Tag Archives: asian massage parlor

Breaking the law!

breaking the law!This weekend the Providence Journal released an excellent report RI Police charities solicit from “spas”.  In this report we find out how over the past years many of the spas, believed to be fronts for prostitution, have been donating to the Faternal Order of Police.  One of the spas even had what looks like 30 stickers from all of their donations wallpapered on the door of the spa.  Other spas  advertised in the police booklets.

 “COME TREAT YOUR BODY…” reads an ad for Lily Spa in the most recent 2008 issue of Cranston Police Union’s Public Safety Guide, a booklet of safety tips thick with ads from a variety of businesses….Spa ads also have turned up in The Rhode Island Trooper, the official publication of the non-profit Rhode Island Troopers Association, a membership organization of state troopers “dedicated to the improvement of the law enforcement profession…” The magazine’s spring/summer 2009 edition features articles on topics such as state police promotions, construction of a new state police headquarters and investigating fraud. The back of the magazine contains a directory filled with ads for area businesses. Under “pools & spas” is a thumbprint-sized listing for “Lily’s Spa.”

There are many things that I would like to point out about this article. 

  1. It is illegal for police to use a third party to collect donations.  RIGL 11-18-31 “No professional solicitor shall solicit money from any individual or business in the name of any law enforcement agency or any organization which would reasonably appear to be affiliated in any way with any law enforcement agency or personnel.”   
  2. The article also states “Police questioned three Korean women at the spa and concluded there was no evidence that they were victims of human trafficking and made no arrests.”  I hope people read this sentence and realised that the police have been in many of these spas (not only collecting donations) and have never found evidence human trafficking.  
  3. Spas gave donations and kept the receipts for tax purposes.  This would mean they are legit businesses.  How many criminal entities give to charities?
  4. A reported went in a spoke to women in the spas, she didn’t need to arrest them to get them to talk.  The police have said they need to arrest the women in order to get them to speak.  

 

Right now Rhode Island is working on a new prostitution law.  There are two bills, but  for a bill to become law there must be one bill that everyone in the House and Senate can agree on.  Because there is a disagreement on the bills, the State Police and the Attorney General have come in to create a compromise bill.  One question I have is how can the State Police be in charge of creating a bill about prostitution when they have been receiving money from the places they have been and will be targeting?  Usually politicians will recuse themselves when a bill comes up and it involves someone they have represented or received money from.  I wonder if the same thing will happen here?

Current Status on Prostitution in Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Since the end of the legislative session not much has happened.  Reports have said that the State Police and the Governor’s Office have been working on a new prostitution law, but both Representative JoAnne Gianinni and Senator Paul Jabour have said they have not seen the legislation yet.  I personally do not know how far the State Police and the Governor’s office have gotten on the bill, both have more pressing issues to deal with.  The Governor is dealing with his face off with the Unions,debating the fur-low or 1,000 worker layoff.  Now the State Police have to deal with one of its troopers beating up a Providence Cop.  Bad publicity and national headlines for both the Governor and the State Police.

Just a week ago Senator Paul Jabour and Micheal McCaffery wrote an Op Ed in the Providence Journal defending their bill.  In the letter they write:

We must delineate the lines that have been blurred among the problems of indoor prostitution, outdoor prostitution, human sex trafficking, and strip-club dancing by minors. Each of these issues has an appropriate legal and moral response and confusing them will lead to ineffective policies and political responses.

The woman who blurs these lines, Donna Hughes of Citizens Against Trafficking, blasted back at Jabour and McCaffery with her own Op Ed entitled “Senator’s Prostitution Bill is a Sham”

RHODE ISLAND needs a good prostitution law to halt the metastasizing problems of prostitution and sex trafficking. The growing number of spas and clubs are sordid destinations for foreign women and teens from around the Northeast. .. Contrary to the claim made by Senators Paul Jabour (D.-Providence) and Michael McCaffrey (D.-Warwick) in their Aug. 31 Commentary piece, the Senate bill does not “close the loophole.”

In order for a prostitution bill to pass, it must be the same on the House and the Senate side.  If the Governor and Police do actually submit a bill, Senator Jabour will need to sign off on it.  I can’t imagine he really wants to do any favors for Hughes, who has been dragging his name through the mud.  (She has published this op-ed in several local papers)

After all of these back and forth op eds, Senator Levesque jumped into the action and wrote his own titled “Anti-prostitution law means more deaths”  Opening up with the line “We have once again been treated to Donna Hughes slender relationship with truth.”  (Nice way to put it!)

With all this infighting, and the prostitution legislation pretty much grinding to a halt, Providence Mayor David Cicilline decided to get into the fray.  Mayor Cicilline has submitted an ordinance to be considered at Thursdays at the City meeting.  If found guilty, those accused would face, for each offense, a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days, which is the maximum penalty allowable for municipal-level violations (the proposed ordinance would be adjudicated by the Municipal Court, but I wonder where they would house those found guilty, Providence doesn’t have any prisons). I don’t know how legal this ordinance is because it is in the massage ordinance, so essentially they will only be going after the massage parlors and if that isn’t selective enforcement I don’t know what is?!? (Selective enforcement is one of the reasons RI doesn’t have a prostitution law today)

Personally, I think there isn’t much political reason to pass a prostitution law this year.  Next year is an election year, so this year doesn’t count for much.  With the state in such economic shambles, the Governor going to court every other day to fight the state workers, the 60 million budget shortfall, I think the prostitution law will stop being front page news.  Besides, RI doesn’t have the money to implement it. When I was asked back in the beginning of June if a prostitution law was going to pass this year, I though the odds were 80/20 that it was going to pass.  Now I think it is 70/30 that it will not. (Not this year, but when January rolls around I will put the odds back at 80/20)

Also if you follow the links to the articles, be sure to read the comments by local Rhode Islanders.  There is not one that supports changing the law.

Mayor Proposes Ban of Massage Parlors

City Ordinance! What a Great Idea!!! *sarcasm*

Today, Mayor David Cicilline proposed a ban on indoor prostitution.  In a letter he wrote to the City council Cicilline proposes an amendment to Section 14-251 of the City Ordinances, which requires that massage parlors and health clubs be licensed by the city Bureau of Licenses.

“Anyone who knowingly permits, offers or receives any person into any place for the purpose of committing any commercial sexual activity would be subject to a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.
Anyone determined to be a customer shall be found guilty of a violation and subject to a fine of $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.”

While it is obvious that Mayor Cicilline is trying to jump into the limelight and “save the day” from the Asian massage parlors, there are a few other things that should be looked at in regard to city ordinances.  I am not a lawyer, I am just a filmmaker, but while browsing through the city ordinances, I didn’t see any ordinance that had prison time. Sure I didn’t read them all, (there are a ton about keeping swine in city limits and burying horses), but even in the ones that looked important, those didn’t have any prison time.

Also lets look at the idea that Providence has become a “victim” and over run by spas.  Recently an email was sent to me about Mesa, Arizona.  Mesa is a city outside of Phoenix and about 2 and a half  times the population of Providence.  Providence reports to have 20 spas, and Mesa reports to have 120.  Because of the size difference I would expect Mesa to have 50 spas.  Actually, I take that back.  Prostitution is illegal in Arizona, so I would expect Mesa not to have any spas, never mind having six times the amount that Providence has.  So I guess criminalizing doesn’t work, or at least it isn’t working in Arizona.

Fiscal Responsibility?

Toilet Paper MoneyI guess I was misled.  I thought RI only had one “problem”.  The problem we in RI have been told is that we have a loophole in the prostitution law.  We have been told we need to shut down the spas, but I guess the politicians (Actually the Governor) forgot to mention that they didn’t have enough money to even keep the government open, never mind pay for the additional toll this law will have on our system.

Yesterday the Governor held a press conference to let the people of RI know that the government will be shutting down for 12 days and local cities and towns will not receive millions in promised aid, so a $70 million hole in the budget can be plugged.

I wonder if this will put the “CLOSE THE PROSTITUTION LOOPHOLE” on the back burner?  Seeing that the government doesn’t even have the money to pay it’s workers, why should it create a new class of criminals that they will be forced house, feed, and “rehabilitate”.

The Family Life Center recently released a report on the the current cost of prostitution in Rhode Island.

From the report:

Rethinking Arrest: Street Prostitution and Public Policy in Rhode Island. According to the report, street prostitution is still prevalent in Providence, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket, involving over 350 women in the last three years. The report analyzes public policy and concludes that the state could save at least half a million dollars by not arresting and imprisoning women for street prostitution, which resulted in at least 215 incarcerations in 2008…. Of the 215 women incarcerated, 102 were sentenced to prison for an average of 102 days. These women had on average been convicted of prostitution 6 times before and as many as 23 times. The report concludes that Rhode Island should focus on a prostitution policy that includes an expansion of the RENEW outreach model to other cities and a reduction in the use of incarceration.

The state is spending $500,000 a year on sending women to prison for outdoor prostitution, I would assume that this would minimally double when they criminalize indoor prostitution.  Is this worth it?  Should we have the state workers take another day off so we can send these women to prison?  Maybe we should cut a few more programs…


Why am I getting involved?

FeministThis really isn’t my fight.  Or is it?  Sometimes I sit back and think why am I involved in the fight to stop the General Assembly in Rhode Island from passing a law against prostitution?

I am not a sex worker.  I am not a customer.  I do not make a living off of the sex industry.  I am just a chubby tattooed lesbian who made a film on the Asian massage parlors.  Surely I should be fighting for something else, something that matters more directly in my life?!?  (Maybe Gay Marriage, RI is the only New England State that doesn’t allow for Gay Marriage.)  How ironic it is that I am one of the leading voices to stop the prostitution law, a law that is really targeting consenting heterosexual adult sex.

So why am I getting involved?

Sure, I would have liked to have moved on to my next film by now.  But I feel an obligation to speak for the women I met when I made the film.  There are three things in life that aggravate me more than anything else.  Lying, picking on defenseless people, and lying.

I think it is horrible that the women in the spas have been targeted.  With indoor prostitution being legal, the police have gone above and beyond the call of duty to go after these women.  Even though there are many other places in RI that can be called “brothels”, the only ones that have faced raids have been the Asian spas.

These raids on the spas have all been in efforts to “help the women”.  That brings up number 1 and 3 on my list, LYING!

Even in the most recent raid, the police claimed Human Trafficking.  In a raid on a spa in Warwick, where 3 women were working (two of whom were sisters) the police came in and took the women’s cell phones, laptops, and money.  If these women were victims of trafficking, don’t you think you would not take their money and all forms of communication so they could call for help?

So yes, this isn’t my fight.  I wish the women would speak for themselves, but until they do I am going to speak.  I am going to shine a light on what I think is not right. It might not be my fight, and people might think I am strange for being involved, but when I see such wrongs committed based on lies, I can not bite my tongue.

I’ve been had!

But so has a bunch of other people on both sides!  A spoof site called Christwire.org did a story on Rhode Island named “Foreign Sex Radicals Invade Nastiest State in the US to keep Strippers and Hookers Legal”.   The story is a spoof, but at first I couldn’t tell.  It seemed like it was just another guy writing doing little to no research, similar to Donna Hughes, and expanding on the hatred of prostitutes.

Of course none of what was written was true, but since that has never stopped Hughes I figured I wouldn’t stop anyone else, but I didn’t know that the whole site was a parody site.  I even commented a few times before I realised what I was doing.

If one lesson can be learned from this event, it is that THE INTERNET CAN NOT BE TRUSTED.  (Donna, I hope you are reading this, and I know you are.  When you base you all of your research on the chat boards of men who go to spas, what percentage of the truth do you think you are getting? These chat boards are the 21st century version of men’s bathroom walls, how can you actually present research on that and consider it valid?)

I guess the old adage is correct “Don’t argue with fools, because people from a distance can’t tell who is who.”

It is the Fight of the Coalitions!

When I started “Happy Endings?” the National Association of Jewish Women RI Chapter decided to start the “RI COALITION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING” or RICAHT.  I went to a bunch of their meetings.  It is obvious that I am against Human Trafficking.  I testified in favor of  the bill against Human trafficking this year.  This Coalition had a wide variety of people, men and women from various backgrounds.  Some were social workers, some from religious organizations, all were citizens of RI concerned about trafficking.  They were very adept in politics, and with-in one year they passed the first human trafficking bill in 2007.

It is unfortunate that this group had been hijacked by Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro.  People began to drop out.  Nancy Green, a nurse, Providence resident and concerned citizen was one of the first to go.  She wrote about her experiences in her blog calling the transition from their good work to a Big Anti-Trafficking Tent.

“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.”

This year RICAHT decided to work for a new trafficking law.  They also maintained that they would not take any position on the two prostitution bills.  This angered Donna Hughes, and she spoke out against RICAHT bill, (yes the bill against Trafficking).  She then left RICAHT and began Citizens Against Trafficking with Melanie Shapiro.  From the CAT website:  “ This year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT)  failed to advocate for the essential prostitution law needed to make sex trafficking law work.”

It is obvious that we have 2 coalitions.  One against Trafficking, and One against Prostitution.  I don’t understand why the “Citizens” group gets to use Trafficking in their title when the are actually focused on prostitution.  (And I think you should be required to have more than 2 people to have an official Coalition)   It is really unfortunate that a good group like RICAHT could be torn apart by radicals, and when the radicals couldn’t control it they could start their own off shoot with a similar name.  What is ironic is people think it is the Asian massage parlors that set up “Shell Corportation” to hide what they are doing.  It seems that this coalition is a shell corporation for Hughes xenophobia and hatred of prostitutes.