Tag Archives: Donna Hughes

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.

What is that I smell??

bullshitA few days ago I  blogged about the overwhelming response to Donna Hughes letter against the 50 Acedemics who wrote to the General Assembly to advise them against passing a prostitution law.  (Just recently the British Medical Journal published a report that prostitution laws lead to violence against sex workers, so they must be radicals too)

While most of the response to the letters showed how Donna Hughes does not base her assumptions on fact, one blogger went beyond the letter and dissected the last few months in the debate.  Almost Diamonds writes “This is about sex, right?” a post where the observations of Donna Hughes schizophrenic right wing agenda are incredible, and the best part about this blog is not only the time line or the translations, but the fact that it  is written by a complete outsider.   Someone who could just smell the intense odor bull shit and had to comment.

The “Sex Radicals” Respond

On Friday, Donna Hughes and Citizens Against Trafficking put out a letter titled “International Sex Radicals Campaign to keep Prostitution Decriminalized in Rhode Island” .  I responded to this pile of propaganda here, and I was not the only one.

Here is a couple of the “Radicals” that responded to Hughes’ lies. (I have included some excerpts, but click on the links to read the full articles)  The interesting part is that Hughes says this is Part One of her attack on the 50 Academics that signed a letter to the RI General Assembly against the proposed prostitution law.

Starting locally at ProvidenceDailyDose.com check out Sex Radical’s International Conspiracy Afoot in RI, Apparently. Beside the article being great, check out the comments by local Rhode Islanders.

Now lets check out the woman who was actually attacked.  Elizabeth Woods responds with this: Don’t Lets Personal Attacks Distract Us, where she tries to keep people focused on issues, and also reprints the letter I sent to the General Assembly.  The next day Norma Jean Almodovar also wrote a excellent letter to the RI lawmakers.

The people who also responded to attacks by Donna Hughes who could hardly be labeled as a “Sex Radical” were Senator Paul Jabour and Senator Michael McCaffery.  In their Guest Opinion in the Boston Herald they write :

“The Rhode Island State Senate passed bill S596A on June 25, closing a “loophole” by making indoor prostitution unlawful in the state. Reports to the contrary are inaccurate…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.”   I wonder if they think that Hughes is the one “blurring the lines”

A great response to this letter can be read at Rhode Island’s Future.  Brian Hull does an incredible job disecting this opinion piece in “More About Prostitution”

But, back to the “Radical’s” response.

Renegade Evolution wrote “Donna Hughes & The War Against Whores”

Amber Rhea wrote “Notes To Self” where she points out one of the many major flaws in Hughes letter.

Wood isn’t a sex worker and is in no way affiliated w/ $pread (I also love your cute little comment about how, OMG, the “S” is a dollar sign! tee-hee!) other than as a subscriber – but why should that matter? We’re all a monolith to you.”

If you just want a good laugh, (not that this is a laughing matter) check out Looser Dust.  Radical Feminist gets facts wrong shock (among other things)

The best account of disecting Hughe’s letter is on A Feminist View.  In The Battle for Rhode Island’s Sex Life

In Bust Out Your Pepto, Jane Brazen makes the excelent point:

What I find most interesting is that of the two main signers of the letter (Elizabeth Woods and Ronald Weitzner), Hughes personally attacked Dr Wood. The woman of the two. Sexism for the win!

By the way, it is usual for Hughes to go attack the women and side with the men.  I wrote about that in a previous post when she attacked the women she was “trying to save” when they testified, and sided with the cops and judges who testified (all of whom were men) that they want to put them in prison.

I know I missed a bunch of blogs, if I missed yours, sorry.  Please let me know in the comments section if you know about anyone else responding to Hughes and her fear mongering.

It is a 3 legged CAT!

Some of you who have read this blog for a while know I actually know the women in the spas.  I have actually been in a few of the spas, met the so-called “slaves”.  I remember it was almost a year ago when my cat Kolangi died and I brought his left over food to one of the spas because I knew they had a stray cat they liked to feed.

It is weird that story popped into my head when I learned today that CAT got a third member.  CAT, or Citizens Against Trafficking, is now a 3 person group that has never met any women in the spas, yet loves to talk to the press about them.  This 3 legged CAT has sent a letter to all the Senators today, responding to the 50 professors that wrote a letter against new prostitution legislation.

The letter attacks the professors who have signed, and since I know the source to be Hughes, I know not to believe 99.99% of it.   Back in May when I was on the radio a few times, Hughes and Shapiro wrote a 7 page paper on me.  Unfortunately I never got a copy of that paper, but when Dan Yorke saw it he said he would not  let Hughes or Shapiro say anything on it because it was an un sourced character assassination.  This is Hughes obvious m.o.  Attack and make up ridicules propaganda, stay away from the facts in the debate.  Hughes can not debate on facts because she doesn’t have any.

So lets look at pieces of the letter, I will disect some parts, but not link to the entire pile of shit the letter.

“Part 1 focuses on initial discoveries made by Citizens Against Trafficking researchers about some of the authors and signers of the letter. We found shocking information about what they stand for and the goals of their international campaign…The leading signers of the letter call themselves “sex radicals,” meaning they oppose any limits on any sexual behavior as long as it has the superficial appearance of being consensual.” My uncle could drink a 24 pack and not be as loaded as that sentence.  The repetition of “any” builds the sentence up and the “superficial appearance”  puts the cherry on top of that propaganda sundae!  Since I guess all is fair in a political war, I will now define Citizens Against Trafficking.  CAT is a trio of “radical feminists” some even “radical lesbian feminist” who oppose any heterosexual behavior as long as it has the superficial appearance of being a product of force, fraud, or coercion.

The sex radicals are very worried that we might achieve a “moral victory.” “Moral Victory” excellent choice of words.  CAT does not care about women who are working in the spas.  They want to impose their moral values on women who obviously have a different set of morals.  Even when you look at Hughes’ history and see her ultimate goal is to not only impose her morals but also profit once again from the criminalization of prostitution by setting up “John Schools”.  In California “Johns” are given redemption if they agree to go to “John Schools” and learn about stds and the lives of prostitutes. (Actually I might like to see a politician like Spitzer in a class led by Hughes just for shits and giggles)

I could go sentence to sentence and rip apart this pile of propaganda.  When you have no facts, when you have never talked to one women in a spa in RI, when you have no reason or logic on your side, you have to rely on emotional arguments based in morals judgments.    The tactics of CAT offend me as a woman, a feminist, and a Rhode Islander.  To use an analogy, I would say that Hughes and CAT are to Rhode Island and sex workers as Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are to homosexuals.  (Actually, Phelps is more honest with his hatred and moral judgements and doesn’t try to blanket it in an a false idea of helping homosexuals.)   I am an artist, so I believe in freedom of speech, so even though I do not agree with Hughes or CAT, I believe they have the same right to freedom of speech as everyone else.  I just hope that people don’t confuse the propaganda and fear mongering for fact.


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.

Who do you side with?

I guess it is not a surprise that I would call myself a feminist.  Some might even venture to call me a “Radical Feminist”.  I always go for the side of the woman.  Even when I watch game shows like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune I root for the women.  I would think that most feminist would be on the side of women, but they are not.  Donna Hughes, the “expert” in my film, has written numerous op. ed. pieces.  Just recently she wrote in the Providence Journal about “The Circus of Prostitution” and I called her the Clown at the Center of the Circus.   Professor Hughes essentially attacks the women she claims to be trying to help.  Not only does she attack their appearance, she attacks them for speaking for themselves.  Let me remind you these are the people she is claiming to help.    Even in her letter in the Projo Hughes writes how the Governor, State Police, Judge, Police, and Reps (all men) spoke compellingly, yet the women’s testimony turned the hearing into a circus. Now please don’t get confused, I think that Donna Hughes is a “Radical Feminist” just like me, but she always sides with the men, and that is something I can’t understand. I think that this is somewhat like the whole “House Slave” and “Field Slave” phenomenon, where Professor Hughes is the “House Slave” and I am the “Field Slave”.

It is really sad that Hughes showed her true colors in this manner, but what is even sadder is some people didn’t see this.  JoAnne Giannini who is the Representative who has put in the bill to re-criminalize prostitution has her heart in the right place.  She had been convinced by Hughes that there were women being victimized and forced into sex slavery.  Giannini wants to help the women, her heart is in the right place, but her brain is not.  For some reason Giannini thinks the women can not be helped or saved unless they are arrested and put in prison.  I don’t understand why she believes this so strongly, there are countries that have no prostitution laws and human sex-traffickers are convicted.  Beside that, the majority of human trafficking is for domestic labor, and we do not make cleaning houses or dish washing illegal to go after the human traffickers. I hope that JoAnne Giannini wakes up from the trance that Donna Hughes has put on her in time to stop this war on women.

Yesterday Donna Hughes wrote a new opinion piece on The National Review, but this time she toned down her woman hating just a tad.  (By the way, The National Review is the same publication that Hughes basically refers to George W. Bush as the first Feminist president)  In this opinion piece she does not attack women’s appearances, but she just calls them uninformed.

Some local and national anti-trafficking organizations have actually worked behind the scenes to oppose the desperately needed reforms. They blame the lack of trafficking prosecutions on lack of political will and inadequate police training. In reality, trafficking laws work only where law enforcement is empowered to fight prostitution.

Other groups, such as the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU and Rhode Island NOW, have opposed passage of a prostitution law for ideological reasons. They support the decriminalization of prostitution and mistakenly believe that good trafficking laws make prostitution laws unnecessary….

It is an unspeakable tragedy that women’s rights groups and even organizations dedicated to fighting trafficking are failing to understand how basic prostitution laws help officials to identify victims and prosecute traffickers.

I think it is incredible that Hughes believes that she knows more that countless women’s groups, anti-trafficking groups, and 50 other university professors that wrote a letter to oppose the law.  And not only does she think that she is better informed than these people who range from those who offer direct services to human trafficking victims to those who have a PhD in these areas, she has the gall to publish an article saying  all of these people lack understanding.  No Professor Hughes, these people understand that in order to free women you do not put them in handcuffs.

Is the message setting in?

Today there is letter to the editor in the Providence Journal that calls for RI to “Regulate, License, and Tax” prostitution. I have reprinted it below, but check the link to read the comments. ( I always think the comments to these letters and articles really give you the pulse of the political will of RI)

I’ve been following the controversy over Rhode Island’s indoor prostitution laws for a while now. Although I’ve seen many impassioned statements suggesting that the women involved are virtual slaves to pimps, I haven’t seen any reports of anyone being arrested for slavery or holding any of these women in servitude. I believe there are laws against slavery in these United States.

Any argument that the police are powerless to investigate and prosecute these perpetrators is nothing more than a vote of no confidence in our police forces. Police departments routinely investigate, infiltrate, make arrests and prosecute a wide variety of criminal organizations. Why haven’t we seen any arrests in these dens of iniquity?

It may be that the women working there are just trying to make a living, albeit in a profession derided by a large segment of society and known as “the world’s oldest profession.” I’m amazed that any society would believe it could eliminate any activity of such antiquity.

The laws of supply and demand would dictate the failure of most of these establishments if the demand for these services did not exist. However their proliferation indicates a good portion of our citizenry prefers their “product.”

Rhode Island enjoys streets devoid of gaudily dressed women, flagging down carloads of “johns,” creating traffic jams.

It might better serve our community to regulate, license and tax this activity.

ED FATZINGER

Here is another letter to the editor from June 24th from Donna Hughes titled “RI’s Carnival of Prostitution”.  I commented on the letter here on my blog calling Donna Hughes the sad clown at the center of the Circus, but here it is with my corrections to her letter in Red.


AFTER MY EXPERIENCE at the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, I believe Rhode Island is headed for a human rights disaster and nationwide political embarrassment. It is becoming apparent that the Senate is not going to pass a much-needed prostitution bill . Rhode Island will continue to have an expanding number of spa-brothels, prostitution of minors in clubs, and no law that will enable the police to stop it. Well, there was a bill  proposed that would have “closed the loophole” but the police, Governor and Attorney General didn’t think that it was tough enough because the women only got a $100 ticket.  I assume that using the law that would give the women a ticket would have given them the tools to stop this “human rights disaster” but it wasn’t worth it to them if the women they were trying to save didn’t get to go to prison too.

The hearing (on Senate bill 0596, to close the loophole allowing indoor prostitution) was a sordid circus, with pimps and prostitutes coming forward to oppose the legislation. Funny you use the word circus.  Circus is usually full of acts and  illusions.  For all the years I have followed this legislation all I saw was actors and illusions at all the hearings until the people who are actually going to be directly impacted by the law showed up to testify.  For years we there were people testifying about how the women were slaves, yet they never talked to ONE women in ONE spa in RI.  When we finally get to see the people are at the center of the debate you call it a circus?  I think all hearings before this one was a circus. When we actually get to hear the truth, you want to dismiss it.

Midway through the hearing, filmmaker Tara Hurley That Is Me! ushered in women and men she collected from the spa-brothels.  Men? I didn’t usher in any men.  I didn’t drive, transport, or go with any men at all, never mind men I collected from the spa-brothels. Why would I bring men with me?  When I testified I told the senate that if they were hell-bent on creating a new prostitution law why not do a prostitution law like in Sweeden where selling sex is legal but purchasing sex is illegal.  Why would I bring men to a hearing where I asked the senate to make them criminals? They settled in the back of the room. Somewhat later, the women made a dash out of the room and hid in the hallway. Hurley had to coax them back in to testify with an explanation to the committee that they are afraid of cameras.

One 53-year-old Korean woman who needed a translator to speak said she worked as a “receptionist.” She said she had never seen any women coerced into prostitution. But at the end of her testimony she revealed that she had previously been arrested for being a pimp.  Even if this is true an arrest is not a conviction, we see how police go into these places and arrest everyone on site.  The woman is a receptionist, get over it.  I think Donna Hughes just likes to throw around the word Pimp.

Then a man reeking of cigarette smoke and other odors came forward. When you can’t attack the argument attack the person. He was identified to me by Hurley as a pimp. LIAR LIAR LIAR, When did I identify anyone as a pimp? He claimed credit for the growth of the spa-brothels in Rhode Island for his now-deceased wife. Another Korean woman came forward and said she did “it” for depressed, shy guys who needed stress relief. She implicated construction workers, judges and lawyers. She proudly exclaimed that she does “it” to make money. Donna Hughes has no problem saying Pimp every other word, but can’t say sex.  I think this could be really interesting if  that was psycho analysed.

Then a tattooed woman, calling herself a “sexologist and sex educator,” spoke against the bill. She is also a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread. (I couldn’t make this stuff up!) No, Hughes didn’t have to make up the fact there is a sex worker’s magazine.  Yes, sex workers can read.  But she makes up so much other stuff in her letter, it is great she points out the fact as the only thing she didn’t make up.

All of their testimonies were accepted by the committee without critical questions. I guess this sentence all relies on the word “critical”, because all the people I saw testify were questioned. Their outrageous appearance and statements muted the serious, precise testimonies of representatives of the Rhode Island state police, the attorney general’s office, the Providence police, and Richard Israel, a former attorney general and Rhode Island Superior Court judge Also all the people who part of their career is involved in putting people in prison, why wouldn’t they want more laws to do so?

Two senators, Charles Levesque and Rhoda Perry, who are known opponents of the prostitution bill, dominated the hearing Because they were basically the only ones left there, most of the senators left. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffery left and turned the hearing over to Senator Levesque, who seemed pleased and entertained by the cadre from the sex industry.

On at least two occasions, Senator Levesque has expressed his opposition to a prostitution bill to me in e-mails. During my testimony, he badgered me to make a statement I knew wasn’t true, until Sen. Leo Blais had to get out of his seat to calm his colleague down.  I think it is safe to say that Hughes will attack anyone that is not in lock step with her views.

Also during my testimony, Senator Perry challenged my report by reading to me from the work of Ron Weitzer, an academic advocate of decriminalized prostitution when it’s indoors. In a June 18 letter published in The Journal (“Some lurid prostitution myths debunked”), he called Rhode Island’s laws — and lack of laws — “a model for other states.”  Hughes was asked a question that compared both her and Weitzer’s point of view.  But I think more people should challenge her report.  She handed in a list of places that she believes are brothels and have human trafficking and she took her information from the internet. When she handed in the list she said you might have missed some because she didn’t get all the nail salons.  I guess the internet doesn’t have updated lists on nail salons.  I think Hughes might just have something against Asians.

I have testified at hearings in the State House on a number of occasions. And said the same thing over and over, propaganda to try to link prostitution with human trafficking. Never have I witnessed such a carnival. In April, I testified for the House prostitution bill (Rep. Joanne Giannini’s H-5044A) and the atmosphere was serious and respectful, even though there was opposition to the bill.

In contrast to the passive encouragement for prostitution in Rhode Island in the Senate Judiciary Committee, earlier on Thursday Governor Carcieri held a press conference calling for passage of the House bill. He was supported by state police Supt. Col. Brendan Doherty and the attorney general’s office. Freshman Rep. Robert DaSilva, a Pawtucket police officer, spoke compellingly about the problem of prostitution. He said there is more juvenile prostitution than he has ever seen before. Representative Giannini said that we do not want Rhode Island to be a safe haven for the sex industry, but then when the Senate bill passed and looked like it was going to become a law, all of them came out against the bill.  So I guess they are not “passive” in their encouragement, they are full on encouraging.  If it is not going to be a bill that throws women in prison, then they really don’t care about saving the children.

The end of the General Assembly session is near. From my observation, I believe the Senate is going to let another year go by without a prostitution law. This will be a tragedy for victims caught in the sex industry, a black eye for Rhode Island’s reputation, and a victory for the pimps. Here we go with pimps again.  Everyone hates pimps, and we already have laws against pimping in RI, so how is not putting women in prison a victory for the pimp?

Donna M. Hughes is a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island.