All eyes are on Florida because of the high-profile stings on massage parlors. Those eyes should be on the lives destroyed by these stings: the thirteen women and counting who have been arrested. Those eyes should be on the media, bad bills, prosecutors, and police that are harming people and ruining even more lives. We’re here to ask the media, lawmakers, criminal justice system, and people of Florida to LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS and JUST STOP THE ARRESTS
The police and state attorneys have spent months claiming they were investigating and prosecuting for human trafficking. They admitted a week ago there’s no evidence to bring charges. I was raised to trust the police and see them as good guys, but in these cases they did not help these women and should not be celebrated as heroes.
So far, thirteen women have been arrested, with warrants out for four more. Half of the women are still in physical custody, unable to afford their bonds or quality legal representation. All are being charged with felonies.
Whether or not these women were exploited while working in these spas, they are all more vulnerable after these arrests. Handcuffs don’t help. If the police and prosecutors really want to help, they should LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS and JUST STOP THE ARRESTS.
Because of their arrests, these women will face:
in some cases deportation,
and in all cases public shaming
That isn’t all they are facing. None of the women in these cases were informed of the warrants for video surveillance. Gabrielle Monroe calls this “government-sanctioned, police-produced pornography”. Multiple undercover agents also had sexual contact with women they were investigating. The women could not give “intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent” because of these deceptions. This is state-sanctioned sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In 2015, an inventory of Florida’s sexual assault kits found that 13,435 kits had never been submitted for analysis.
end the backlog on testing rape kits,
stop rapists from raping,
end rape by police,
and stop arresting people for consensual sex.
Lawmakers want to help victims of human trafficking, but they can’t do that if they refuse to listen to sex workers.
Senate Bill 540 will make people more vulnerable by putting them in a Soliciting for Prostitution Public Database. Despite claims this registry is only for “johns” and “pimps”, it will include sex trafficking victims and sex workers. Many of the people assisted by SWOP Behind Bars and some of the women arrested in these stings have been charged with soliciting. They would be put on this registry.
This bill would also require that hotel employees identify and report suspected human trafficking, even though they’re especially vulnerable to exploitation and lack adequate labor protections. Asking people experiencing labor exploitation to report guests they suspect are being sexually exploited is cruel.
The House version, House Bill 851, will expand the charges that can be used to revoke the licenses of people like the thirteen women who were all licensed massage therapists in good standing. Supposedly this will help “protect the integrity” or “respectability” of the massage profession. This assumes people in the sex industry aren’t respectable, have no integrity, and don’t have the ability or the right to work in legal, skilled industries like massage therapy. People will be more vulnerable to human trafficking if this passes, not less.
House Bill 219 and Senate Bill 370 would create new mandatory minimums for solicitation of human trafficking victims. There is no good way to do this. If you require proof that the person solicited is a victim, it retraumatizes victims by forcing them to testify. If you don’t require their testimony, it’s going after everyone charged with soliciting sex from anyone.
House Bill 527 and Senate Bill 168, “Federal Immigration Enforcement,” are anti-immigrant, anti-family, anti-worker, and anti-safety. They’re also pro-human trafficking. They will separate families, increase people’s fears of interacting with police, and turn people over to ICE based on the smallest infractions. Survivors who fled traffickers will be deported right back into their hands. These bills will make human trafficking even worse.
House Bill 259 and Senate Bill 982 will require public school health education about child abuse and human trafficking. That proposal makes sense at first, but the bills tie it to our current ineffective and harmful abstinence-only education. The House bill, which is inaccurately named “Comprehensive Health Education,” would actually remove educational requirements about teen dating violence and abuse. Students will be taught paranoia instead of facts. They’ll be less educated about their bodies and their relationships, and become more vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, and sexual violence.
This year, our legislature has failed yet again to even consider the incredibly necessary “Florida Healthy Adolescent Act.” It would require actual comprehensive sexual health education including abstinence, not only abstinence. This is what we need to help adolescents learn healthy sexual attitudes and how to protect themselves. This is something sex workers say will reduce involvement in the sex industry and vulnerability to exploitation.
If our lawmakers want to address human trafficking, they should LISTEN TO SEX WORKERS and JUST STOP THE ARRESTS!
When law enforcement agencies and state attorneys threw themselves press conferences to declare themselves heroes in the spa stings, most of the media took them at their word. The media repeated their unsubstantiated speculation and salacious details. They focused on powerful men’s sex lives. Very few have asked: what about the women? Instead, they published names, mugshots, and personal details, and they’re trying to release even more. They are hurting these women, not helping them. People in the sex industry need rights, not rescue, and handcuffs are not rescue
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