus labor.” Today, Number of Filipinos Overseas: 8.1 million in 194 countries. Indeed, the government has deployed a yearly average of 900,000-one million OFW’s from 2001 to 2005. 75% of those who leave are Filipina women. In fact, the Philippines is the world’s top exporter of women, more than 64% of Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers are women. The share of OFW remittances to the gross national product has grown from nearly 8 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2005.

Meanwhile, The Sex industry – including child pornography and prostitution -- is now the fourth largest industry in the Philippines. The Philippine government has institutionalized sex trafficking under a host of “work” euphemisms such as “guest relations officer (GRO), cultural dancer, and cultural entertainers. The Majority of the 300,000 OFWs in Japan last year were women who worked as entertainers for the “rest and recreation” of the American troops based there. Women who are infected by STDs and AIDS are immediately deported to the Philippines. More than 47,000 Filipinas are in South Korea, many are on Entertainment visas. An estimated 25,000 Filipinas have been brought to the US to work in brothels, bars nightclubs, illegal sex farms and in vicinity of military bases. Some 20,000 do the sex farm tours in Europe. The number of Filipinas in the nightclubs and brothels of the Middle East is not available but it is sizable. Moreover, tourism – a quick way for many debtor countries to earn cash as recommended by the IMF – has only facilitated sex tourism – in which agencies offer “package” vacations which include commercial sex and a plethora of women to choose from. SE Asia earns $8 billion/year from tourism – 80% of tourists are males.

Moreover, In the United States, around 5,000 Filipino women enter as mail-order brides per year. In Australia, some 20,000 Filipino women have gone as Mail order brides. Out of the 4,000 Filipinos in Iraq today, Filipinas have been found working in the US military bases – in the massage parlors.

These numbers and facts are staggering. And they are only the tip of the iceberg.

How have Filipinas been so commodified and dehumanized, reduced to sexual slaves or domestic drudgery?

Some mainstream human rights organizations have actually touted that poverty and inequality as a cause of human trafficking is a myth. They instead claim that Trafficking is a criminal industry driven by the traffickers and their customers. In other words, supply is only offered by the pimps and demand is only coming from the johns of the world. This view, to put it simply, is blind to the bigger picture.

As women who struggle against the machinations of imperialism and neocolonialism, we know that globalization has established for trafficking a daisy-chain of economic operations:
1) At one end, it ensures an endless supply of poor women with no alternative except to sell their bodies via the sex trade or domestic labor. IMF/WB policies have entrenched and intensified artificial poverty in debtor countries by eliminating national self-sufficiency through so called liberal economic reforms via privatization of land and demolition of urban and rural communities. Peddling tourism as a quick source of cash has also opened the floodgate to prostitution. In addition, the open door policy for trade and investments to create export processing zones, the flexibilization of labor and the encouragement to rely on migrant remittances to shore up a country’s GDP are all factors which have pushed women out of the production process to the shadows of the “informal” economy -- making the doors wide open for legal and illegal recruiters preying on young and poor Filipinas ready to accept whatever jobs that will ease the poverty of their families. According to a Philippine government study, the biggest number of the poor can be found among women and children, comprising 49.6% of the populace, which in a country of 88 million people means 56.4 million women and children.

2) In the middle, meanwhile, globalization has created a market for trafficking such as the establishment of tourism spots or discriminating immigration policies which favors some nationalities over others for a source of cheap labor. Moreover, militarism – the armed wing of globalization – has also created a huge market for trafficking. After 9/11, when the US returned to the Philippines to help the Philippine military hunt down Islamic terrorists, trafficking of women and girls to the conflict zone in the south rose to 200%. In one instance, a town mayor bussed in a group of young Filipinas to the US base and told the GI’s that the Philippines welcomed them “with open arms and open legs.” In the international scene, America’s imperialist war in Iraq has led to the increased trafficking of Iraqi women and girls to neighboring countries – a story not commented upon in the media.

3) And, finally, at the end of the spectrum, globalization has constructed an elaborate pimping system which pumps up demand for the sex trade, including the exotification of women of color through the media (especially the Internet), pornography and drugs (like Viagra). As for trafficking in labor, how many of us can live full lives without the help of a nanny or housekeeper? how many of us would be able to afford our cheap groceries or Nike sneakers without labor exploitation?

Simply put, to enslave women in the sex industry or to exploit her labor means to FIRST enslave her economically. Thus for women of such impoverished countries as the Philippines, choice or the exercise of choice is not even a factor when survival is the goal. This argument for choice is what some critics have lobbed against our analysis – they claim, don’t these women choose to be domestic workers? Don’t they choose to be Prostitutes?

And our answer is an emphatic NO, for as long as entities like the IMF/WB and their global manifestations are enabled to afflict nations and peoples with continuing poverty there is no choice. As long as transnational corporations are enabled to plunder without hindrance nations and people there is no choice. As long as national governments oppress and suppress their people’s demands for liberation, there is no choice.

So, unless poor and oppressed women of the world unite to struggle against imperialist globalization and neocolonization, our and our sisters’ fates will remain as that of being “displaced commodified and modern day slaves”. We must educate, organize and mobilize ourselves. In our attempt to build this international solidarity with women and our allies all over the world, we ask you to join GABRIELA Network’s Purple Rose Campaign, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this Valentine’s Day. The PRC is a massive global campaign which seeks to end trafficking in women and children and advances the analysis that this type of exploitation is a creature formed in the nexus of imperialism.

Without your attention to this matter, without your commitment to this cause, Filipina women, along with others from similarly exploited situations, will continually be violated…over and over again.

**NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR OR GABRIELA NETWORK. Contact: gabnetnynj@gmail.com**
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THANKSKILLING: GABNet Draws Attention to the Plight of Indigenous Women This Thanksgiving

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GABNET DRAWS ATTENTION TO THE PLIGHT OF INDIGENOUS WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD THIS THANKSGIVING, A NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING FOR NATIVE AMERICANS
  • United States: Native American women are 25 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes. Eighty-six percent of assaults against indigenous women is by non-indigenous men who are rarely caught or charged with the crime.
  • In Mexico, indigenous women experience violence at the hands of the military funded by the U.S. government. Military personnel use rape as an instrument of repression and intimidation as exemplified in the 1997 massacre and mutilation of 32 Tzotzil women in Acteal.
  • In the Philippines, heightened militarization and state repression has killed close to 1,000 activits, including Alyce Omegnan Claver, an indigenous woman who was executed for her political activism.
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GABNET AND MARIPOSA ALLIANCE PROUDLY AFFIRM NATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE

Gabnet/Mariposa Alliance proudly affirm our participation in the international feminist movement's 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign. Along with over 2,000 organizations in 154 countries who have participated in this campaign since 1991, Gabnet/Ma-Al launches our own 16 days of activism, beginning on November 25th, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, with a nationwide Speak Out Against Violence, and ending on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.

We in the U.S. are living in a time where words like progress, change and victory are flooding and infused in our collective discourse. We are supposed to believe that we have won the good fight; that there is nothing left to struggle for. We are supposed to believe that individual success is tantamount to the liberation of all.

We, in Gabnet/Mariposa Alliance, know that women around the world, from the United States to the Philippines to Haiti to Africa, still have everything to struggle for. We know that murder is the number one cause of death of pregnant women; that homicide is the number one occupational hazard for women in the US.

We know that somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her partner, every 15 seconds. At least one in three women, globally, is sexually abused in her lifetime. In the US, a woman is raped every six minutes. And in armed conflict zones around the world—in Iraq, Darfur, Columbia, South Asia—the rape of women and children is a tool of war, just the same as any gun, bomb or missile.

Over one million women and children are trafficked internationally every year, becoming victims of sexual exploitation, labor exploitation and abuse. And in the US, legislation is being passed to legalize prostitution, an institution that is responsible for the legal rape and degradation of women around the world. This violence cuts across ethnic and economic boundaries and is the result of a patriarchal and imperialist system that values power and money over human rights.

Gabnet/Mariposa Alliance stands in militant solidarity with women around the world as we affirm that women's rights are human rights. Each time a woman is attacked around the world, we hear her voice and we stand with her. We demand an end to all violence against women. --##
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