2019 Year in Review. Salutations from the Pennsylvania Workers Survivors Community Clearinghouse. Last year I did not write a YIR. I had spinal surgery at the start of the year, and could not sit at the computer to type for a while. So let’s step to it! Note: Apologies for the (lack of) formatting. Post has technical design snafu.
First THANK YOU “Wikidelphia” for all your amazing support. Community LOVE!
Thank you Hatem and Johnny for setting up a Facebook page.
Legislative & Legal Happenings:
CONGRATULATIONS to EVERYONE in CALIFORNIA who worked together on CA SB 233, Wiener. Immunity from arrest. Existing law criminalizes various aspects of sex work, including soliciting anyone to engage in, or engaging in, lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, or maintaining a public nuisance.
Snaps to everyone in Philly who testified in Washington, D.C.
Also in Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner stands up to the voice of opposition, and we graciously thank him
Letter to the Editor: DA Krasner responds to McSwain’s fact-free nonsense
Events attended /Organizations partnered with from December 2018 – December 2019
- December 17th 2018 222 Global Deaths. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was first recognized in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. Since 2003, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered people from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker communities and social justice organizations stage actions and vigils and work to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Racism, economic inequality, systems of colonialist and state violence and oppression must end. The stigma and discrimination and criminalization that makes violence against us acceptable must end. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against our communities. http://www.december17.org
December 17th Outreach in South Eastern Pennsylvania: http://www.dec17philly.com
- Positive Justice Project (PJP). The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) challenges barriers to the rights and health of people affected by HIV through legal advocacy, high-impact policy initiatives, and the creation of cross-issue partnerships, networks and resources. We support movement building that amplifies the power of individuals and communities to mobilize for change that is rooted in racial, gender and economic justice. http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org
- SWOP Behind Bars (SBB). SWOP Behind Bars is a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people who face discrimination from the criminal justice system due to the stigma associated with the sex industry. We advocate for the full decriminalization of adult consensual sex work and the ending of cash bail. We draw attention to the effects of generational poverty on sexualized violence against marginalized and vulnerable populations, especially women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people who use drugs, people with disabilities, and people living with HIV. Using a harm reduction framework, we provide services and support with a focus on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy. www.swopbehindbars.org
- SWOP-USA. Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA is a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy. www.swopusa.org.
- Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) is an organisation that advocates for the health and human rights of sex workers. It is a private not for profit limited company, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and founded in November 1990. NSWP advocates for sex worker representation at international policy forums. www.nswp.org .
- International Whores Day. Bustle Magazine writes: On June 2, sex workers and their allies will dress in red and march through cities across the country. The marches are in recognition of International Whore’s Day (IWD), which was created to commemorate the 1975 occupation of Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon, France — as well as five other churches — by thousands of sex workers, who were protesting inhumane working conditions. They were tired of police brutality, the closing of their hotels, and the criminalization of pimps, which targeted their friends and lovers. This year, 43 years after that protest, sex workers are still fighting for their rights worldwide. In the United States, all forms of sex work are stigmatized and many are illegal. And this year is particularly important, as the US government recently passed a law called SESTA/FOSTA which has closed off access to clients, referral networks, and payment for sex workers throughout the United States.
- Institute for Community Justice at Philadelphia FIGHT. The mission of ICJ is to serve any person impacted by mass incarceration by providing support services that empower those affected to thrive as their fullest selves. We envision a world free from mass incarceration where communities have equitable access to health, safety, justice, and the opportunity to design their freedom. https://fight.org/programs/institute-for-community-justice/
- 16th Annual International anti-trafficking and social justice conference at Unversity of Ohio Since 2004, The International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference has been bringing together researchers, practitioners, and individuals with lived experience in an effort to lay the groundwork for future collaborative research, advocacy, and program development. To date, the trafficking conference has welcomed attendees from 45 states and 36 countries to learn from researchers, survivors, and social service, health care, and criminal justice professionals about human trafficking and social justice topics. http://www.traffickingconference.com
- Institute for Justice and Change sponsored by SWOP-USA at Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Justice and Change: A Sex Worker Institute. This day-long institute on the Thursday of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit focused on the building blocks of social justice organizing: facilitation, organizing across differences and confronting privilege, political advocacy, decriminalization and decarceration, and coalition building. Participants engaged with a variety of trainers and materials throughout the day helping to prepare them to continue to fight harmful legislation and to better build community. https:woodhullfoundation.org
- SOAR Institute Community Dinner Philadelphia: The Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights Institute (SOAR Institute) works to shift minds, hearts, and skills of service providers, communities, and policymakers to benefit those involved in the sex industry, trafficked individuals, and related communities.www.soarinstitute.org
- Trans Day of Remembrance November 20th Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. https://www.glaad.org/tdor
SWOP USA statement: TDOR Statement from SWOP USA Board: “Transgender people are beautiful and a magical gift to this world. They should be uplifted, celebrated, and protected by everyone for the courage and strength it takes to live in their truths. Unfortunately, transgender people, especially black trans women, face extremely high rates of violence, harassment, inequality, and murder. Trans people face discrimination at every turn from family, employment, housing, to social services, shelters, and inclusion in society for simply living openly as transgender. In 2019, twenty two trans people, almost all black transgender women, were murdered. Many more were harmed and abused because society, religion, politics, law enforcement, and media say that they are less than. Trans people are not less than. They deserve life, respect, dignity, and opportunities for success. The Sex Workers Outreach Project stands in solidarity with all trans communities and strives to make the world a better, safer, and more inclusive place for trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people. The violence that these communities face is an epidemic and should be a crucial tenant of policy in every presidential campaign and political conversation.We must strive to hold space for every transgender human to thrive successfully and beautifully without fear of assault and death. We hold these people in our hearts today, the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, and every day.”
- USPros Rachel West in affiliation with Community Crossroads Center.
The US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS) is a multiracial network of women who work or have worked in different areas of the sex industry. Founded in 1982, US PROS campaigns for the decriminalization of prostitution and for justice, protection and resources so that no woman, young person or man is forced into prostitution through poverty or violence. http://www.uspros.net
- HIP DC promotes the health, rights, and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance. HIPS provides compassionate harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement that is respectful, non-judgmental, and affirms and honors individual power and agency. http://www.hips.org
- December 17th 2019 213 Global Deaths. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers ( IDTEVASW) was first recognized in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. Since 2003, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered people from cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker communities and social justice organizations stage actions and vigils and work to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Racism, economic inequality, systems of colonialist and state violence and oppression must end. The stigma and discrimination and criminalization that makes violence against us acceptable must end. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against our communities. www.december17.org
December 17th Outreach in South Eastern Pennsylvania: www.dec17philly.com
Wed, Jan 09, 2019
Special to the Press/ReviewLike all days on the calendar, December 17 has its share of momentous historical occurrences.On December 17, 1821, Kentucky abolished its debtors’ prisons. On December 17, 1944, Major Gen. Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective Jan. 2, 1945, Japanese-American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes.December 17 is also a pivotal date for sex workers because on that date in 2003, Gary Ridgeway, known as the Green River Killer, confessed to killing 49 women, most of whom were sex workers. He was convicted that day. In response, former sex worker Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project’s (SWOP-USA) co-founder Robyn Few organized a memorial that was held that same day on the lawn of San Francisco City Hall where 60 to 80 people attended. As a result, on every subsequent December 17, sex workers, their families, and friends gathered in cities throughout the world and in Philadelphia to honor their fallen brethren. They call this day, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.This past December 17 in Philadelphia, two events were held: In the afternoon, about two dozen people gathered at the Thomas Paine Plaza to the west of City Hall, to create a safe space to cultivate community conversations. Then in the evening at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PHILA MOCA) activities included reading the names of sex workers who were murdered this year. The 59 names that were read out loud also appeared on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Memorial Video- 2018-USA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R94zGYi874M
“We, as one global community renew our commitment to solidarity on December 17,” said Melanie Dante, former sex worker who was one of the organizers at the Philadelphia events this year. “December 17 Events aim to raise outrage at violence against sex workers and strengthen sex worker communities and responses to the systematic, daily violence and exclusion sex workers experience.”
One of the other Philadelphia event organizers, Anita DeFrancesco, SWOP Committee Person for Dec 17 events, added, “It’s to let sex workers know that their voices matter.”
DeFrancesco became passionate about helping sex workers after her cousin, Donna Gentile who worked in that field, was murdered in 1985 in San Diego, Calif.
“She was a runaway from Philadelphia,” said DeFrancesco. “She had an unstable upbringing. ”
DeFrancesco believed that the authorities treated the investigation of her murdered cousin as if her life did not matter because she was a prostitute.
Information can be found about this murder in DeFrancesco’s 2018 memoir, The Donna Gentile Story.
Carol Smail traveled from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to seek justice for her daughter, Rickie Morgan (1980-2016).
“My daughter was a heroin addict and that caused her to be a sex worker,” said Smail. “On July 16, 2016, she was brutally murdered in Kensington. She had been hit in the head with a brick. She had her throat slashed. She was found naked laying on the sidewalk dead.”
She has been unable to cope. “I tried calling homicide to find out the detective assigned to my daughter’s case. I found out that the detective had retired. They wouldn’t give me any information because it was confidential … I was her mother!”
Smail and about a dozen people accompanied her to the Office of the Philadelphia District Attorney, Lawrence S. Krasner. She called from the lobby demanding to see him, but he was out. Instead, Courtney Knoedler, Assistant Supervisor of Victim Witness Services met with her. Although Knoedler promised that she would do all she could to help Smail, Smail left feeling less than completely reassured. She said that she would believe it after seeing results. Knoedler refused to talk to this writer because she did not receive authorization to speak with the media.
“I don’t want another mother to feel the pain that I have,” said Smail.
Psychologist Steve Eichel of Newark, Del., attended to provide support.
“I see a fair number of people who either are or who were sex workers,” said Eichel. “I think that most people would be surprised at the number of individuals who engage in sex work to finance college or graduate school. They come in and they have unbelievable histories of trauma. And most of the trauma that they’re reporting is not from childhood but from their line of work. Sex work is so underground that sex workers are treated like third class citizens.”
Eichel observed that the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is essential because it gives people the opportunity to see that sex workers are not monsters, but people like everyone else.
Gabrielle Monroe, 38 of Pittsburgh has no shame about being a sex worker. She was a homeless teenager living in her car, but when she turned 18 and became a sex worker, she soon earned enough money to move into an apartment.
“I still do it because I want my children to have a better life than I had,” said Monroe.
Victoria McCormick, author of Victoria of Dallas and owner of Badass Cat Press got involved in the adult industry back in 2005 at age 34 to earn extra cash. She was not destitute. In fact, she was a real-estate broker, but decided to give the adult industry a try.
“I was leading a double life,” said McCormick who lives outside of Philadelphia. “I soon got addicted to the attention and the extra money.”
Sex workers and their families and friends can get help.
For more information, log onto www.december17.org