Tag Archives: aclu

The National Media

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

When the national media hits, I hope it is more than a 20 second reference on the News.  I hope it isn’t just some broadcaster saying, in “National news, Rhode Island made prostitution illegal today.  They were the only state in the union that had decriminalized prostitution behind closed doors for the last 29 years.”  I hope they do at least a few minutes on the story.

First, lets look at the reason that prostitution became legal in RI.  In the projo article, you can read the history.  The article goes into how this “loophole” was created to clean up the streets.  The best thing about this article is the comments, majority of the people don’t want the law to change.  The results of the poll are the same, over 63% of the respondents say they do not want the law to change.  So why was it changed?

To help the victims of human trafficking you say?  The prostitution bill is not going to help any victim of trafficking, it will only hurt them.  Women who work with trafficking victims have asked that we do not pass the bill.  Women from the spas who, lets face it, are the whole reason they have been trying to change the law have also spoken out.  The National Organization of Women and Human Trafficking Experts have also spoken out against this new law.

Well, there is a bill to be voted on for human trafficking.  I supported that bill.  What I really liked in that bill was the training for the police.  I think the police need training, especially since just over 2 weeks ago Police found a 16 year old girl beaten and confused outside a strip club who had been kidnapped from Boston and sent her to the training school.  (For those of you not from RI, that is our prison for kids)  You can read that story on the projo.

Now the legislation has two separate bills before them, and a hell of a budget.  It all comes down to money, we all know that.  After throwing a 16 year old victim of trafficking into prison, I guess money training the police not to do that is too much to ask.

State Police Superintendent Col. Brendan P. Doherty said Tuesday before the Senate hearing that he was concerned that the training could be time-consuming and expensive. But the new version of the bill states that it’s up to law enforcement to determine the necessary training.

OK, you don’t want to spend your time or our money to help the victims?  But lets now change the prostitution law?!?  We have money for the additional impact on our prison, money for the impact on our legal system, and money for the “massages” undercover officers can get?  We have money to criminalize commercial sex but not to protect or help victims?  We don’t even have money for schools!!!

I heard someone at the state house said we are the laughing stock of the country.  I think it is true, but not for the same reason as he thinks.

I hate to point out the obvious

But it seems like I have to.  Don’t you think it is ironic that the Governor of Rhode Island holds a press conference to ask to change the prostitution law the day before he has to release the new unemployment numbers?  Doesn’t it seem like he is trying to point the press away from his failings as a Governor, and ask them to publish a story against these women?

The unemployment rate has gone over 12%.  Why should we take these women out of the safe working conditions.  If we close all of these businesses, now there will be no money coming in for rent, advertising, electric, and the list goes on, not to mention these businesses pay taxes.

The budget also was released around the same time as this push to change the prostitution law in Rhode Island.  The budget proposes cuts in education, nursing schools, and even medical help for the the elderly.  Now as a tax payer in RI, why would I want my tax money taken away from these causes to put women in prison?  Women who are single mothers.  Women who are supporting families.  Women who will not be able to get jobs when they have a criminal record, so if they did want to get out of sex work they would not have that choice.

I do not want my tax dollars to pay for police officers to go into these spas to collect “evidence”, pay for multiple visits and over time for police to go in and arrest these women!!! I want my tax dollars to go to education, to help the elderly get their meds.  The fiscal impact on our budget and the women’s prison is not worth it to me.  I would rather my money go to help people and not for putting women in prison!!

ACLU, NOW, and many Human Trafficking experts agree.  Lets hope it stalls and never makes it to the floor.  And at the same time, lets hope and pray that the two bills that are against human trafficking get to the floor for a full vote.  I have no problem with going after human traffickers, I hope we can free the women who need to be freed, but giving them criminal records is not the way to do that.

Hoping to stall…

Today the Governor held a press conference on the bills before the Senate to basically put women in prison.  The press conference was at 1:30.  At the same time I was going from spa to spa to ask women who were working in them if they wanted to come and defend themselves to the accusations that were being thrown around in the media.

I went to four spas total, spoke to a bunch of women.  But it is difficult to get women to come forward and say they participate in this work.  It is especially difficult to talk to them when I don’t speak their native language.  But I was able to get five of the actual workers to come to the state house, and one former worker to testify too.

When we got there, a translator was provided by The Family Life Center.  Thank God for that.

Donna Hughes had some propaganda poster of women in 8 stages of their life in prostitution.  I think it sort of worked against her argument, because the women who came to testify did not look like any of the women in the poster.  The reason is because they do not use drugs.  Also because they have not been in prison.  Prison and putting these women in the legal system does not effect these women positively, if any thing it effects them negatively.  If the woman who is doing this work wants to get out and get different job, she will be less likely to be able to if she has a criminal record.

More people testified against the bill than for, The ACLU, NOW, DARE, Family Life Center, “Chris” from my film (who gave his real name and address on the stand) and some local residents all testified against the bill.

One man who shared a building with a spa, Donna Hughes, and 2 Christian women, testified for the bill.

When we got there to testify, the Providence Journal was there and wanted to take pictures of the women from the spa who were there to testify.  I asked them not to take pictures.  I understand she was there to do a job, but I asked to have some compassion for these women.  These women were really putting themselves out on a limb to testify, and exposing their names is one thing but putting their picture out in public is another.  I don’t think that their picture was taken but we will see what happens in the paper tomorrow.  Just the thought of having their picture taken scared away 2 of the women and they didn’t testify at all.

When one of the women did testify did a great job, she testified in English and when she was done many of the people in the audience applauded.

For those who are hoping that the bill doesn’t pass, the only thing to hope for now is that it doesn’t come out of committee.

Human Trafficking Bill goes to full vote!

Last week I went to testify at the hearing for the Human Trafficking bill.  See the Article in the Providence Journal.

There are two bills, one from Senator Perry that calls for police training and a 16 member oversight committee consisting of people from Day One, D.A.R.E., RI Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Polaris Project, ALCU, The Commission on Women, and possibly a human trafficking victim.

The other bill from Representative Gianinni does not call for any training or any oversight.

I testified in favor for the bill.  I hope that Senator Perry’s bill is the one that gets the support with the full house and senate vote. I think that the most important thing in the Trafficking bill is the training.  How do we expect the police to identify the victims if they have not been properly trained?  We need to set standards for how we will deal with the victims.  We need to deal with the victims as victims and not criminals.  The day before the hearing on the bill the Providence Journal released a story on a missing Boston teen found in South Providence.

In this article you can see that the teen is a victim of human trafficking, and she was not identified as such.  After being found beaten and incoherent, she was brought to the hospital by the police.  This 16 year old was then sent to the training school.  How is this helping a victim when we send this young, traumatized girl to the youth’s prison?  I hope training and oversight will help in these situations.  We need to help the victims, and not further victimize them by putting them in prison.

Don’t kill the messenger

I have been questioned about my motives for making the film “Happy Endings?”  I have always been questioned about this.  Even when I started the film, the women would ask me why am I interested in this topic.  I am putting this clip up so you can see one of the women ask me this very question.

I have Johns attacking me because they think I am trying to close the massage parlors.  I have people in the Coalition Against Trafficking questioning my motives.  I have RI State represenatives saying that I am misrepresenting the issues.  I find this all to be very interesting seeing that none of these people or groups have seen the film.

I have reached out to the Coalition Against Human Trafficking on many occasions and tried to set up a screening for them. Here is one of the emails I sent and after sending the information, trying a few times to set up a screening, they never contacted me back.  But my story, or actually my truth, stays the same.  They asked why I made this film and how I got the interviews, this was my response.

I was going to grad school for Gender and Ethnic studies at Simmons.  I didn’t get into the program, and I was always making films.  This woman I had worked with at the time  had inherited a 3 family house in Providence.  In the house was a Korean woman and her husband, an American.  One day at work I was talking about how I wanted to do a film on the sex industry in RI because I had heard about how it was big in this state.  (I went to Providence College, a priest I had said that RI was actually a tourist destination for sex travel because it had more sex clubs than any where else in the east coast beside NY)  At the same time it came up in the news about the prostitution law, and this woman I work with said how she was renting a appt to this couple and she was friends with them.  At the time she was going to sell the house, so I helped her clean it out and met them.  “Heather and Chris” in my film.  It is funny because the woman who I worked with had grown up in the house and her father had hidden money all over the house.  I found 5,000 in the basement and brought it to her so “Heather and Chris” saw me do this and really trusted me because of this.  I would never steal anyway.  Heather didn’t speak English too fluently, I went to Brown and found students to translate for me.  That was the best thing to do, basically because when they translated for me they would give me back the translations with footnotes, cultural references and things like that.  It was very interesting to read things like that, things I would never know about Korean culture.  I am attaching one of the notes that my translators made on Heather about the spa industry.

Basically this is what I think about the film.  I put all points of views in the film so people can make up their own mind on the subject, and more likely than not everyone will hate it.  The Johns are represented in the chat rooms.  The ALCU is represented, the police are represented, the politicians are represented, and the women in the business are represented.  I never saw any women who were trafficked.  I met a ton of women, even though only 3 are on film.

I am sure there are women and children who are trafficked, but none in the spas that I was in.  Actually when women were asked to leave because their gambling problems were interfering with work they would ask me to go to Heather or Chris on their behalf to try and let them stay there.
There is one thing I learned through out this whole process, believe none of what you hear and none of what you see, and trust no one.

It will be interesting to see what is said tomorrow on the Dan Yorke Show.

Todays vote to re-criminalize prostitution

The VoteToday I returned to the state house to watch the vote.  There were a few represenatives who tried to delay the vote and have another hearing.  It seemed reasonable, the bill had changed 3 of 4 times while we were waiting to begin.  The secretary handed out the bill, then came back around and said this is the revisions, after a few times of replacing the bill with new print outs a few people were saying “Is this the ninth version?”

There were a crowd of people, some young women wearing stickers that said “vote no” who represented the Brown Coalition against Human Trafficking.  Steve Brown from the ACLU and Mimi Budnick from D.A.R.E., (both who are in Happy Endings?) were there.

After voting down hearing the bill, the vote went pretty much as expected.  4 people did vote against the bill, but it passed.  Rep. Gianinni was there watching the fruit of her 4 year labor finally make it to the floor.  I went over to speak to her, and she was not happy to see me.  I gave her a card, and invited her to the film, and she said “I don’t know, I am probably represented horribly”.  I don’t know how people always come to the conclusion before they even watch the film.

I have gotten emails from Johns, berating me for “trying to shut down the massage parlors”.  I don’t know why people jump to conclusions before even seeing the film.  I may sound opinionated on the topic now, but while I was making the film I was just trying to get the truth.  I don’t portrayed or represented anyone.  Everyone represents themselves.

Gianinni being interviewed When I did the film, I got everyone from the police, legislators, johns, women working in the massage parlors.  The person who I identified with the most was Nancy, who had been involved in the human trafficking coalition and then testified against the prostitution bill.  I felt like she was a kindred spirit, I would have been her if I didn’t have a camera in my hand.  She was one of the first people who is in the film who I let watch it.  She even reviewed the film.  Today she blogged about her experience.  I think everyone who has been involved in passing this law, either on moral grounds or “human trafficking” grounds should take a few minutes to see what a Rhode Island resident and woman has to say.  Here is an excerpt.

I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.

To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?

Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas.

New Posters and Promos

PostersI met with my designer yesterday.  Adele Park is doing all the packaging for the DVD and posters.  It is great to have her creative input on the design, and a little overwhelming.  We met at Juliens in Providence yesterday where she gave me designs for posters and postcards.  I loved them all, there was one that was a simple design with only the title and a barber shop pole.  I liked that one, but I didn’t think people who saw it would understand the connection.  (In Korea, barber poles are the sign that sex workers are inside)  The two that are pictured (with my cell phone, so the picture doesn’t do any justice) are the two I am going with.  The color will be different, but the theme will be the same.

Today I went into the office and finished placing the audio commentary.  I am going to pick out the extended interviews next.  I showed some people the poster prints and asked what one they liked.  I showed my dad and he pointed to the one with the guy with out even looking, saying “That one”.  It annoys me that he has no interest in the film at all.  He hasn’t seen the film, and more likely than not will not even go to any of the showings.  I have put the last four years of my life into this film, and I don’t know if it is the subject matter or he just doesn’t care about what I do.  I know that his lack of interest just drives me to do better, it drives me to succeed.  I saw the same thing when my dad opened up his own business, his father said he would end up in a third floor flat, and my dad opened his business and was successful (with the help of my mom).  I have support from others in my family, my sister helped film, my brother did voice overs, and my mom can’t stop giving me ideas about publicity and promotion.  All that and I have a pretty awesome girl friend that not only helped film, she had to put up with me when I was stuck in neutral with the film and life.  Now I want everyone to enjoy the ride, there is no looking back now.

No money, mo’ problems

Nick doing Audio CommentaryI know the song goes “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and hopefully I will get to see that side of it someday.  Today I have just been dealing with no money and mo’ problems.  Nick and I have been working on the audio commentary section of the film.  We worked on that all last weekend and it took us about 3 hours to get the work flow even working.  After finally figuring out how we were going to do it (use garage band and import another audio track) we only got to comment on 20 minutes of the film.  We met up again today to try and finish the last hour of our audio commentary, and we walked into disaster.  There must have been a electrical problem in the building because the computer, terastation, and router were all powered off.  It took all morning (including a trip to Radio Shack to buy a new router) before I could get the computer back to running.

It is really scary to not have access to the external  hard drive.  Yes, we do have backups on tape and dvd, but the external hard drive has everything on it.  After finishing the audio commentary (hopefully tomorrow and Monday) I have to go through those clips and pick the extended interviews that are going on the dvd.

I think the audio commentary and extended interviews are the most important part about the dvd.  Many people who have seen the film say to me that they do not see my viewpoint in the film.  I thought the point of documentary films were to document real life and not my personal viewpoints, but ever since doc film directors like Micheal Moore, people want to be told what the filmmakers think.  Sooooooo, we are adding the commentary so people will get insight into the making of the film and our points of view.  The extended interviews are being chosen because you have to cut out so much when covering such a long period of time and such a deep topic.  These clips will give the viewers more insight into the people who are in the film.

Booking a Show

It is time to get the show on the road.  Or not on the road, bring it back home to where it all started, Providence RI.  I am booking a show the first weekend in June.  Friday June 5th and Saturday June 6th at the Columbus Theater.

Columbus TheaterIf you are from Providence, you know the history of the Columbus Theater.   It is a beautiful theater.   It was known for showing “adult films” for a while, then cleaned up and now shows mostly indie films.  I would consider my documentary a mixture of the two, so I think this is a perfect fit.

It preparing for the show I have to revisit a few issues lingering in my head.  One is the people who are in the documentary, should I show them the film before it debuts?  When I started this film I was given advice from John Raben who did another documentary in RI about Federal Hill.  He told me to never show the film to anyone in it.  I have shown the film to one person, “Chris” and after you see the film you will understand why.

I respect everyone in the film.  Everyone had different viewpoints and opinions.  My own opinion is not in the film.  I do not want to be asked to change or edit anything, so I struggle with the decision to show it to the participants.  Just another part of It not being easy!

Giving away money I don’t have

I am getting everything ready to start selling DVDs.  I spent a large amount of money producing this film.  Mostly on translations and music, all in total I would say I spent about a years salary.  I know I will make that back, plus more.  It is not about the money.  I know when people say that, they are saying it is about the money, but in making this film I did see first hand how money truly is the root of all evil.

I would see how some of the women who were in the business would make a ton of money and blow it at casinos.  Some would buy things I thought were ridiculous, like $500 handbags.  Some were there and had goals, one was there for one month in the summer and paid her College tuition.  But more often I saw the old proverb “The body is cheap, the heart is priceless”.

I want to take the money I get from making the film and put it to good use.  I am going to set aside a portion of the profits to go towards two non-profits.  I haven’t found what two yet, but one will be a sex-workers rights group.  That is what the main character “Heather” would have wanted.  The other group I want to donate to is one set up to fight violence against women.  I think I will contact Day One RI.  They were involved with bringing translators into the massage parlors into the spas after I began the film.   Of all the people involved in the film, Day One was the only people who actuall asked to meet with me to ask me what I was finding out while I was filming.  They seemed genuinly conserned with the wellbeing of the women.  I don’t know their position on sex work or prostitution, but I know ultimately we shared the same concern for the women.