16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

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16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:51 am

When I was in Houston for turkeyday my Dad brought me up to speed on this weirdness...

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOI_cYj8_AY

16 Houston strip clubs will soon go back to topless ways
by Drew Karedes / KHOU 11 News
Posted on November 27, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Updated Thursday, Nov 28 at 4:08 PM

HOUSTON – The City of Houston has struck a deal with 16 strip clubs within city limits in an agreement that’s going to cost one million dollars a year.

Dancers at those clubs will now be allowed to perform topless in exchange for that annual payment. The city has required Houston strippers to wear pasties and cover up since 1997.

The agreement ends years of litigation.

“We’re a topless club, and we’re going to offer topless entertainment,” said attorney Casey Wallace. “I know it will do good. These 16 clubs are going to give a million dollars every year. This isn’t a one-time punch.”

The money will be used to create and staff a human trafficking unit within the Houston Police Department.

Mayor Annise Parker and other city leaders spoke publicly at a Wednesday news conference. Parker said she believed the settlement allows the city to address a big problem.

“Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking, and hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs,” said Mayor Annise Parker.

The clubs have also agreed to eliminate their private rooms, hire only those who want to work voluntarily and not hire dancers who have convicted of prostitution or drug charges in the past five years.

The eased restrictions only apply to the 16 clubs that existed before 1997. Any sexually oriented business which opened after that date will still have to adhere to tighter rules.

http://www.khou.com/news/local/16-Houst ... 08351.html


City of Houston Begins a Dance with the Devil to Fight Human Trafficking
By Bob Price

Houston, Texas has long been regarded as the nation's hub of human trafficking. Police organizations across the county have long been engaged in a variety of efforts to fight human trafficking in Harris County. Now, it seems, Mayor Annise Parker may be making a deal where she must dance with the devil in creating a new tool to fight human trafficking - strip clubs! Yes, strip clubs in Houston will now be engaged in fighting human trafficking.

According to an article this week in the Houston Chronicle, the city of Houston has reached an agreement with 16 topless strip clubs that will halt the city's enforcement of a "three foot rule" and allow dancers to be fully topless in exchange for a $1 million donation to help combat human trafficking. Prior to Mayor Parker's announcement on the day before Thanksgiving, dancers had to wear latex pasties and maintain a three foot distance from their customers.

The agreement, which will now move to city council for approval, puts an end to a series of lawsuits that have been in place since the city passed its sexually oriented business ordinance in 1997.

Interestingly some of these sixteen clubs have allegedly been deeply involved in human trafficking. It will be interesting to see if this can truly have any impact on human trafficking in Houston.

The Texas Attorney General's Office has also been heavily engaged in fighting human trafficking for many years and has been widely covered by TexasGOPVote.com. In September, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced a Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. At that time he said, "As our experience has demonstrated, human trafficking can only be stopped through the coordinated efforts of many organizations at all levels – local, state and federal as well as public and private. One of the most effective ways we have found to make a difference is through training."

Training in human trafficking is a part of the agreement with Houston's 16 topless clubs effected by this agreement. The agreement only applies to clubs that were in operation prior to the 1997 city ordinance.

As the Attorney General's office will continue to play a key role in fighting human trafficking, not just in the sex industry but in construction and hospitality as well. I asked Railroad Commission Chairman and Attorney General Candidate Barry Smitherman about this huge issue.

"Well, it’s a terrible crime," Smitherman replied. "Any time anyone is forced to do something against their will, that is not only morally wrong, but it is against our laws. And so we need to focus in on that as well. It can’t be tolerated. Trafficking of humans, whether it’s sex trade or otherwise, is a despicable crime. It often involves underage people, or people that are the most vulnerable in our society, so we can’t let that go."

Smitherman committed to drilling down into this issue in an interview that will be conducted in December.

Somehow, Mayor Parker seems to think that by taking a $1 million per year "donation" (tribute?) from strip clubs, that in some cases have allegedly been directly involved in human trafficking, will help solve this problem. Yes, human trafficking awareness training is one of the requirements in this agreement, but it seems like we are asking the fox to guard the henhouse once again.

The funds from the strip club "donation" will be used to fund a newly created human trafficking investigative unit within the Houston Police Department. It will be interesting to watch where this money gets spent and if it will truly impact human trafficking in Houston.

http://www.texasgopvote.com/regions/tex ... ing-006123



City, strip clubs make deal to combat crime
Lap dances legal in return for funds to fight trafficking

By Anita Hassan
November 28, 2013
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Lap dances are once again legal at certain Houston topless clubs that have agreed to pay the city a combined $1 million every year to help combat human trafficking.
Under a settlement announced Wednesday by Mayor Annise Parker, the city will halt enforcement of a 3-foot rule required between performers and patrons and allow dancers to be fully topless at the 16 clubs involved in the negotiated agreement. In exchange, the clubs will contribute an annual donation to a fund that would create and maintain a Houston Police Department unit dedicated solely to investigating human trafficking.
City officials and attorneys for the clubs said the agreement brings the two entities together to reduce criminal activity and focus on the activities of what the mayor called "rogue clubs."
"Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking and, hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs that have opened up more recently," Parker said. "This settlement allows us to address the problem head-on in a meaningful way with funding and staff."
The agreement is intended to bring an end to a series of lawsuits filed by the clubs and the city since council passed Houston's sexually oriented business ordinance in 1997. The clubs had challenged numerous provisions in the ordinance, from proximity to schools and churches to dancer licenses to whether the clubs should be considered sexually oriented businesses.
"(The agreement) is going to save considerable amount of legal resources and police resources," City Attorney David Feldman said, noting that the city has spent millions of dollars in the past 16 years trying to enforce the regulations. "This will also give us a leg up on addressing (human) trafficking."
John Weston, a Los Angles-based attorney representing clubs in the lawsuits including The Men's Club and The Ritz, called the settlement historic.
"Today, Houston commences on an unprecedented, different approach with these 16 clubs," said Weston, who has defended adult entertainment businesses across the country, fighting cases in the Supreme Court. "Today they join to declare war against trafficking and those who engage in it."
Under the settlement, the city agrees to stop enforcing the 3-foot rule and specifically allows lap dances. Each of the 16 clubs involved in the settlement is involved in one or more of three current lawsuits with the city regarding restrictions dealing with sexually oriented businesses.
In addition to the annual contribution, the businesses agreed to train employees on human trafficking awareness, report all complaints of prostitution, indecent exposure and drug use to police, and eliminate so-called private VIP rooms and areas within the clubs, which Feldman said often are used for illegal activity.
Clubs may also not knowingly employ, hire or contract dancers who are escorted by another person that speaks for them or takes money on their behalf or anyone that appears to have control over them, Feldman said. Entertainers or club managers also must not have any criminal charges in the past five years. Clubs are required to verify the names, ages and immigration status of all employees and report back to the city.
"The cops need to know who is working in these clubs," Feldman said.
Because they still do not concede to being sexually oriented businesses, the clubs do not have to adhere to the ordinance's regulation that they must operate at least 1,500 feet from schools, day cares, parks and churches.
"They are not saying it," Feldman said. "But they are agreeing to do all these things that actually are a greater obligation than they would have under the ordinance if they were a (sexually oriented business)."
Any club that breaks the terms of the agreement will be dropped from the settlement, and the other establishments will have to pick up the contribution to the abatement fund.
Feldman, who began crafting the settlement in the spring, said the concept originated from a lawsuit settlement between the city and prominent strip club Treasures. In 2012, the city and Harris County Attorney's office sued Treasures' owner, accusing the establishment of harboring prostitution, drugs, illegal weapons and sexual assaults.
A settlement was reached last December in which the club's owner agreed to put $100,000 in a nuisance abatement fund to combat human trafficking as well as similar provisions with the current agreement.
"That in turn gave me the idea if we can create such a fund for the purpose of addressing enforcement activities within these clubs, why couldn't we do something similar to address the broader issue of human trafficking?" said Feldman.
Feldman said the city would be open to speaking with any other clubs that would like to come under a similar agreement.
If the agreement works well for both entities, Feldman said the next step would be grafting similar terms as a permanent provision in the city's sexually oriented business ordinance.
"This was the logical fist step in that direction," he said. "But we have to see if it works."

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/ho ... 018222.php
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:56 am

The Rice Thresher
Group works to end sex trafficking in Houston
By Farrah Madanay
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2012 02:04

Share on emailHouston has more strip clubs and illicit sex stores that serve as fronts for sex trafficking venues than Las Vegas, according to freeourcity.org. Though Rice University is nestled between the museum district and the Texas Medical Center, the campus also neighbors massage parlors and spas that force their women workers to give “happy endings.”

These women are sex slaves, exploited in exchange for passage into the United States. The Rice Freedom Project, an anti-human trafficking group on campus, aims to help stop human trafficking in Houston.

The Rice Freedom Project was founded by Will Rice College senior Gaby Garton, Wiess College sophomore Yidan Wang, Will Rice freshman Ashley Phillips, McMurtry College sophomore Jordan McCray and graduate student Kim Reichel. The project aims to raise awareness about human trafficking and connect students with outside anti-human trafficking organizations.

“We all look back now in disbelief at how long slavery went on in our nation's history, complaining that not enough people rose up in protest against the atrocity,” Garton said. “Now slavery is on the rise again, but we have the opportunity to fight it.”

Houston has become a hub for sex trafficking because of its diverse population, location along transnational highway I-10, and accessibility as an international air-and-sea port. The human trafficking... industry in Houston has been covered by media outlets from the Houston Chronicle to “Texas Monthly.” Earlier this year, Free Press Houston publicly accused the Houston Press for allowing questionable and possibly exploitative sex-oriented businesses to advertise their services on the Backpage of the magazine.

The Rice Freedom Project’s first campus initiative was to assist Free the Captives, a Houston-based evangelical and anti-human trafficking organization, in phase two of its “Reduce the Demand Campaign.” The aim of the campaign is to garner community awareness and put pressure on public officials to enforce the anti-trafficking laws by arresting more clients. The goal of the second phase of the campaign was to send 30,000 anti-human trafficking letters signed by Houstonians to Texas Governor Rick Perry. These letters, of which Rice contributed 450, urged Perry to pressure government officials and law enforcement alike to enforce anti-human trafficking laws that were enacted a year and a half ago. The letters specifically urge Perry to pressure Houston Mayor Annise Parker, District Attorney Pat Lykos, Chief of Police Charles McClelland, Jr. and Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia to prioritize pursuing, arresting and prosecuting buyers.

“In the last year and a half, only two buyers have been arrested in Houston,” the Free the Captives letter template read.

For a city that has 200 known brothels operating behind the facades of spas or massage parlors, this statistic is horrible,” said Martel College sophomore Naomi Wong, who helped Garton with the distribution of the letters to the north colleges.

“As someone who has been assaulted in a sexual manner, I care very much that no woman, man or child ever has to deal with that and that the people who do such things should be locked away,” said Wong.

In addition to participating in the Reducing the Demand Campaign, last Friday the Rice Freedom Project sold T-shirts at its “End Slavery in Houston” event held in the central quad. The proceeds went to Redeemed Ministries, a local anti-human trafficking organization which will use the money to help transition liberated trafficking victims to their new lives.

“The money will be going to the Sparrow Endowment, which supports the costs of ‘aftercare’ for former sex trafficking victims including transitional housing, counseling and educational programs to help the victims get back on their feet and readjust to life as free members of society,” Garton said.

On Saturday, the project hosted a free showing of the human trafficking documentary “Sex and Money.” After the showing, the project held an open-panel discussion with Rice professors Caleb McDaniel and Kerry Ward and representatives from local anti-trafficking organizations Free the Captives, Redeemed Ministries, Not for Sale and Exodus.

The project’s new endeavor is to participate in the thir phase of Free the Captives’ Reduce the Demand campaign. This phase, entitled “Keys to Freedom,” directly focuses this effort on addressing Parker, Lykos and McClelland. In this phase, the public is encouraged to write personalized letters to the three officials about the importance of arresting Houston clients in the sex trade, and to send an accompanying key with each letter. The key sends the message that the officials have the “key” to end sex trafficking and slavery in Houston by increasing their efforts to take the clients off the streets.

Free the Captives’ campaign to both directly and indirectly pressure the Houston Police Department to arrest more clinets is based on precedent.

“Other major U.S cities, such as Boston and Chicago, have taken this approach targeting the buyers [clients] and have seen progress made against sex trafficking,” Garton said.

On the international stage, Sweden has seen significantly fewer prostitutes both on the streets and on the Internet, thanks to a revolutionary law set in place in 1995. Sweden’s law criminalizes the demand (clients) rather than the supply (the women) by enforcing a prison sentence of up to six years for pimps and 10 years for traffickers, according to humantrafficking.org.

Anyone interested in signing and writing a letter for the “Keys of Freedom” project may contact Garton at gg12@rice.edu or visit www.freethecaptiveshouston.com.

http://www.ricethresher.org/group-works ... -1.2855433
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:04 pm

Houston named a major hub for human sex trafficking
02/11/2013 | Filed under: News | Posted by: Webmaster Ashley Honc
The Signal

At age 10, Maria’s family was promised a job, education and better life for their daughter in Houston. Little did they know that it was the beginning of a dangerous scam lasting more than eight years.

ImageMaria was constantly watched, sexually exploited, threatened, beaten and endlessly in debt to her owner. Maria and her family’s experience are far from sporadic; traffickers prey upon millions of people in the U.S. alone.

“Twenty-one million people in the United States are in bondage for human trafficking. Roughly 16.5 million people are in labor trafficking and 4.5 million people in sex trafficking,” said Tim Johnson, chair of Locke Lord’s White Collar Criminal Defense and International Investigations.

One out of every five of those victims resides in Texas.

The second largest criminal industry in the world, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment or illegal trade of a person for involuntary labor or sexual exploitation. It is essentially modern-day slavery.

Of the twenty-one million captives in human trafficking, Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition indicate that between 14,500 and 17,500 of those individuals are brought into the U.S. every year from other countries.

Maria, a victim of this growing epidemic, is one of the lucky ones: she escaped. Now in her early twenties, Maria appeared at the 27th Law & Media Seminar in downtown Houston Feb. 2. It was there she voiced her story to raise awareness about human trafficking and also to help her cope with the suffering she has experienced.

Fleeing from gangs in her homeland in Central America, Maria was sent to Houston for the opportunity of a better life and to help support those back home. It was not long until she realized her family had trusted the wrong person. The man who helped her get to America became her “owner” and cut off all ties she had with her family.

For years Maria was beaten and sold to men as a sex slave by her owner/pimp working mainly out of a Houston cantina.

“He forced me to put on the clothes and showed me how to act,” said Maria as she vividly recalls her first time at the cantina. “That night I was with 10 men.”

“Cantina-related trafficking cases have involved victims from Central America and Mexico – often children or young women – who were kidnapped, beaten or otherwise coerced into prostitution,” says Lise Olsen, an investigative reporter for the Houston Chronicle with 20 years experience on crime, corruption and human rights issues. Common in Houston, cantina cases are not as typical elsewhere.

Many efforts have been made to help stop this rising criminal industry. In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), declaring human trafficking of all kinds a federal crime. In 2004, Houston founded the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance to further address human trafficking. The most recent act was passed in 2008. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act enhanced federal efforts to deal with international and domestic trafficking.

Even with these laws, human trafficking continues to grow and even occurs at mainstream places.

“There are credible allegations from advocates and from city and county officials that Houston’s strip clubs and massage parlors are centers for human trafficking,” Olsen said.

Houston is considered a main hub for human trafficking. It is close to the Mexican border, and has an international airport and interstates running through it.

During her imprisonment, Maria became pregnant and regularly saw a doctor. Too scared to reach out for help, her exploitation remained unnoticed.

“I was angered that doctors didn’t know I was being exploited,” Maria said.

Finally free, Maria still battles with nightmares and hallucinations from her past.

The case to convict her captor is still being investigated. If her sex trafficker is prosecuted, he faces up to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Targets are not only illegal immigrants or children; anyone who is uneducated on this issue can become a victim. In fact, Super Bowl Sunday has been exposed as one of the “largest human trafficking incidents in the U.S.,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in a public statement.

Children at Risk, a nonprofit organization that advocates change for children, warns major sporting events provide a great demand for the commercial sex industry and traffickers often travel to these events to fill that demand.

“It’s equal opportunity slavery,” says Maria Trujillo, executive director for the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition. “Becoming aware is the best way to stop human trafficking.”

There are many warning signs that can indicate possible human trafficking. The U.S. State Department notes some key signs to look for are: an employee living with an employer, signs of physical abuse and an inability of the person to speak to individuals alone. More resources can be found at http://www.state.gov/j/tip/index.htm.

If you believe you recognize someone as a possible victim of human trafficking, alert law enforcement immediately or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

For more information about human trafficking and its warning signs, visit http://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/index.htm.


http://uhclthesignal.com/wordpress/2013 ... afficking/
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:11 pm

Image
HOUSTON RESCUE & RESTORE COALITION: Victims of Human Trafficking
http://www.houstonrr.org/tag/sex-trafficking/

Teenage victims of sex traffickers will get money from sale of brothels
By Lise Olsen | April 17, 2012 | Updated: April 17, 2012 10:32pm
Image

For seven years, the bars and shacks on the gritty east edge of Houston served as unsightly venues of serial sex crimes where a convicted human trafficker ruled with threats, and Mexican teens as young as 14 were battered, forced to live in sheds, and toil as cantina call girls after being smuggled to Houston.

But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled Tuesday that five of the youngest victims in one of the city's most visible human trafficking rings will benefit from the sale of ringleader Maria "Nancy" Rojas and her husband's bars and the rest of their ramshackle real estate empire, according to instructions delivered to prosecutors.

It is the first time prosecutors have successfully pushed for forfeiture of assets for the benefit of sex trafficking victims in Houston - and among only a few cases nationally, said Edward Gallagher, a senior federal prosecutor who heads Houston's Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA).

Valued at $602,000

The convicted Houston couple's collection of 10 dwellings, restaurants, weedy vacant lots and cantinas, known as La Cueva and La Costeñita, carry an assessed value of about $602,000, and all proceeds will be divided equally among former teenage victims to pay for medical, psychological and educational expenses to "try to restore them to well-adjusted productivity," Hughes told prosecutors at a federal court hearing.

Hughes excluded nine other women in their 20s and 30s from benefitting in his decision, though federal officials had argued they too had been beaten, threatened and used by the same criminal group. Hughes said he was unable to determine how much each woman had collected in cash as a prostitute - willing or not.

"Some of them may have had horrendous experiences, incredible pain and economic deprivation - others may have profited substantially - I have no way of determining that," declared Hughes, who said he was troubled by evidence that some government "victims" married or had children by traffickers.

David Adler, a government-appointed defense attorney for Rojas, supported restitution for the five teenage victims. But he said he believed prosecutors stretched the definition of "trafficking victim" in this case to include women who freely took taxis to cantina prostitution jobs as well as individuals who got deported from the United States and later illegally returned to their alleged captors.

Making them feel safe

If nothing else, victim advocate Dottie Laster said the ruling means - at long last - some of Houston's boldest cantina-brothels will finally be closed and sold to help victims.

"That's part of the justice victims need to see that we care about them and the law cares about them," she said. "It's important. Houston needs to do everything they can to make Houston unattractive and unprofitable for traffickers and the people that are helping them and make this place absolutely safe for victims."

About eight years ago, Laster, who got her start as an employee of the Houston YMCA, helped a different teen, who fled from associates of the same trafficking group and risked her life to help investigators.

That girl received no compensation for providing tips that resulted in the first round of busts among the Clinton Drive's sleazy collection of cantina owners and pimps.

Other criminals later associated with Rojas' cantina-based trafficking operation were indicted in 2005 in what would be the first of many attempts to shut down a seemingly ever-regenerating operation based in brightly-painted cantinas equipped with hidden cameras, tight security, secret doors, seedy bedchambers and hidden living quarters.

Prosecutors and federal agents first targeted long-time Mexico-based supplier Gerardo "El Gallo" Salazar, a so-called Romeo pimp who romanced young girls with false promises in small Mexican towns and later tattooed his victims with the mark of the Rooster.

Fates of three

Salazar remains jailed pending his extradition from Mexico, where he was arrested in 2010 after five years on the lam.

This month Rojas, an illegal immigrant and convicted prostitute, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Her partner and property co-owner, Javier Belamonte, will be sentenced in June.

"The goal was not only to prosecute these people, but to dismantle this organization and take away all of their ill-gotten gains," said Ruben Perez, one of the lead prosecutors in the case.

lise.olsen@chron.com

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas ... 489677.php
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:14 pm

Fighting crime or crossing the line? HPD vice cops caught on video at popular strip club (Video)
by Jeremy Rogalski / KHOU 11 News I-Team
Posted on October 30, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Updated Wednesday, Oct 31 at 9:25 AM

HOUSTON -- The City of Houston and Harris County are quick to call Treasures, the Galleria-area cabaret, a haven for criminal activity that needs frequent police attention.

But some say crime has nothing to do with it.

"They're in there drinking beer, having a good time and getting dances from pretty girls," said attorney Casey Wallace, who represents Treasures.

So who is Wallace talking about? Houston vice cops, who he claims come into Treasures not to police, but to partake.

"You can clearly see him groping her," Wallace said of a club security video, in which an undercover HPD sergeant is getting a table dance.

And it’s not just any dance, Wallace said.

"There you can see where he's kissing on her breasts in the club, in public," Wallace said.

Under the law, that could be considered misdemeanor public lewdness, according to Wallace.

In the September 2009 video, the sergeant’s partner also is seen groping another dancer on the same night.

In fact, police records show during their investigation, the two cops over two days, bought alcohol and table dances totaling $850 of taxpayer money.

And the reason for all of it: “In order to keep from looking suspicious,” according to the police report.

And what was the result of the two-day operation?

“(There was) not a single arrest, not a single criminal charge, nothing but some officers inside having a good time in Treasures," Wallace claimed.

In fact, police records obtained by the I-Team reveal similar visits to the club. In April, three undercover officers got table dances, and "observed numerous sexually-oriented business violations,” but chose not to arrest anybody. They did write "investigation to continue.” Three days later, the same cops went in again, and again they got table dances and observed violations. But again, no arrests were made. And again they determined, “investigation to continue."

And then there’s a case in May, where undercover cops came to the club and officers negotiated for two dancers "to engage in oral sex with each other.” But instead of arresting them immediately, the cops "observed the suspects" doing the sex act and "waited for this to be completed."

"Is this really where we need our city resources spent?" Wallace said.

He called it a pattern of targeted harassment.

"One hundred and seventy officers have been investigating Treasures for the past three years, 170 officers have not investigated any of the other clubs in Houston," Wallace said.

So what happens when police do make arrests? The I-Team checked court records and found that three out of every four prostitution cases from Treasures are dismissed.

And yet, “It is the biggest whorehouse in Texas," according to Terry O’Rourke, second in command to Vince Ryan at the Harris County Attorney’s Office.

The County Attorney’s office recently joined City of Houston's attorneys, who've been battling Treasures for years in court. They call the club a public nuisance.

But the I-Team pointed out:

I-Team: "When prostitution cases were filed, a significant number of them were dismissed”

O’Rourke: “Whatever the facts are, yeah, I believe that's the case.”

I-Team: “But yet you still call it the biggest credit card whorehouse.”

O’Rourke: “It is, it certainly is."

Confused? So were we, until we asked Houston Mayor Annise Parker how the most recent court battle began.

"We had credible reports that, not just prostitution, but forced human trafficking was part of what was going on at Treasures,” Mayor Parker said.

Parker said human trafficking is “a huge problem” in the City of Houston. At first, the city and county legal tandem was determined to make Treasures a part of it.

But the problem? That charge didn't hold up and was dropped from their lawsuit.

Some observers say that left the governments’ attorneys looking for a way to save face. And so they pushed on.

I-Team: “Are you comfortable this is the best way to spend taxpayer money?”

Mayor Parker: “Absolutely.”

I-Team: “You are?”

Mayor Parker: “I am."

As for the vice cops in those club security videos, Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo said nothing illegal happened, but the two officers were transferred to another division for not following department policy.

In her statement, Montalvo said HPD has since revised its guidelines to ensure the behavior of its officers is appropriate.

The I-Team wanted to know how much the City and County’s legal battle is costing taxpayers, but neither Dave Feldman nor Vince Ryan could come up with any numbers.

http://www.khou.com/news/Fighting-crime ... 24981.html
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:22 pm

Proposed bill would require licenses for Texas strippers (Video)
by TODD UNGER / WFAA
Posted on January 9, 2013 at 8:15 PM

If one state lawmaker gets his way, adult dancers will have to get a state license before showing it all at Texas strip clubs.

State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) said the idea is to try and prevent younger women from getting into the industry in the first place. He said it can serve as gateway to other problems, like drugs and prostitution.

•Read Rep. Zedler's proposed legislation
"At church, my friend's daughter was attracted to it by the big money of stripping ... this isn't a single case, it's a pattern," said Zedler.

In order to get a license, performers would need to have a relatively clean criminal record, meaning no drug or prostitution offenses. They’d also take a class on human trafficking.

A license would have to be displayed the entire time a dancer worked a shift.

At some local strip clubs, like Pin Ups in Fort Worth, the idea is drawing mixed reaction.

“They don’t start prostitution, it doesn’t lead to drugs,” said Mike Miller, the club’s general manager.

Miller and some dancers say they aren’t opposed to the trafficking classes, although they point out a lot of reputable clubs already bring in people to discuss those subjects.

Other Texas cities, like Houston, have local laws on the books which require adult dancers to get a license.

A spokesman for the Houston City Attorney’s office said they’ve had mixed results with their law, chiefly because many clubs fight being classified as an "adult establishment," meaning their performers don’t have to get a license.

Zedler said he is willing to make changes to his proposal, especially if there are safety concerns with a dancer having to display her real name on the license.

Some details — including how much the license would cost and just how enforcement would work — are still being worked out.

http://www.kvue.com/news/186246262.html
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:47 pm

Love the 1-2 punch of the last couple articles ... best response to inevitably corrupted vice cops (what are they going to do, their jobs? that gets you killed!) is definitely increased regulation of the strippers.

Or, you know, something. Texas!
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby parel » Fri Dec 06, 2013 6:58 pm

Here is some more Texas weirdness. Had no idea there was this big offensive going on to introduce the Swedish 'end demand' model to Texas. The Rescue Industry is very lucrative though, so it is also unsurprising. Pole tax for rape kits. :wallhead:

Houston Strip Club ‘Pole Tax’ Will Help Pay For Rape Kits

A new $5 sin tax on strip clubs in Houston will go to help reduce the city’s backlog of an estimated 4,000-6,000 rape kits that have remained untested because of limited resources.

The $5 tax was promoted by City Council member Ellen Cohen and was passed in a 14-1 vote on Wednesday.
The new “pole tax” is expected to generate $1-3 million in revenue for the city.

“The majority of people are enthusiastic,” Cohen said. “We lose sight of the fact that those are people. Between four and six thousand people who have been sexually assaulted went through one of the worst things you can go through. The indignity of a rape kit is not 10 minutes behind a screen; it’s a long, laborious, embarrassing procedure.”

Not all rape kits will be processed from start to finish, however. The cost of such testing is approximately $1,100, Cohen said.
Strip club owners have vowed to fight the ordinance in court.

Councilwoman Cohen helped pass a similar measure as a state legislator in 2007. That legislation placed a $5 fee on “sexual-oriented businesses” with the proceeds going to help victims of sexual abuse around the state. That fee is still on the books.
The new fee will be implemented within the next two weeks, Cohen said.


They just introduced the Swedish Model in France and also the Philippines. Contrary to what the articles above claim, there is no science to suggest that criminalising clients of sex workers (or what they call "buyers" as it is consistent with the "sale" of the body narrative rather than the "sale" of a service) has any effect in reducing prostitution. It would be difficult to gauge, as criminalisation drives the industry underground. But it does defy the laws of economics and of logic. "Get to the root of the problem. Go after the Johns!"

One of our beautiful, feisty young activists in Sweden was murdered recently by her ex partner, in front of her two small children during an access visit after the "feminist" state of Sweden took them from her and refused her protection because she refused to denounce her profession as a sex worker. The stigma and discrimination in Sweden against sex workers is just horrendous after ten years of this model. Sex workers are thrown out of home, cut off benefits, cannot access services. And FFS Stockholm is fucking cold. There were not that many street walkers there prior to the Swedish model being introduced, anyway.

Violence in the name of feminism is a fairly new phenomenon for sex workers but its now a danger - up there with violence from police and violence from clients. This feminist fundamentalism that is sweeping the world irt sex work is a product of just the last ten years - one of Bush's soft wars on women, mainly from the Global South. Somehow they became mainstreamed- well with lots of money I suppose. Money that should have been going into empowerment programmes for sex workers (HIV & women's funding) is being used to lock them up. No not for prostitution in the case of the Swedish model, but there are lots of reasons sex workers don't want to come into contact with Police. Many of them are migrants or other kinds of 'non people'. Or just ordinary Swedish women like Jasmine who refused to inhabit the victim persona and kowtow to the carceral feminist state.

Sex workers cry foul over activist's death
Published: 17 Jul 2013 12:17 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jul 2013 12:17 GMT+02:00

Image

The murder of a Swedish sex workers' rights activist, who was stabbed by her ex when she went to see her children after losing custody because she "romanticized prostitution", has sex activists worldwide up in arms.


Eva-Marree, 27, lost custody of her two children to her ex-boyfriend, 31, in a district court last year. She was stabbed when she went to see her children at an office belonging to local authorities, as her ex had brought a knife with him to the handover.

The victim, who blogged about sex workers on njutningtillsalu.com (Pleasure For Sale), was an outspoken critic of Sweden's attitude toward prostitution, writing on her blog that all abusive sexual practices - such as rape and pedophilia - were already covered by Sweden's penal code.

She last tweeted from her handle @petitejasmine on June 17th, urging her followers to sign a sex workers' petition in neighbouring Norway. She was a board member of the Rose Alliance, which works for prostitutes' rights across the world.

"Our board member, fierce activist and friend Petite Jasmine got brutually (sic) murdered yesterday," the network stated on its Facebook page, before claiming that Eva-Marree had lost her children due to her line of work and her beliefs.

"Several years ago she lost custody of her children as she was considered to be an unfit parent due to being a sex worker(...) They told her she didn't know what was good for her and that she was "romanticizing" prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn't realize sex work was a form of self-harm," the statement read.

The victim's mother told Expressen that her daughter's ex was suspicious and had stalked Eva-Marree in the months leading up to her death. She accused him of taking note of car registration plates outside Eva-Marree's home in Västerås, central Sweden, to check up on who was visiting her.

The case has provoked the ire of sex workers across the world, many of whom are critical of keeping prostitution illegal. Sweden, which outlawed the purchase rather than the sale of sex fifteen years ago, has come under intense scrutiny for its legislation. While some observers have said it is ground-breaking in shifting responsibility for prostitution onto the demand rather than the supply side, others have argued that the law has simply forced sex workers underground, where they are still offered no protection.

"The international debate around the Nordic model, the criminalising of buying sex which has been enforced in Sweden and other countries, meanwhile, intensified this week following the fatal stabbing of a 27-year-old sex worker and activist in Sweden known as Petite Jasmine," the UK Guardian wrote on Monday, in connection with the ongoing legalize-or-criminalize debate following an unsuccessful attempt to get Scottish parliamentarians to adopt the Swedish model.

"The death of Jasmine is a real indictment of the Swedish policy – it feels like a dam has burst," George Lewis, of the Scottish NGO Women's Support Project that works against men's violence towards women, told the newspaper.

TT/The Local/at





:angelwings:

jasmine (Eva Maree) blog posts,one of her last After one year and three months finally see her standing in front of me. The feeling when she runs into my arms and hug me, to get sniff her hair immediately becomes soaking wet of my tears, drag your finger along her small nose and chin, stroking her little hand and hold on her tiny body hard in my embrace and kiss her eleven thousand times in the forehead. To finally get to see her in the eye and say seventeen thousand times how missed and loved she is. And never want to let go again, but must. Created by my body when we two have been and we are part of each other forever. The love for my children is indescribable. (And justice system as said joint custody and half the time, where were you when everything was going on?)


Interview with colleague Pye: the bloody state gave him the power: a swedish sex workers murder

For those who are really interested in the origins of this punishing model, you can check out this documentary about coercive tactics used against childhood sexual abuse victims to force confessions out of them. About things that did not happen. Gunilla Ekberg is one of the architects of the Swedish Model.

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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby Project Willow » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:59 pm

For those who are really interested in the origins of this punishing model, you can check out this documentary about coercive tactics used against childhood sexual abuse victims to force confessions out of them. About things that did not happen. Gunilla Ekberg is one of the architects of the Swedish Model.


It's very easy to demonize people involved in failed interventions, and a private group that doesn't fully understand what it's dealing with is bound to fail. There isn't a single western state that's been successful in intervening on behalf of ritual abuse victims or survivors because of the complexity of the situation. Ritual abuse is organized crime. Witnesses are often severely psychologically damaged and vulnerable to ongoing threats, and perpetrators in positions of authority, inside and outside the justice system, work to protect themselves and their income. Rather than face the ugly reality that is RA, invest millions in policy, justice and treatment approaches, it was easier to go along with perpetrator initiated campaigns claiming ritual abuse doesn't exist. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who know it's real because they lived it.

As an antidote to that video, there's a french series posted here: http://rigorousintuition.ca/board2/viewtopic.php?p=488928#p488928

I wish you'd clarify what you mean by the rescue industry. There still is no protection for children trafficked by their own families, or for those being tortured and raped in ritual settings, or support for adult survivors. Until recently when Raven Kaliana's work was covered in UK press, there was no media attention.

I also wish you wouldn't generalize the actions of a few advocates to the whole of feminism. Women who call themselves feminists hold an entire range of views on prostitution. I find it extremely ironic and disturbing to blame undefined "feminists" for a spousal murder when there would be no domestic violence programs at all without their long, hard work. If there were ever a need for a more specific label, this would be it.
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby parel » Sat Dec 07, 2013 4:26 am

For clarification I was referring to State feminism in Sweden and how opprressive it is, and now it smells like patriarchy to me and how it handed power to the perpetrator of violence against Jasmine which led to her death.

In the gender wars video, the politician from Norway was the only one who stood up and said "this is wrong, you cannot kidnap victims, take them across borders, keep them from talking to their families, incite hysteria and then traumatise them further.' These were state officials orchestrating the kidnapping. Kidnapping is a crime. Is it really necessary to do that to speak to ritual abuse survivors?

The Rescue Industry is groups try to "save" sex workers from their job by calling it 'self harm'; 'abuse' and 'violence against women' and when those people ignore the consent of sex workers and pathologise them and then call the cops on them. That's not feminism, but its done in the name of feminism. Feminists don't call the state in and set them onto other women.

Sex work is not trafficking. Sex work is work and is a livelihood. Trafficking is coercion and is a crime. If feminists fundamentalists and right wing Christians would stop targetting sex workers and labelling them victims of trafficking, we might be able to make a dent in the real trafficking that is happening. As it stands, most trafficking setups are just profit making concerns and do little to help victims. Most trafficking is labour trafficking, not sex trafficking. But guess which topics draws the crowds and money. It's not trafficking they want to stop. It's people selling sexual services for money. They call it all sex trafficking because to oppose prostitution outright would not have drawn broad support from feminists.

A current example of Rescue Industry shenanigans is a NY based "human rights" outfit dedicated to ending 'violence and discrimination against women and girls'. Mind you, they don't criticise US aggression and wars around the world, they only go after people in the Global South. They have recently come out in opposition to UN recommendations in two documents for full decriminalisation of sex work. They claim that the UN supports pimps and brothel owners (irt. a 'third party' clause). They are spying on sex worker organisations and activists from around the world, from certain countries. There is a screenshot in the article below by Geetha Misra, of the practicum offered to students from the New School to study our work with a view to infiltrating our movement and introducing the Swedish Model. I found that practicum online when the attacks on us started in September, in the lead up to the UNGA. It's been taken down now, and sex worker orgs and academics have signed onto a petition to have them stop "researching" us. It's pretty fucking scary. Navi Pillay, the UN Human Rights Commissioner is one of the co founders of Equality Now and Gloria Steinem is the "face" of the org, she is on the board. Last year, she took a delegation to visit Sonagachi and show her party the "reality" of trafficking. Thing is, she refused to speak to a group of sex workers who waited for hours for a meeting with her. Last week, she was awarded the presidential medal of freedom. By a war criminal.

article by Geetha Misra analyses the attack on sex workers by Equality Now
http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/geeta ... %99-rights

Screengrab of New School practicum here:
http://postwhoreamerica.com/new-school- ... x-workers/

There is an article here by anthropologist Laura Agustin on the chicanery of Ms Steinem in India last year and a bit about how the Rescue Industry works. She coined the term Rescue Industry.
http://www.lauraagustin.com/anatomy-of- ... ue-project
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby parel » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:55 am

Back in Texas - more stigmatising strangeness to do with sex - in this case, sexual orientation.

How Junk Science and Anti-Lesbian Prejudice Got Four Women Sent to Prison for More Than a Decade

Image


This Sunday, in central Texas, four women and their families sat down to a big lunch together. It would have been a wholly unremarkable scene, but for one thing: Three of the women were only recently released from prison for a crime they say they didn’t commit.

Elizabeth Ramirez, 39, Cassandra Rivera, 38, Kristie Mayhugh, 40, and Anna Vasquez, 38, are the San Antonio Four. In 1994, the women, all lesbians, were accused of aggravated sexual assault on a child; by 1998, they’d been convicted of the crime and were starting their prison sentences—15 years for Rivera, Mayhugh, and Vasquez; 37 1/2 years for Ramirez, because she’d been the “ringleader.” But on Nov. 18, 2013, Ramirez, Mayhugh, and Rivera were released on bail after the testimony of an expert medical witness used to convict them was found to be faulty and a judge recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacate their conviction. Vasquez, who had been out on parole for a year already, will no longer have to meet strict parole requirements.

Finally, justice prevails in a case that, one can only hope, is a relic of a weird, panicked time in recent American history, when the word gay or lesbian was too often conflated with pedophile.

The story of the San Antonio Four unfolded like this: In the summer of 1994, Ramirez’s two nieces, the 9- and 7-year-old daughters of her older sister, stayed for a week with Ramirez and Mayhugh, her roommate. Ramirez was 20 and pregnant at the time, Mayhugh was 21. Two months later, in September 1994, one of the girls told her grandmother that she and her sister had been sexually assaulted during their stay, not only by Ramirez and Mayhugh, but also by two of their friends: Rivera, a 19-year-old mother of two, and Vasquez, also 19. According to the older of the two girls, Ramirez and her friends forced them to participate in a bizarre, tequila-fueled orgy, holding them down by their wrists and ankles and raping them with various objects before letting them shower and return to their normal lives.

“To be accused of that, saying that I was a suspect in this, it was hard for me to believe. Still it’s hard to believe, to this day, after so many years,” said Mayhugh. “I don’t how it got this far, I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but it did.” (All four of the women spoke to Slate during their Sunday lunch; they took turns passing the phone around.)

However hard it was for Mayhugh and the other women to believe the situation, it was, apparently, easy for investigators, the prosecution, and later, in 1997, two juries, despite what in hindsight should have been red-flag questions about the validity of the prosecution’s case and the investigation that preceded it.

First, there were the inconsistencies in the girls’ stories: They’d been abused on just one day during their visit, then two. They’d been held at gunpoint, then there were two guns, or no guns, or sometimes just a knife. (Notably, no gun was found in Ramirez’s home.) The younger sister was in the room, abused at the same time, or she was locked outside the door while the older sister was raped, and then brought in to be molested after her sister. The time of day the terrifying orgy was said to have occurred also changed—it was at night, in the morning, or in the afternoon, when a Full House re-run was on—and when during the weeklong visit (the second day, then the fourth and fifth days), as did where, either the bedroom or the living room, Mayhugh was there, or sometimes she wasn’t; then the girls were insistent that all four women abused them (despite the women’s work schedules showing that would have been incredibly difficult). On one point, however, they were clear: Both girls said that they’d screamed—but police never asked the neighbors, who shared an apartment wall, if they’d heard anything. The only thing that seemed to back up the girls’ account of this rank sexual abuse was the presence of what looked like a small, white scar on the hymen of the older sister, a scar that one medical expert testified—wrongly, as it turns out—was consistent with sexual abuse.

The girls also had a potential motive for making the story up: Ramirez’s defense suggested that their father, Javier Limon, had an unrequited “crush” on Ramirez and was exacting his revenge by putting the girls up to it. Ramirez testified that when she’d refused to marry the man, he vowed to hurt her and her family. She even had love letters from Limon, but they were not admitted as evidence. That the two girls had been part of a rape accusation two years earlier, and that the accusation had come while they were staying with their mother during a pitched custody battle over them, was also not heard in court, the San Antonio News-Express reported.

The four women, meanwhile, steadfastly maintained their innocence under questioning and later, in prison, after they’d rejected plea bargains. Each had taken and passed two separate polygraph tests.

There is one explanation as to why investigators, prosecutors, and juries would be so willing to believe, on what appears to be slim evidence, that the women had committed these atrocious acts: Because they are lesbians.

In 1994, the profile of the LGBTQ community was on the rise across America, but that ascent was attended by fear and panic—Mayhugh remembered gays and lesbians routinely being beaten up at gay bars and clubs. And San Antonio was no San Francisco. “San Antonio was a particularly homophobic community, even for Texas,” said Debbie Nathan, who at the time of the trials was living and working as a reporter for an alt-weekly in the city. Nathan is also a director with the National Center for Reason and Justice, a nonprofit that took up the San Antonio Four’s cause five years ago. Asked how much she thought that the San Antonio Four’s sexuality impacted their trials, Nathan responded, “I think a lot.”

Mike Ware, an attorney for the four women through the Innocence Project of Texas, agreed: “If they hadn’t just come out as openly gay, I don’t think anyone would have taken the accusations as seriously. … If the accusation had been made against four Junior Leaguers, no one would have given it a second thought.”

Rivera, like all the women, believes that her sexuality was a major part of her trial and conviction. “They judged us,” she said. “They looked at us in an awful way. It was terrible. We felt like we didn’t have chance walking in.” Asked if she’d had any hope of being found not guilty at the time, Rivera replied, “No, honestly, no, we didn’t.”

Prejudice was evident in Ramirez’s trial. (She was tried separately from the other three women.) The foreman of the jury that convicted her, a minister, told attorneys that homosexuality was a sin. Also on her jury, Ramirez said, was a “preacher’s wife” who disagreed with her “lifestyle”: “Of course they said, ‘Because of this, you’re capable of being pedophiles.’ ”

Meanwhile, prosecutor Philip Kazen, now a district judge making a run for San Antonio district attorney, subtly played up the lesbian angle: In his closing statement, he declared: “Do not go back and convict her because she’s a lesbian. It’s only important in the sense that that activity generally is consistent with the activity alleged in the indictment and that’s all.” What he meant by that is unclear from that isolated statement, however, other parts of his examination of Ramirez seemed to imply that because she was a lesbian, it was likely she was having sex with the three other women also accused. An example from the trial transcript: “Q. Did you have a gay relationship with Anna? A. No. Q. Did you have a gay relationship with Cassie? A. No. Q. Well, you were gay and they were gay—” Or that because the women were lesbians, Ramirez shouldn’t have left the girls alone with any of them: “Q. Let me put it this way: The fact of the matter is your statement says the last gay relationship you had was with Kristie, true or false? A. That’s correct. Q. You felt comfortable, you say, leaving those girls with Kristie?”

So the deck, it seems, was already stacked against them—and then there was the “junk science” testimony from a respected medical professional, Dr. Nancy Kellogg, the pediatrician who examined the girls in 1994, after they told their grandmother they’d been abused. Kellogg testified that the white scar on the older girl’s hymen was consistent with sexual abuse trauma; the age of the scar, she added, was also consistent with the time frame the girls had provided for the abuse. Her testimony became the linchpin of the prosecution’s case, destroying the defense’s contention that the abuse never occurred by supposedly showing that, someone had indeed sexually assaulted the girl at some point. In his closing statement, prosecutor Kazen said, “[T]he medical, physical evidence does not lie. You can’t make that tag—you can’t make that painful tear, that painful healing, that painful scar, up.”

But actually, it looks like you can. In 2010, a San Antonio News-Express investigative report claimed that significant research available to Kellogg at the time of the trial indicated that raised white lines, such as the ones she found on the older girl’s hymen, were actually normal variations in vaginal appearance and could not be taken as evidence of trauma. Later, in a sworn affidavit accompanying the writ filed in September 2013, Kellogg recanted her testimony and agreed that she was wrong. The women’s defense team also noted, in their writ, that the American Academy of Pediatrics published a long-term study in 2007 determining that hymeneal trauma, except in the most extreme cases, doesn’t actually leave scars.

That wasn’t all: In 2012, the younger of the two girls recanted her testimony, telling a San Antonio Express-News reporter: “I want my aunt and her friends out of prison. … Whatever it takes to get them out I'm going to do. I can't live my life knowing that four women are sleeping in a cage because of me.” In the writ filed on behalf of Vasquez, the younger sister also went on record saying that her older sister was not telling the truth; psychological examination further corroborates her recantation.

And just like that, the two biggest pieces of evidence against the women crumbled. Ware, who has been working on the case for two years, and Keith Hampton, an attorney for Ramirez, filed petitions on their behalf in October. Part of the petition was based on a new Texas law that allows defendants to file appeals based on the misuse of “junk science”—in this case, Kellogg’s hymen evidence—in trials. Roughly a month later, the women were freed on bail.

But though Ramirez and the other women have been released, their nightmare isn’t entirely over yet. Importantly, since they’re in a “gray area,” as Ware put it, they will not have to register as sex offenders, which is one bright spot. (Paroled Vasquez is already in the sex-offender-registry system, and it may be awhile before she can be extracted.) In the mean time, they’re all in a sort of limbo. The San Antonio district attorney’s office has said that it will not retry the case if the Court of Criminal Appeals vacates the conviction, but that decision may not come for months. The next big step, Ware said, is to see all the women completely exonerated and declared innocent; this would also entitle them to funds the state pays to the wrongfully imprisoned. At this point, however, the DA isn’t willing to go along with an innocence claim, so the women’s attorneys will have to bring litigation. Ware is optimistic, but he allowed that this, too, may take some time.

A declaration of innocence will go some way in mitigating the pain of what’s happened to them, the women agreed, and they have faith that they will be exonerated. It’s important to note that none of the women are bitter or angry about what happened to them. All of them pointed to their faith in God, their networks of support and family outside of prison, and their friendships with each other as having sustained them. Ramirez expressed a sentiment that was echoed by the other women, “For all of us, we know that we didn’t commit this crime, we’re able to live in our own skin, we’re comfortable with who we are.”

But what they’ve lost is immeasurable. Ramirez spent years wracked by guilt, feeling that she was responsible for her friends’ convictions. Ramirez and Rivera have both watched their children grow up from behind bars, unable to touch them, much less hug them. Rivera met her 2-year-old granddaughter for the first time the day she was released from prison. “Now, when I see them, I just stare at them all day. They’re just so beautiful,” she said of her children and granddaughter.

“You know, 20 years ago, I was going to go into nursing and was headed in that direction before these allegations came out. It completely detoured my life. I wasn’t planning to work in a tortilla factory at 38 years old,” said Vasquez. Now she’s helping her mother pay off the mortgage on her home, a mortgage she had to take out to pay Vasquez’s legal fees. Vasquez is also hoping that she’ll be taken off the sex-offender registry as soon as possible—being a registered sex offender has made it virtually impossible for her to live a normal life: She’s not allowed to drive near schools, playgrounds, swimming pools, McDonald’s, or anywhere else where children are likely to congregate. She can’t have friends with children under the age of 17. She’s not allowed to use the Internet, which means that she can’t hold a job where a computer with Internet access is available, nor can she have a phone that’s able to connect to the Internet or with a camera.

“My parole officer was like, ‘You have to get out, you have to get back in society,’ and I’m like, ‘How? How can I do that?’ ” she said. Vasquez poured much of her frustration into advocating on behalf of the three who were still in prison, including raising funds to give them after their release; she managed to raise $700 for each of them. And money is an issue: Vasquez has a job, but the other three women are currently trying to find work; Ramirez said that this year for Christmas, because she doesn’t have any money, she’s just going to tie a bow around herself and say “Merry Christmas—because I’m the Christmas present.”

Emerging after 16 years into a world that is completely different is, they all agreed, overwhelming and difficult. (Smartphones are particularly baffling.) It has also been wondrous: During the time of their imprisonment, massive tectonic shifts took place in the landscape of gay and lesbian rights. To put it in perspective, in 1994, the year they were first accused, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell took effect. In 1996, during the investigation and trial, DOMA became law. In 1998, the year they entered prison, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence post, and left to die in Laramie, Wyo.

Since then, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, DOMA was declared unconstitutional, Hawaii just became the 15th state to legalize gay marriage, and actress Maria Bello came out as bi in the New York Times (more or less), a story that’s attracted minimal attention, so blasé are we now about queer celebrities. “[LGBTQ culture is] everywhere now. Before it wasn’t quite there yet,” said Mayhugh. “You’ve got even, like, movie stars that are out and open, and it’s no big deal. It’s come a long way. It’s good, it’s better.”

“It’s surprising … we were so isolated from the world, we had no idea what was going on in the world,” marveled Rivera. “We come out, society is so open for us, we see it everywhere. [Being gay is] not something you have to hide anymore.”

For the three women released this November, their transfer from their prison units to the jail at Bexar County, right before their release, offered tangible evidence of just how much things have changed. Along the way, their van stopped for gas at a convenience store. There was a woman working behind the counter; her girlfriend had evidently come to visit. As the women in the prisoner transport van, women who’d been put in prison in part due to the prejudices of the juries that convicted them, watched, the couple shared a kiss. Said Mayhugh, in an awed tone, “We were like, ‘Wow!’ ”
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby Project Willow » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:59 pm

parel » 07 Dec 2013 00:26 wrote:
In the gender wars video, the politician from Norway was the only one who stood up and said "this is wrong, you cannot kidnap victims, take them across borders, keep them from talking to their families, incite hysteria and then traumatise them further.' These were state officials orchestrating the kidnapping. Kidnapping is a crime. Is it really necessary to do that to speak to ritual abuse survivors?


I've often wished I had access to a safe house scenario myself, and this may be the only way to help some captive adults. However, assessing a victim's ability to determine her level of vulnerability to the offending group, and truly voluntarily commit to being in the safe house, is highly problematic. If the victim's family is allowed contact, they can issue threats and/or reactivate programming, and if the victim isn't in a place where she can mentally resist this manipulation, then suddenly she claims she was kidnapped. It's very similar to what happens in some false memory cases. Perpetrators threaten victims, and reinforce their dissociation and all of a sudden the therapist/helper is blamed for implanting false memories. It's been awhile since I watched that video, and though the group's initial impulse, to get the victim away from the perps was correct, they had neither the resources or expertise to provide the support she really needed and ended up bungling the whole thing. Like I said, it's complicated, but those who attack people who try to provide assistance conveniently ignore the complications.

parel » 07 Dec 2013 00:26 wrote:The Rescue Industry is groups try to "save" sex workers from their job by calling it 'self harm'; 'abuse' and 'violence against women' and when those people ignore the consent of sex workers and pathologise them and then call the cops on them. That's not feminism, but its done in the name of feminism. Feminists don't call the state in and set them onto other women.

Sex work is not trafficking. Sex work is work and is a livelihood. Trafficking is coercion and is a crime. If feminists fundamentalists and right wing Christians would stop targetting sex workers and labelling them victims of trafficking, we might be able to make a dent in the real trafficking that is happening. As it stands, most trafficking setups are just profit making concerns and do little to help victims. Most trafficking is labour trafficking, not sex trafficking. But guess which topics draws the crowds and money. It's not trafficking they want to stop. It's people selling sexual services for money. They call it all sex trafficking because to oppose prostitution outright would not have drawn broad support from feminists.


Well, I can't ignore the sex workers who've come forward to say they never would have chosen prostitution if they hadn't been abused as kids, or for any number of reasons, had other opportunities available to them. On the face of it, we have a volunteer army in the US, but if young men and women had access to better education and jobs, a great many of them wouldn't choose to enlist. I'm not pathologizing anyone by making these statements, I'm listening to a range of voices and looking at systems and structures that affect behavior, which is of course necessary if one's goal is to create policy that removes opportunities for abuse, and protects grown women who choose prostitution as career.

From your link below:
Choice is a loaded word. And the politics of choice is extremely complex. It is not black-or-white, where a woman either freely chooses or does not. Choice is always limited, relative, and contextual. This is especially true for poor women in the labour market. But that does not invalidate these choices. If a poor woman can choose to be a domestic worker or a garment worker, she can choose to be a sex worker. In fact, these are the life choices before a lot of women in sex work in India today.


I agree that drawing the line between which choices should be suspect and why is the center of contention. Although I hear and acknowledge complaints of paternalism, I'm also not willing to discount the unseen affects of a history of child sexual abuse on the choice to be come a prostitute. However, the answer is to work to end child sexual abuse.

parel » 07 Dec 2013 00:26 wrote:A current example of Rescue Industry shenanigans is a NY based "human rights" outfit dedicated to ending 'violence and discrimination against women and girls'. Mind you, they don't criticise US aggression and wars around the world, they only go after people in the Global South. They have recently come out in opposition to UN recommendations in two documents for full decriminalisation of sex work. They claim that the UN supports pimps and brothel owners (irt. a 'third party' clause). They are spying on sex worker organisations and activists from around the world, from certain countries. There is a screenshot in the article below by Geetha Misra, of the practicum offered to students from the New School to study our work with a view to infiltrating our movement and introducing the Swedish Model. I found that practicum online when the attacks on us started in September, in the lead up to the UNGA. It's been taken down now, and sex worker orgs and academics have signed onto a petition to have them stop "researching" us. It's pretty fucking scary. Navi Pillay, the UN Human Rights Commissioner is one of the co founders of Equality Now and Gloria Steinem is the "face" of the org, she is on the board. Last year, she took a delegation to visit Sonagachi and show her party the "reality" of trafficking. Thing is, she refused to speak to a group of sex workers who waited for hours for a meeting with her. Last week, she was awarded the presidential medal of freedom. By a war criminal.


Interesting, the UN itself has been implicated in sex trafficking. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/un-sextrafficking-whistleblower-feted-in-film-2192045.html

I understand what Equality Now's philosophical position appears to be, that selling access to one's sexual organs and responses is purely a product of male hegemony and inherently damaging to women. Whatever the case, I agree that sex workers should be free from the current abuses linked to criminalization, and conflating trafficking with sex work is probably not going to be an effective strategy, on either front.

Thanks for the info.
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Re: 16 Tx Strip-Clubs Fund City's Anti-Human Trafficking Eff

Postby elfismiles » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:45 am

Thank you PW and Parel for your contributions to this thread. Especially thank you for the well grounded dialog attempting to reach mutual understanding. I sincerely appreciate those efforts while having a discussion about such difficult and complex issues.

The post Parel just submitted RE the release of the imprisoned ladies... "after the testimony of an expert medical witness used to convict them was found to be faulty and a judge recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacate their conviction" is interesting to me considering another recent release in a local "satanic panic" type case which I will post about shortly in another thread.

Again, thank you both for your voices and perspectives.
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