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."
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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
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