Tag Archives: sex work

It is not over yet

Prison But the time is winding down.  As I have gone over, there are two bills to be voted on.  The Senate has their version by Jabour, and the House has their version by Gianinni.  They are very different bills.

The Senate bill does not call for prison time for the woman.  The House bill calls for 6 months for the first offense.

That is the big difference of the bill.  I am not for either bill.  I do think that it is better to not have prison time, so I will have to admit that the Senate bill is the lesser of two evils.

Today is supposed to be the last day of the legislation session, so really if a law on prostitution would pass, it would more likely than not pass today.  When a bill to become law, it has to be passed in both the house and the senate with the exact same language and then be signed by the Governor.  Today, the Attorney General and the State Police both came out against Senator Jabour’s bill.  (See the Projo Article) Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Rhode Island State Police cannot support civil sanctions for such reprehensible acts,” State Police Superintendent Col. Brendan P. Doherty wrote in a letter Friday to Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill awaits a hearing. “By reducing the seriousness of the enforcement of these acts,” Col. Doherty continued, “we will actually be placing the women this bill intends to protect in a dangerous environment where they will be further targeted for exploitation.”….

…In addition, Healy said, allowing for a penalty for a first offense is treating prostitutes as though they were getting a “speeding ticket.”

The house now has a reason to not vote on the Senate bill, and the Senate has their reason not to vote on the House bill.  I have been watching the House session for the last 6 hours, and the House is fighting within itself.  You should have seen the fight on the floor over a bill to allow for a New York Yankee’s charity license plate.  If the house is fighting each other over such small things like license plates, I don’t think they have the time to hash out the differences they have with the Senate over something as important sending women to prison.  The clock is ticking away, we will see what happens.

Smoke them out?

Smoke them out?Is Rhode Island becoming Iraq?  I was not kidding when I talked about this connection before.

I always thought that it was interesting that George Bush repeat 9/11 and Iraq in every speach, and years later he said there is no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.  It is pretty similar to the whole prostitution and human trafficking link that has been push and pushed over and over again.

Now, we have Senator Jabor adopting some of the speech that George Bush is famous for.  I can remember George Bush running around saying things like “wanted dead or alive” and “we’re gonna smoke them out” when he was referring to Iraq and Bin Laden.  I guess Senator Jabour is in the minority of people who thinks this was a good tactic.     In today’s projo Senator Jabour says:

Jabour had said last week that property owners are the “silent force” against his bill, adding that he wanted to “smoke out the skunks and see who’s against it.”‘

I will say it again.  I am against any bill that will go after women, and now we are using them as the bait?!?   It is incredible that other places in the world are moving forward, and Rhode Island is moving backwards.

Over 63% of people who responded to the poll on the Projo said they are not for re criminalizing.  The people who were for making prostitution illegal wanted to change the law for moral reasons.  Jabour wants to go after the landlords?  Way to miss the point Senator Jabour.

The Clown at the Center of the Circus

A Very Sad ClownDonna Hughes wrote a op-ed in today’s Providence Journal calling the hearings on the prostitution bill a Circus.  Why are these hearings a circus?  Because for the first time we heard the voices of the women that Donna Hughes was trying to “help”, (by throwing them in prison).

Now I know that Donna Hughes has never spoken to any of the women that she is trying to “help”, so it must have been a shock for her to actually see one.  To actually hear them ask not to be sent to prison.  To hear one tell of how she is a single mother supporting her two children and a sister.  Yes, Donna, if you want to help this woman, why don’t you listen to her.  She said that she can’t collect child support.  Maybe find a solution to that problem and then “Jul” might not be selling her body to support her family.

I watched Donna Hughes give her testimony.  She was up on the stand giving her credentials for over ten minutes.  The length of time it took for her to go over her credentials was more than any time she has spent actually talking to any women in any spa in Rhode Island.  But what can you expect from a woman who basically said that George Bush was the first Feminist President.    I wondered if this woman had any common sense at all.

Well, that question was answered today when an article came out today the Providence Journal on the Human Trafficking bill

One of the House bill’s vocal supporters, University of Rhode Island Prof. Donna Hughes, e-mailed a letter to senators last Monday urging them to reject the Senate bill. .

So, what Donna Hughes is saying is vote no on the human trafficking and yes on the prostitution bill?  What exactly does this woman want?  Lets arrest the women and not  the traffickers?  She may call the proceedings a circus, but she is the sad clown at its center.

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.

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.

Guest blog by “Chris” from Happy Endings?

In response to more raids “Chris” has written this, and I am including it in my blog.  It is titled “What I know, What I don’t know.”

I know that human trafficking is wrong and any one involved in trafficking humans should be punished.


I don’t know why, since the mid-nineties the FBI, IRS, ICE, state and local police have spent millions of dollars and man hours investigating the Asian businesses in Rhode Island and no one has been charged or found guilty with human trafficking.


I know that there has never been a report of guns, drugs, or violence in any of RI’s Asian businesses.


I don’t know why it takes ten police men to raid Asian businesses in RI (with out the help of translators), while the raids were under the guise of “Helping the women”.


I know that there has never been a crime committed or charged against any of the women in the Asian businesses in RI.  I know the customers have never filed complaints with the police about being robbed, and the workers have never filed any complaints against the customers.


I don’t know why a private transaction between two consenting adults, where no client or provider has complained of crime, would be investigated.


I know that since 1982 there has been no law in Rhode Island against indoor prostitution.


I don’t know how hundreds of Asian women were arrested for the crime of prostitution, prosecuted for the crime, and the lawyers were allowed to profit, while pleading women guilty to breaking a law that didn’t exist.


I know 48 states have laws against prostitution, where both the client and service provider are breaking the law, but the service providers are arrested at a 10 to 1 ratio to the clients.


I don’t know why in 14 years of raiding Asian businesses in RI, not one customer has been arrested, humiliated, and ridiculed by police, yet the service providers are subjected to arrest, humiliation, and ridicule, and even have had their names printed in the paper.


I know that “massage” occurs in strip clubs in Rhode Island.


I don’t know why women in Asian businesses were singled out to be arrested for “massage with out a license”?


I know if you look in Craig list you will find escorts and adult ads from providers of all nationalities and ethnic groups.


I don’t know why only the Asian businesses have been targeted by police, media, and politicians.


I know statistics on human trafficking shows the majority of the victims are young Caucasian women.


I don’t know why Human trafficking has been linked to RI’s Asian businesses, when in 14 years of investigating no link has been proven, and the women in the Asian businesses are between 30 and 50 years old and Asian, not fitting the profile of human trafficking victims.


I know there is a bill pending in the RI’s legislation to re-criminalize prostitution.


I don’t know how this bill will help any woman who engages in sex work for a living.


I know there is safety in numbers, and the women working together in Asian businesses are and have not been murdered, robbed, or beaten.


I don’t know why the focus has been put on the Asian businesses in RI, when independent providers have been victims of “The Craig list Killer” and Jeffery Mailhot.


I know if we criminalize prostitution we are not helping the women or men who participate in this private exchange between consenting adults.


I know that legalizing prostitution would mandate health checks, regulation, and tax revenue.


I don’t know why we would criminalize an activity that exists in every corner of the world, driving the industry underground and making it unsafe for all those involved.


I know if sex work was legal, we could use the regulations to make sure all the participants were willing and of legal age, driving out human traffickers.


I don’t know why we would change the prostitution law to help the women, when not one woman in the Asian businesses has asked for help.


I know that sex work is the world’s oldest profession, and no law will eradicate its existence.


I don’t know why we don’t spend the same effort and money to go after the reasons women are in sex work and not the women.


I know that money is the ultimate pimp, and as long as it is financially beneficial, prostitution will exist.  

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.