Posted in: Feminism, Gender, Psychology & Law
Published on Jan 23, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler
An All-American Hero: Jody Williams, a Former Sex Slave.
NEWSFLASH! Jody Williams Talks About The Spitzer Scandal. And She Says Things that No One Else Is Saying.
Spitzer Should Also Apologize to the Prostitutes and Donate Money to their Recovery and Rehabilitation
Governor Spitzer does not seem to “grasp the fact that he’s done much more in this recent scandal than betray the trust of his wife and the duty of his office. We are not talking an affair here - we’re talking about the services of a prostitute who, for all we know, could be under the age of 18 and possibly even a sexual trafficking victim. What –does- everyone think that if an escort service is based on US soil and charges a lot of money that they don’t use trafficking victims or women who are forced into engaging into prostitution? Give me a break. ”
I am talking with Jody Williams, who helps women escape from prostitution. Here are her comments on the Spitzer Affair.
I personally ran one of the highest paid escort services in Los Angeles in the 1980’s right alongside Alex, The Beverly Hills Madam. I was in fact dubbed the High Tech Madam because of using sophistated technology in my work before the internet was even invented. Since retiring I’ve devoted my life to helping prostitutes escape sex work. Why? Because I know that men like Spitzer who make the laws are making laws that favor johns’ and pimps and that do not favor the prostitutes.
Has anyone ever asked why our government will spend approximately $2000 per prostitute to have them arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated and then simply kicked back onto the streets after release from prison when for roughly $500 per prostitute they could offer them proven techniques and services of rehabiliation that would get them into new, legit, lives where they don’t have to turn tricks, be in porno or live out the rest of their days on SSI or welfare? Because if we started getting these women into becoming respectable members of society instead of revolving through the system as victims - then their tales about abuse and exploitation at the hands of men like Spitzer would not continue to be ignored.
Spitzer is apologizing to his wife and to the press - but where is his apology to the actual prostitute? Wait a minute - talk is cheap - where is his donation to a group that would help her get out of prostitution and into a new life ? We as a public don’t ask for that because we assume that this escort is over 18 and not a victim of some kind - but we don’t have proof of that. And who are we to believe? Spitzer who doesn’t want to go to jail and wants to save his marriage and career? Which is another fact everyone seems to be missing - men like Spitzer are the ones creating these laws that put women in jail for prostitution that are doing so simply to feed their kids, support a drug habit while no funding is available for rehab facilities for her to check into, or is being forced through a lack of education and support services to not have any other option or by an actual pimp/trafficker into doing this - while john legislation is being opposed that would put men in jail for engaging in the same act totally voluntarily I need to add.
Enough with the cheap apologies - I want to see men like this donate publically the same amount of money they spent on a good time to be donated into groups that help these women get rehabilitated. Groups that the government won’t fund (gee I wonder why). Maybe because guys like Spitzer and in charge of the money don’t seem to think these women are victims - much like I imagine if you poll a few rapists they might say the same about their victims as well. Ever heard a rapist who didn’t say his victim didn’t “enjoy it” or “ask for it” or “really wanted it”. Why isn’t the press catching on? These johns are saying the same things about their prostitutes to avoid responsibility for their actions. Prostitution isn’t sex anymore than rape is sex or child molesting is sex.
Jody Williams - Trafficking and Prostitution Services - Nevada www.tapsdirectory.org (775) 482-3285
According to Las Vegas ex-prostitute Jody Williams, founder of Sex Workers Anonymous, we should compare the “promotion of prostitution with the way the tobacco companies market cigarettes. “They’re taking advantage of your ignorance of the industry,” she told the Pahrump Valley Times on September 7, 2007 at a press conference.
Williams said ex-prostitutes came to her organization suffering from a variety of physical and emotional disorders. “Women in prostitution suffer from the same combat stress that Vietnam and combat vets do, but they have fewer services than vets do,” she said.
The illegal pimps are replaced by “the legal pimps” in the brothels, Williams charged.
“The current law in Nevada which allows legal prostitution and talks about wanting them to use their earnings to generate tax dollars for the state of Nevada actually makes the state of Nevada a third pimp for these women,” Williams said.
I do not believe that any Presidential candidate has been seriously questioned about this issue–not in the recent Nevada primaries, and not elsewhere. They should be–because the issue is that of slavery. It is easy to decry historical examples of the human slave trade but we have an even bigger global slave trade currently underway: that of sexual slavery.
This is the saddest subject for me and one about which I know too much. I have been writing about this subject from the mid 1970s on and I continued to soldier on during the great feminist Sex Wars when feminist anti-prostitution abolitionists /anti-pornography activists were demonized as puritanical man-haters who were willing to endanger abortion rights, the First Ammendment, and woman’s sexual freedom . In turn, the anti-Censorship activists were also demonized as faux-feminists, heartless Stalinists, and First Ammendment fanatics.
Neither side took any prisoners. Both sides made important points. I made it a point not to demonize anyone and to try to keep working with everyone. Outsiders often under-estimate the ferocity of this struggle among American feminists. In the short run, the abolitionists lost, both in the universities and in feminist movement circles.
Now, thirty-three years later, most feminists on both sides of the aisle understand that sexual slavery (or “trafficking”) cannot be confused with sexual freedom. And many feminists work on legislation for the American government that is meant to enforce the laws against pimps and sometimes against Johns. Some of these feminists are also God-fearing conservatives; some are not. Some are abolitionist refugees from the great feminist Sex Wars or from the domestic violence shelter movement.
In the early 1990s, I read every study and every book about prostitution and about serial murder that I could find. Why? Because I was putting together a “dream-team” for Aileen Carol Wuornos, the so-called first woman serial killer in Florida. (This is the woman whom Charlize Theron brilliantly impersonated in the film Monster). Although Wuornos had wanted us to testify, her lawyer, a public defender named Trish Jenkins, never called my “dream team .” This omission became one of the grounds upon which her death sentence was appealed. Of course, after a decade on Death Row, the same state that had executed Ted Bundy executed Wuornos too. I wrote a book about her but I never published it. That’s a story for another day but suffice it to say: I told the story through her eyes. And yes, I corresponded with and met her and an incredibly sordid cast of Florida scavengers and pirates.
I learned how dangerous “the (prostituted) life” really is, how prostituted women become third- and fourth-class citizens, isolated, practically invisible, and how hard it is to ever return to “straight” life. Prostituted women turn to drugs and drink in order to endure the soul-scorching “work.” They do not become rich. Girls are also no longer as desirable or as marketable once they look older than twenty five. Twelve-year olds (or those who can pass for twelve) are in high demand.
Prostituted women are also the ones whom serial killers prey upon and whom college-age men and kinky Johns gang-rape, torture, rob, and kill. Despite all the myths and lies, there is nothing glamorous about this life. If this were truly desirable work, the daughters of millionnaires would swell the ranks–and this is not the case.
I do not favor legalizing prostitution. It is not a “victim-less” crime. The prostitutes are the victims. (Of course, I do not favor fining or jailing prostitutes; Johns, perhaps, but not prostitutes).
The real heroes are the prostituted women who have themselves miraculously escaped from slavery and who turn right around and help other girls and women to do so. Even the Biblical Moses was reared as a Prince of Egypt; liberators may require just such training in order to endure what a struggle for liberation entails. Slaves–? They turn on each other and on their liberators too. A slave-liberator? They are rare.
Jody Williams is one such incredible hero. How many of us would dare to return to Hell over and over again, risking everything? And, where is “north” for a sex slave on the run? Jody insisted on using her real name for this interview. She lives in Las Vegas. Once Jody began organizing, helping other prostitutes escape, and naming names, she endangered herself in terrifying ways. According to Williams, police and other state officials in Las Vegas personally profit from both legal and illegal prostitution.
Hence, her phone lines were cut as were her computer cable wires. Her electricity and water were mysteriously shut off–and were only restored with the intercesson of a sympathetic elected official. Her daughter was run down in broad daylight by a car and sustained many broken bones.
These things all happened within 24-60 hours after she participasted in a press conference about sex trafficking last fall in Las Vegas. Jody’s own health has been seriously compromised. Despite this, she soldiers on against extraordinary odds.
Here is part of an interview I conducted with her on the phone and via email. If you are moved by reading this and wish to make a donation to her work, please contact me at my Blogsite and I will put her in touch with you.
Phyllis: How old are you? What is your educational background?
Jody: I’m 47 years old now. I left high school at 15 and started community college at 16. I dropped out at 19 to be in the sex industry. I’m now a few classes away from my BA degree.
Phyllis: Where did you grow up? What is your family background?
Jody: I grew up in Los Angeles and left home because I could not cope with living with my mentally ill abusive mother any longer. I got a job as a cocktail waitress so I could continue on with college after my father ripped off my college money. It was there I met the people who indoctrinated me into the sex industry. This was in Tarzana, CA about 1980.
Phyllis: What do you tell people who insist that prostitution is a “choice?”
Jody: One could argue that when a man says he’ll kill your kids in the other bedroom if you scream for help while he rapes you and you decide to protect the children to cooperate–that this means you were not raped. For a long time when I thought about quitting, I knew it would mean I could potentially be hurt and/or killed or set up with the police if I did so. This may mean I “chose” not to take that kind of punishment by continuing–but I wouldn’t call that a choice. Choice means having “other options.” Sometimes you don’t have other options even when a gun isn’t pointed directly at your head.
Phyllis: How did you finally manage to escape from the sex industry?
Jody: I tried for years to find help to get out of the sex industry - but found I could not do it without help and I couldn’t find the help I needed. I did not abuse drugs and the only programs offered at that time were drug programs. I was lucky enough to meet a group of Veterans who were able to help me through the adjustment through the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous and through their understanding of PTSD.
Phyllis: What set you on your current path of helping other women who want to escape?
Jody: When I went back to some old friends to do “amends” I found everyone was either dead, dying or in prison and I was the only one left basically. I realized we needed to make help more available.
Phyllis: Why do women return to the sex industry after they’ve tried hard to leave it behind?
Jody: I don’t believe women “change their mind” to return. I think they sometimes second guess their decision out of fear that someone may come to harm if they don’t return. I think sometimes the drugs wear off and it’s the detox talking. Sometimes it’s depression setting in which makes you doubt everything. Sometimes it’s the brainwashing kicking in the pimps have programmed there to return the women like homing pigeons. So when a woman starts talking about “returning” I say we need to carefully examine where those feelings are coming from. It’s never been really them wanting to go back either.
Phyllis: What is happening for you right now, after the fallout from going public last fall?
Jody: After being hit by that car, my daughter has been confined to total bedrest. So my finances are non-existent right now. This gives me a choice - either stop my work helping these women or start reaching out to outside funding sources for help. Actually this is a blessing in disguise. If I were to have died - then my work would have ceased entirely.
I realized after being so sick like this that I need to set up a system that will go on after I die to help these women - so that’s what I’m working on now. I’ve had more difficulties with the police than I can tell you about. I had trouble with the police when I was in the business and now that I’m out of it trying to help women.
Phyllis: How do you financially manage to do rescue work?
Jody: I used to fund everything out of my paychecks - but the last couple of years I’ve been on SSI and can’t do that anyone. I’ve had to look into fund raising and it’s not something people want to donate to usually. I’m between a rock and a hard place with funding right now because of this problem.
Phyllis: Thank you so much for your time and for your amazing work.
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