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Sunday, September 27, 2015


When we first formed in 1987 - there was no model for us to follow.  We were the one to invent the wheel.  When we realized this - instead of trying to adapt the AA or NA literature to our needs which didn't work (we don't suffer from a genetic terminal disease from which there is no cure - only remission) - we set about to find our own way that worked for us.  So from 1987 to 1991 - we spoke to members, and sex workers who had retired from the industry, as well as recovering trafficking victims, to get the materials that became our 1st edition "Recovery Guide".  We self-published this book because Hazelden told us at the time they didn't think we would "sell enough copies" to warrent them taking on this subject.  My mother gave us a loan to have the first batch of books printed which you can tell them by their red cover.  We wanted to further distinguish ourselves from AA and NA by having a red, not blue, cover.

The internet was invented about 1995.  Suddenly, we're having members come in the doors saying they are "so glad they aren't prostitutes anymore" while working for a webcam studio, or doing porn that's sold online.  They argued that because they were not having physical intercourse for money that they were "abstinent".  However, our program is about recovery from the sex industry, not prostitution.  While our members identify as prostitutes, and identify their common bond is prostitution of one's self, our recovery is from the sex industry.

The alcoholic does not just quit moonshine to only drink beer and call that sobriety.   The addict doesn't switch over to prescription medication that's not essential to life and call that being clean either.  Besides, it's not about just being "dry".  It's about recovery.  It's about living a new spiritual way of life.

Let me give you an example: In 1991, I had my daughter in March of that year.  I left her father in May of that year.  I couldn't work because I was recovering from a very difficult birth.  I didn't have a car because my now ex-husband had my car.  I had the baby at home.  I had an apartment management job my ex-husband got me fired and evicted from.  I was doing a lot of TV then to promote our hotline and to advance our movement (remember the Trafficking Act of 2000 hadn't happened yet) - so I went onto welfare.  I was successfully fighting Joe Conforte back from expanding brothels into California.  So he came to me with a job offer.

He offered me a management position that was entirely legal for a six figure salary.  He further offered me a huge sign-on bonus if I agreed to take the job.  I called my sponsor and said "it's not prostitution, and it's legal".  To which he asked me if this violated our traditions - was this for the "common welfare" of the program number one.  Number two - he asked me "is this living a spiritual life?"  To which I could not say yes.  He then told me I knew the answer.  I turned down the job.  The woman who took that job was later arrested on money laundering charges, got sentenced to three years in prison and $300,000.

Because that's the way the sex industry was for me.  It would bring me money yes - but it would also bring the "insanity" and the "unmanageability".  You lay down with dogs you get fleas.  I wanted a way of life with people I could trust.  So now I'm glad I realized this wasn't about prostitution - this was about the sex industry as a whole.

This is part of what went into changing our name in 1995 to Sex Workers Anonymous.  We needed to make clear that any form of the sex industry was off-limits for us - not just the strict definition of intercourse for money.  Besides, any prostitute will tell you that she gives out more blow-jobs than intercourse anyway.  Prostitution, sex work is not about sex for money.  It's a way of life.  It's a culture.  It's a whole mind-set.   Whether you're getting paid for the pop or your monthly bills paid by a sugar daddy - it's a way of life.  Therefore, just as the alcoholic does not just stop drinking, but must also change his way of living, and the addict must also do more than stop using, but also live a spiritual life in NA - so too must our members change their whole way of life that excludes any form of commercialized sexual activity.

Now we didn't have the term "trafficking victim" when we started.  That was a legal term coined after the Trafficking Act of 2000 to make a legal distinction between whether to treat someone as a criminal or a victim by the LEGAL system.  However, our program isn't about a legal distinction.  We don't make a distinction between victim or criminal - every member is taught about the 12 step spiritual way of life.  We don't even address the past until we get up to the 4th step for that matter.  Things like whether we were forced or not forced again are issues we don't deal with until we get up to the amends part of the program - where WHEN we were wrong we "promptly admitted it".  Meaning there are cases where we were not wrong, and were forced.  We sort all of that stuff out after we've gone through steps one through three so that we have a firm "we" foundation behind us that gives us the strength to face the truth.

Why do I say that?  Because sometimes we think we acted of our free will when in fact we did not.  Sometimes we realize people who we thought were our friends, our protectors, were our betrayers.  Sometimes we realize our parents put us out on that corner.   Sometimes we realize it was our husband who put us on that stage.  So sometimes facing the fact maybe we were a "victim" is something that we need a good strong foundation, and a fellowship behind us, before we face that cold hard truth.  Otherwise, that realization might send us right back on a run or relapse.

Other times, we were crying "victim" so people would absolve us of guilt and responsibility.  Sometimes we cried victim not to go to jail.  Sometimes we cried victim so we'd get a free handout from the government - a free place to live, a free college degree, a check every month.  A free pass handed to us - oh we we will absolve you and give you money if you say you were a victim.  In those cases, recovery means owning up to our responsibilities, our decisions, our part in things.  Maybe we had a choice and maybe we were blaming everyone for everything and not holding ourselves accountable.  For those - standing up and saying "this was my choice and my decision" or "I put myself into that position" is a part of the process to recovery.

Which is why we don't like to attach any of those terms on anything until our members have steps one through three in place, they've been clean from drugs and alcohol a while, they have a sponsor, they have a home group, and they're surrounded by recovering people who are supportive and honest with them that can help our members face the truth, whatever that is, together.

No one "rescued" us in the 1980's and 1990's generally because no one believed sex trafficking was real.  What this meant was our early members had the same story over and over again - that once they were rescued, or once they did break free - then what?  They were so young, or so damaged, that they were not able to just go out and get a job.  Almost universally, these victims, once set free found themselves voluntarily returning to sex work in order to support themselves UNTIL they could then find other options.

I'm going to point you to an interview with Jacqueline Homan -  She talks about breaking free with what?  All she had was a bag of drugs she stole when she ran. No money.  No job.  No apartment.  So what did she do?  Could she go to the police and say "hey I need help?" and get any?  Not back then.  Maybe not even today considering her pimp doubled as a professor by day.  So she did what she had to do until she could get on her feet.

That has been the experience of every trafficking victim who came into our doors including myself.  I bought my way out of a family system of trafficking.  I then got sucked up into Iran Contra.  I then tried to run - and got myself arrested.  The trial left me with nothing.  I then yes turned to "regulars" to help me get me on my feet.

It's been the same with almost everyone that's come into our doors - they got free and then what?  There was no system there to help them.

Each 12 step program goes through growing pains.  AA had this issue when the day of someone ONLY abusing alcohol disappeared.  NA had this when medications were developed to help deal with depression - of which most addicts were self-medicating with illegal drugs.   Now too we are at a growth stage where we now have juveniles coming into the system who were rescued.  Now we even have adults who are being rescued and are being put into programs that help them get on their feet.  So this whole new level of victims of trafficking did NOT return to sex work to get on their feet after their victimization.

So what do we do?  We are going to address this with a modification to our literature.  Just as Alcoholics Anonymous has an Alanon, an Alateen, an Alatot, etc. and there's even now an Adult Children of Alcoholics - so too are there now a new type of victim who was rescued and was able to turn to the system to get help without having to return to sex work.  They're not identifying with our literature because they never did do one single act of sex work that was voluntary.

They have spoken.  We are going to prepare some literature for these types of victims so they can avail themselves of the 12 step process also.  We are trotting out the potential name of Sexually Exploited Anonymous to see how they respond to this name of their program.

Let me know your thoughts please.

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