In the effort to combat actual trafficking, we are all new to learning the best ways to meet each other at a shared point of understanding to work together. Without YOUR voice working with us OUR voice simply is not heard.
Without OUR voice YOUR efforts are not authentic social / justice.
– M.Dante 2017 Philadelphia.
In its 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, the State Department affirmed the 2010 United Nations Recommendation #86, stating, “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution,” and we call upon the States to do likewise. There are numerous instances of state laws and regulations that still discriminate against our community. (ESPLER Project Policy Agenda)
Black Market. black mar·ket noun an illegal traffic or trade in officially controlled or scarce commodities. “They planned to sell the meat on the black market” (Google definition). The term “informatics” broadly describes the study and practice of creating, storing, finding, manipulating and sharing information. (Wikipedia definition).
“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say…” – Maggie Kuhn, Activist.
My motto: Community working together works! We work even better if funded and trained to take on the tasks at hand.
Despite what professionals and lay people new to the discussion want to believe, WE – the actual real survivors and workers – are your front line of protection against truly dangerous predators and offenders.
- Come together annually for D/17 to address the violence and murder.
- Challenge the stigma that perpetuates barriers.
- Create community conversations to bridge divides and cultivate better solutions.
Currently we – survivors AND workers – are excluded from most research and forward moving opportunities, except for maybe experiential surveys, poetry slams and trauma inspired storytelling venues. Our work – which was always there privately tho visibly parallel to your work – has been under constant observation and attack as a result of End Demand. This hurts us. Right now I privately raise all revenue and resources for what I do as each effort happens in real time, and I have since 2012.
- I desire to connect with compassionate, concerned, and courageous congressional representatives, policy professionals, legal advocates, plus creative and educational outreach projects supporting worker and survivor inclusion.
Why? Why do I do this?
Well – Yes! I want to change the world. My world. Maybe your world. So – Originally I wanted to contribute dialogue to “right the wrongs” I witnessed and experienced in the black market as a migrant sex worker. Also, I believed a college degree was the golden ticket out of the sex trade. I bought the hyped up concept that I needed to “get my act together”, and “grow up” by going to college to find a career beyond “the life”.
College, however noble — especially since dedicating my final products to trafficking and women’s health — has kept me almost $90,000.00 in cyclical debt, with mounting interest compounding daily, for two degrees I can not apply to any specific profession or salaried position, complicated and compounded by the Conscience Clause, the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath, PEPFAR, and the now reauthorized international gag order policies.
I know I not alone with the conundrum of college costs, however, it is really hard to engage in new efforts with the cyclical debt burden. No one said getting off the street would be easy, but the cost is now more than a barrier – it is a road block.
In 2014 I chose to “Come Out Under The Red Umbrella”. Since then I’ve been sharing in the public conversations on survival sex, sex work, and sex trafficking. There are few jobs and even less funding, available to actual victims of the sex trade – or active sex workers – who are public about it. The stigma against sex workers is real, and really that is not okay.
“The way to right WRONGS is to shine the light of TRUTH upon them.”
Ida B. Wells, African American Journalist
Despite keeping up appearances I have a unique and challenging personal history. I was from a broken home before divorce laws protected children from predators. I was the victim of child abuse. I was a homeless teen due to domestic violence. I was a transient young adult living in weekly hotels and underground commercial sex locations. I lived at street level for over twenty years. And all those years I was told I “chose” to be that way.
Now we know that child abuse that leads to youth disenfranchisement and homelessness – especially when survival sex or early entry into the commercial sex industry is involved – is not just a bad choice, it is actually a crime.
Domestic violence and child abuse contribute to what we now define as human trafficking when child abuse leads to youth disenfranchisement, and the exchange of sex for survival; and/or entry into the commercial sex trade. People just didn’t view it as much of an issue back then. In fact, even many good people simply looked the other way.
People like me who are defined as “victim/survivors and workers” have been left vulnerable and exposed as result of all the new efforts to “end demand”, along with newly implemented trafficking legislation, yet – we are not offered any services or support. A lot of exposure with no support. This hurts.
Yet -I am blessed. I am. Truly I am blessed that instead of winding up an NHI, I am here with you now, able to share my story with you.
Sadly, it seems not a lot of people want to truly listen to the perspectives of those of us who lived the “torrid” reality, especially if our views differ from those who want to “save” us; or “save” the next generation from being like us.
For most of my adult life, I have expressed myself from the perspective of what I experientially knew. The streets. My writing, however, has only recently begun to be published, primarily in Philadelphia, in community anthologies. That is okay. It has just taken time for outsiders to catch up and become interested in the conversation. Sex Work. Sex Trafficking. Street Based Economies. Street Level and Sexual Lifestyles. None of these are new things.
Creating a shared point of understanding
People have repeatedly asked so I am including how in 1999 – at 29 – I took out the necessary student loans to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree. My 2003 senior study is on feminism, sex work, forced prostitution and sex traffic. At the time, it was too early for the public conversation. It was decided the project had to be “privacy locked” due to the painful and controversial content. I went on to complete my master’s degree in health communication and women’s health, graduating in January 2006 from Goddard College in Vermont with a Master of Arts in the Health Arts and Sciences. For six years afterward, I continued living quietly in Lancaster County as a caregiver and craft artist with much of the sex industry – I thought – behind me.
In 2011, however, I received some news which brought my past in place with my future. I lost my home and everything I thought I’d been working for over a 13 year period. Additionally, my phone started ringing with requests to contribute to new Masters and Ph.D. student research and legislative efforts from AK to CA to PA to VT regarding the controversy and confusion over consent and coercion, trafficking and semi-legal sex trade.
Since 2012 I traveled thousands of miles across our nation, contributing to many academic and non-profit research projects and legislative efforts. So many I actually almost forgot to contribute to my own.
Welcome to Black Market Informatics: My name is M. Dante. I am federally defined as a former victim of U.S. domestic minor sex trafficking, a sex trade survivor, a consensual adult worker, and ally. I hope you find my perspective valid and of interest. I’ve found that though I am part of the population of vocal survivors, we have the weakest voice in our home states, and in Washington, D.C. In fact, we are often completely ignored. This hurts.
In the effort to combat actual trafficking, we are all new to learning the best ways to meet each other at a shared point of understanding to work together. Without YOUR voice working with us OUR voice – as survivors – simply is not heard. Without OUR voice YOUR efforts are not authentic social justice.
Before speaking about sex workers or former sex trafficking victims – before passing permanent laws on all our behalf – please consider: someone you know, or one of your constituents, may be – without you realizing it – defined as a former or current victim of sex or labor trafficking, and/or a sex worker. We are affected by laws and legislation in ways you do not consider. Include us in policy process even when our narratives differ from your expectation.
Our voice is here for you to hear.
In our own words and narratives as best as we can do.
Are you ready to listen?