Tag Archives: legal loopholes

The Media Machine

The national news has hit!  And they are not giving the whole story, like usual.  CNN has done two interviews with Gianinni, both times referring to the 16 year old that was found as a run away!  A RUN AWAY?  Gianinni herself says the 16 year old is a runaway.

What I can’t understand is why do they never use the word human trafficking now?  For years they media has been hounding on how they need to change the prostitution law because of human trafficking in the Asian massage parlors.  Now when they actually find a human trafficking victim they don’t refer to her a human trafficking victim but as a runaway?!?!  When the Providence Journal first reported this story, they reported it as follows:

A 16-year-old girl from the Dorchester section of Boston who’d been missing since February was found Monday in a basement apartment in South Providence with a man wanted for escaping from prison in Boston. The mystery of her whereabouts was nearly solved by chance five days ago, when a patrolman found the teenager bleeding and incoherent at the same apartment at 593 Prairie Ave. She said her “boyfriend” had punched her in the face after her shift as an exotic dancer at Cheaters strip club, according to a police report.

This 16 year old is at the center of a huge media blitz.  This 16 year old victim (who was sent to prison when found) is now being referred to as a “runaway”.  Interesting how the media skims over the fact she was TRAFFICKED BY A MAN WHO HAD ESCAPED FROM PRISON, and instead call her a “runaway”.

This case has set off a big media blitz.  It is sad that what the news stories are not mentioning  the fact that this 16 year old was exploited at the same time that General Assembly failed to pass a Human Trafficking law.  How sad is that?  What the media is focusing on is the “prostitution loophole” again, and once again these two things have nothing to do with each other.

Actually, I do see one similarity with the situation of underage strippers and the “prostitution loophole” in Rhode Island.  Both situations are big media stories about nonexistent issues have been used to further someone agenda. In RI, over the past 10 years after repeated raids and arrests of women, local, state, and federal agencies have not been able to find any human trafficking victims in an Asian massage parlor.  Just like how now the police said that they  have visited all of the strip clubs in the city and found no  juveniles performing. The owners of the strip clubs have come out and said that they would not and do not hire juveniles .

“We have so many girls who want to work,” Shappy said. “Housewives, college students, office workers, hairdressers. I have an LPN, an RN, a girl at the ticket counter at Green [Airport]. …

“We don’t want [minors] in the place. We respect the laws. There’s enough business to be happy with the way things are.”


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.

Just one day until the big screen

Columbus Theatre MarqueI have had so much to blog about, but no time.  I also wanted to leave the last blog up so as many people could see it as possible.   I am a mixture of excited and nervous for tomorrow night.  It is not easy to put yourself  in front of so many people, to work on something for more than three years and put it out there for the world to see.

I did a showing at AS220 on Memorial Day weekend for about 40 people, and the response was great.  It was part of the Open Eye Film Series, and Donna Hughes was there.  We both debated our viewpoints on the situation in Providence, and then Donna Hughes sent out a letter to her listserv starting rumors about me.  “Hurley has been showing her film in sex industry venues (not human rights film festivals). ” This is just one of the many rumors that were started, and almost the funniest because Dr. Hughes saw the film as part of the Open Eye Film Series at AS220, part of a series of films that document social issues in Rhode Island.  But leave it to Dr. Hughes to make stuff up.

What is really surprising to me is when I started this film I had just been rejected from Grad school for Gender and Ethnic Studies.  In June of 2005 I was actually already taking classes towards the degree, I just had not applied.  I thought I wanted to be a professor, actually a woman studies professor like Dr. Hughes.  Wow, am I glad I got rejected.  Sometimes when a door closes it is in your best interest.  I know that it was in my case.

Medical Marijuana and today’s Dan Yorke show’s Indicators

Today Medical Marijuana centers became one step closer to being available in RI.  All that it awaits is the Governor’s signature.

The whole marijuana debate and history of marijuana has fasinated me.  Just like the “loophole” in the prostitution law.  I think that some of the propaganda used to keep marijuana criminal is similar to what has been used to keep prostitution illegal.  We are talking about adults doing what they want to do with their bodies right?

I put in the clip of “Reefer Madness” to show you how people with the best intentions use propaganda to try to move their adgenda forward.  We watch “Reefer Madness” now and laugh at how ridiculous it is, I wonder if people will look back at the situation going on with the link between prostitution and human trafficking with the same ridicule?

You can’t read any article in the paper about prostitution in Rhode Island.  It is always “Prostitution and Human Trafficking.”  It reminds me of how George Bush could not say 9/11 with out saying Iraq in the same sentence.  For years we were led to believe there was a connection, and then when none was found, we were told there was no connection.  Well, the same situation is going on here in RI.  The media and certain groups with agendas have decided to start a war on prostitution.  Since most people in the great state of Rhode Island don’t care what people do behind closed doors, going after prostitution would not get much traction.  If you talk about human trafficking, well that is a different story.  No one would support that.

For those of you who are new to this blog, let me give you a little background.  I am a grad school reject.  I was going to grad school for Gender and Ethnic studies, took one class before applying and getting denied.  I decided to make a film about the prostitution law in my home state of RI because it fascinated me.  I wanted to get all sides of the story.  When I got rejected from grad school I cried for a few days, but now I actually think it is great that I never got into grad school, if I did I would probably just be another student who recites stats and is beholden to a professors point of view.  I am completely independent.  All my opinions are my own, and formed over the four years it took to make “Happy Endings?”

There is a big difference between the Ivory Tower and Street Knowledge.  Donna Hughes is the “expert” that hails from the Ivory tower.  I guess you can say I am the “expert” that hails from the Street.

Today on the Dan Yorke show, Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro spoke on a film they have never seen.  I have sent over a dozen emails to Melanie trying to set up a showing to her and her Coalition Against Human Trafficking, but they never had time.  On the show, Dan said he had infront of him a seven page paper that attacked me in every way possible, “just short of breaking my legs.”  I am intrigued and honored that someone would write a paper about me.  I would love to see it.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings, I know she has to attack the messenger.  I remember writing seven page papers in college too, and I wanted to put in those papers anything that would give me a good grade and impress my professor.

What I want to put infront of the people of Rhode Island and anyone that reads this blog is this.   Look at the evidence. Here we have two women, myself and Ms. Shapiro.  Both of us are very interested in women studies.  Ms. Shapiro has a graduate degree, Ms. Hurley does not.  Ms. Shapiro is beholden to a professor, Ms. Hurley is beholden to no one.  Ms. Shapiro has never talked to any women in any Asian massage parlor in Rhode Island.  Ms. Hurley has spoken to numerous, 30 or more.  Ms. Shapiro uses terms like “there are indicators” that point to human trafficking”, Ms. Hurley has said there are facts that show the women I have spoken to have entered into this work of their own free will. Ms. Shapiro has watched spas from outside, Ms. Hurley has gone in and spoken to the women.

You can draw your own conclusions, you can point to the Ivory tower and use their propaganda to try and manufacture a link.  Or you can use commonsense and see that some people have an agenda.  Some people make more money than high priced prostitutes giving “expert” opinion on human trafficking and prostitution.  I have never made any money, I actually have spent over $30,000 making this film, bringing translators in to speak to women who were being arrested.  Even today on the Dan Yorke show a victim on Human Trafficking called in from California and disagreed with Donna Hughes and her viewpoint on the law.

I guess my point is this:  If there is Human Trafficking and all of these women need to be saved, why is there not one woman who has come forward to say she was a victim?  I am sure that she would have anonymity.  When Jerry Lewis does a telethon he puts his kids out there for all the world to see. It is a great way do a fund raiser and directly show the issue.  Jerry Lewis doesn’t go on the radio and say “We have indicators” he shows reality.  I wonder if the first thing you learn in grad school is how to skirt the issue with “indicators”?  Why have we not seen one victim?

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Today it was said that I was starting a Union for Sex Workers in RI.  I am a filmmaker.  In my opinion I think it would be good to have a union, and if anyone wants to use my film as a rallying tool that is fine with me.  When I was growing up, I lived with my va voo (portuguese for grandfather) he told me three things to live by.  1.  Always vote Democrat, they have done the most for our people (typical Rhode Islander)  2.  Always buy American (I just bought a car and it is a Nissan, but I bought it at an American dealership so I don’t feel so bad) and 3.  You gotta have a union.  I know unions are important, especially for people who can be exploited.  With that being said, I got into this because I wanted to make a film.  I still want to make films.  Documentaries are my passion.  I think bringing up unions is another way to cloud the issue, and what does a union that protects sex workers have to do with human trafficking anyway?

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.

Oprah talks while I am at the State House

Today I got a call from my mom about Oprah.  I didn’t get to the call because I was in the halls of the State House, waiting to speak to some of the Representatives on the Judicial committee.  Unfortunately I missed the show, but I went to twitter to see what people were saying about what they had seen.  Most people were saying it was wrong for Oprah to promote prostitution.

That is the wall I always have to climb.  Even when I talk to my mother, she says “I don’t condon or support prostitution, so it makes it difficult to talk about.”  Well, I know a bunch of people feel that way, but I know women are the only arrested.  I can’t understand  when two people are committing a “crime”, how is it just that only the women get arrested?  Everyone know the man gets off (twice if you think about it!)

Anyway, I didn’t get to see the show because I was at the State House.  Rumor has it they will be passing the prostitution bill on the house side.  It is weird for me to walk into the state house.  Before I got involved with this film, the only time I had been to the State house was in the 8th grade for Project Insight.  What I remember about that experience was walking the hall, sitting in the seat, and placing fake votes.  At the end they let us talk to the reps and even Governor Sundlun was there.  Back in the early nineties the economy wasn’t good, so I asked the Governor if he was still going to continue to fund Project Insight.  Of course he said yes, and everyone in the room applauded.   That year then ended Project Insight.  We were the last class to get the experience.  My father said it was my fault, I probably gave the Governor the idea of where to make the cuts.

I am hoping my film isn’t what is giving people the idea to change the prostitution law.  I really hope all the represenatives come and see the film before they vote.

Tomorrow the House Judiciary will vote on weather or not to send the bill to the floor.  We will see what happens.

Second trailer released on youtube!


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