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Friday, March 18, 2016


Dear Editor:

Thank you for highlighting what's happened with Stuart Dunnings III. I'm writing to let your readers know this case is showing me a definite pattern that I think we need to start opening up a dialogue about. Back in the early 1980's prostitution was viewed entirely as a crime (except in the brothels of Nevada). However, witnessing myself first hand people were being sold like cattle to wealthy men over oil and drug deals during Iran Contra, forced, coerced and tricked into prostitution by pimps posing as husbands and boyfriends, I knew all too well not all of us were living the life portrayed to us by Xaviera Hollender, author of the “Happy Hooker” made popular in the 1970's.

Looking around me I was seeing alcoholics and addicts being afforded drug court as an alternative to jail based on them having a “disease”. I even saw men who had beaten, even murdered, their wives being given treatment instead of jail. Even men who had molested their children were being offered treatment instead of incarceration. So here was other issues being afforded treatment rather than being treated as a criminal.

However, the concept of “sex trafficking” was a completely alien concept so no doctor, clinic, or psychiatrist was willing to set up a program for “us” back then. But I just could not stand by watching how a woman being threatened by harm to her children to force her to work in the sex industry was being further treated like a criminal by the courts – while addicts, batterers, and rapists were being offered treatment. Consulting with Edwin Meese, the California Attorney General at the time, I formed a 12 step program for us originally called “Prostitutes Anonymous” in 1987. I was told by laws already in place because of Alcoholics Anonymous – I could then use this program to petition the courts to start offering us an alternative to jail as a sentence.

Since nothing like this had ever been done anywhere in the country before, I was told we had to get approval from all of the departments in Los Angeles county in order to set up a formal program to ask the courts to start considering us as an option to jail. Mayor Tom Bradley, Sheriff Block and Chief Gates were wonderful in helping set up a board where a member from every office came together – from the police, to the prosecutors' office, social services, health department, etc. Everyone came together and thought it was a “great idea”.

The only person/department who was noticeably absent was the probation department. Taking matters into my own hands, I drove two hours to go knock on his door and find out why he was refusing to help us create this program. When I walked into his office I immediately recognized the problem in that I recognized him as one of my “regulars” from when I had operated an escort service years before. I asked him to please tell me why he of all people would be reluctant to see us get some treatment options. The answer was simple “I don't want anyone to believe anything you have to say”. Basically, his own guilt, and fear over being discovered he was engaging in crime also, was the reason why he was reluctant now to work with me on a professional level.

I made him understand we had no interest in exposing him to anyone, and he agreed to let us move forward with the very first “alternative to incarceration” program. A program so successful, we were asked to create one in Allentown, Pennsylvania a year later in 1989. That was so successful it led to a program like it in Vancouver, Canada. So on and so on until we had formal programs sprouting up all over the country – with prostitutes being able to access this anywhere in the USA simply by asking the court to allow them to connect to our program in lieu of jail when sentenced. By the year 1999, the year before the Trafficking Act of 2000 was passed – we had a chapter of our program in every major city of the USA with the courts referring those convicted of prostitution into Sex Workers Anonymous (we changed our name in 1995 after the internet was created).

We had lobbied for the Trafficking Act of 2000 to pass because we were told it would allow the government to start treating us like “victims” instead of “criminals”. In other words, it would allow them to pay for victim services instead of denying us these benefits. It was to create a system whereby pimps could then pay into the same program that rapists and murderers did for their victims, and where victims of violence who were also prostitutes wouldn't keep being denied assistance because of being viewed as a “criminal” by our legal system.

However, the minute this field become “monetized” suddenly everything flipped on us. This program we had been offering for free to our members, as well as to the courts to utilize – suddenly became in “competition” with nonprofits and charities who wanted to go into the game now money became available for them to do so. In fact, when the TVRA of 2003 was passed, it specifically denied money to any program that was not “faith based” and that had not signed an “anti-prostitution policy”. As a 12 step group, we are not “faith based” nor can we sign a “anti-prostitution policy” anymore than Alcoholics Anonymous can join a drive to bring back Prohibition. Suddenly we found ourselves being pushed back by groups wanting to do what we did – only for money.

Because of Michigan's bad economy however, we were being left pretty much alone until a few years ago. Suddenly instead of a prostitute being referred to us after the sentencing, we were not getting them until they were on probation. Then out of a clear blue, we were told the policy had changed to where now they were referred to us only in their second year of probation. This made about as much sense to me as referring an alcoholic to AA in their second year of sobriety – so I started knocking on doors to find out why we were being pushed further and further back at a time when more and more men and women were entering into prostitution because they couldn't find jobs.

When I heard of Dunnings arrest – I couldn't help but click on a pattern I've seen developing. Every state that's pushed us clear back right out of the system, even cutting off communications with us entirely, I've now seen someone like a prosecutor, judge, even a governor in one state has been arrested for frequenting a prostitute. But another pattern's developed that concerns me even deeper. With prostitutes now fearing jail instead of coming to a SWA meeting – they're now hiring criminal lawyers. Lawyers who they're reporting to me are pressuring them for sex. I've got some cities where I'm hearing every criminal lawyer in the book is insisting upon sexual favors on top of cash to defend these women. So I want to applaud Michigan for finding a way to charge him further for that form of rape. Because just as you can traffick someone into sex work without using a gun – so to can you force sex upon a woman without a gun also. Force can take many forms as this case illustrates.

I've been talking to the bar associations about putting together a training for them on this issue because as more women are retaining lawyers to defend them on these types of charges, the more I'm hearing about them being forced to pay out sex on top of cash. So far the bar has refused to even speak to me about this issue. I'm hoping this case will enlighten them there is a need.

Jody Williams

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