Tag Archives: rhode island prostitution law

Raids Started…

The first raids have started in the Providence spas since the law changed in November.  These are not the first arrests with the new prostitution law.  The first arrests involved stings led by the RI State Police where14 clients and customers (most famously was Pat Patriot, the New England Patriot’s Mascot) were set up using craigslist and the Providence Pheonix.  These arrests that occured on Thursday night happened in two Providence spas.  Three women were arrested and one manager.  From the Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence police charged four women on prostitution charges Friday after conducting undercover operations at two spas.
It’s the first raid of an alleged brothel since a change in Rhode Island law last November made indoor prostitution illegal.
No clients were arrested.

For years, police had stopped trying to prosecute “massage parlors” and “spas” which police said were brothels because of a loophole in the law that prevented them from prosecuting prostitution when it occurred indoors. Now, that loophole has been closed.

Last December, state police arrested women at hotels in Providence, Warwick and Johnston. In interviews in mid-December, Rhode Island strip-club owners said business was down in the wake of the new law.

At a District Court arraignment, Judge Robert K. Pirraglia released the suspects in the spa arrests pending a court appearance on March 10.

In the projo report, (and I am not reposting the entire thing because names are used) they say that one woman was arrested for allowing prostitution.  This is a new part of the law “permitting prostitution”, and it will be interesting to see if these charges stick.  When the first rounds of arrests were made there were no managers of the hotels arrested for “permitting prostitution”.  Also, when this law was enacted there was a ton of lip service done to “helping the victims”, yet once again there were no translators available to the women arrested.  How are you helping these “victims” if you are not even talking to them?  It is sad to think that all those people who fought for this law were duped, this law isn’t helping anyone.

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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.

To disclose or not to disclose that is the question…..

I always wanted to give the women a chance to answer the questions and allegations that were being asked and reported by the newspapers and the television stations.  It is difficult for someone to come forward to speak out, especially in the Asian culture.

DanielleThis is “Danielle”.  Actually “Danielle” is not her real name.  Danielle is actually the name of one of my college roommates.  (I changed the names of all the women in my film to women who I had as roommates at the ultra-Catholic Providence College, but that is another story)  When I was making the film I wanted to give the women a voice while not “outing” them.  Many of these women have children.

A few weeks ago the Providence Journal ran a story about a woman who was working through craigslist and was attacked by a customer.  The majority of this story reported how she did not want her name published.  I will not put a link to the story, because I do not want to spread the woman’s name even more, but here is a link to Waking Vixen a blog by Audacia Ray.  In this blog, the article is reprinted and names redacted.

Now the Providence Journal is the biggest and only paper in Rhode Island.  They set the agenda for RI.  They have obviously taken the position that they want to publish names of women, how can I work with them to get the message out that the women in the spas are not victims while protecting the identity of the women?

Today I met with one of the reporters who has been following the progress of the legislation.  I brought “Danielle” who gave an interview with the understanding that her name would not be printed.  Before “Danielle” began the interview, she was told that the story would probably not be printed because she did not want to give her name.  She was told that the only paper that could do that was the Washington Post or the NY Times, and that was for political insiders.  I sat there thinking it was ironic that newspapers could protect the identity of politicians but not prostitutes.  “Danielle” gave the interview anyway, and gave an incredible in depth interview on her own life and the workings of the spas.  She said she would consider allowing her name to be released, because she hopes that her truth will allow people to reconsider changing the law.

Before the interview I had “Danielle” dictate a letter to me that I can read when I testify at the next hearing on the bill.  I hope that her letter will  help a human face on the issue.  I will post the letter in my next blog.