By US Prostitutes Collective
Defend Village Voice under attack for adult ads.
Protest Women’s Funding Network undermining sex workers’ rights & safety.
Village Voice is under attack for running Backpage.com the on-line adult classified ads service. Advertising allows many sex workers to work in the relative safety of premises. The same people who witch-hunted Craigslist with a big bucks campaign, have now targeted the Village Voice. They blame adult ads for promoting trafficking and the exploitation of women and children, and use false statistics to exaggerate the numbers of victims trafficked into the sex industry. Politicians, celebrities, religious and feminist groups have all jumped on the band wagon.
One sex worker commented:
“People — not just prostitutes — have sex for many reasons. Sometimes, for some of us, one reason is money. Craigslist provided a simple, familiar forum through which I could do my business with complete anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home. I kept every penny I earned, all without the interference of an agency or other ubiquitous “middle man.”
In all the media hype, real victims of trafficking and others who are criminalized by poverty and immigration laws, are forced further underground and made even more vulnerable. Millions of dollars have gone to anti-trafficking groups while a Bill to fund shelters with beds, clothing, counseling, case work and legal services for underage prostitutes has stalled.  Trafficking laws have primarily been used to target immigrant sex workers for raids and deportation, particularly women of color. (SeeTrafficking – A Justification for Increased Deportations and A Moralistic Crusade against Prostitution.)
Village Voice’s investigative series The Truth Behind Sex Trafficking questioned the research methods and the accuracy of the statistics. They showed that figures claiming a massive increase in online child trafficking had been gathered by researchers guessing the age of young women from their online photos. Figures of 100,000 to 300,000 US child sex slaves were found to have “no scientific basis” – researchers admitted that it was a calculation of children at risk of “sexual exploitation” including runaways, transgender youth and female members of gangs. Despite this admission, the figures have been relentlessly promoted by celebrities such as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
The Women’s Funding Network (WFN) is an umbrella of “more than 160 organizations that fund women’s solutions across the globe”. It has an annual budget of around $5 million and is often the first port of call for women’s organizations seeking funding. It has promoted misinformation and sham research with no consideration of their impact on sex workers’ rights and safety. Giving evidence to a Congressional Hearing, Deborah Richardson, former WFN chief program officer, quoted the same unreliable figures gathered by guessing the ages of sex workers advertising on the web, and claimed that there had been a 20-65 percent increase in “underage girls trafficked online” over a six month period. The research proved lucrative: the director of A Future Not a Past, partnering with the WFN, said, “we’ve been able to broker, I think it’s over $1.3, $1.6 million in funding”.
In the hoopla, the distinction between prostitution, that is consensual sex for money, and trafficking, that is rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment and other abuse, is lost.
Most sex workers are women. The WFN which claims to speak for women have never even asked for our views. They seem to have no problem attacking us.
To single out and exclude sex workers from advertising is discriminatory. Who will be next? How long before LBGT ads are considered “exploitative”? Web sites are protected from being sued for what users post on sites. But what attacks will follow if this is removed?
The anti-trafficking lobby backlash against sex workers’ rights and safety must be challenged now. We must add our voices. If the ads are closed down, more women will be forced onto the streets where it is 10 times more dangerous to work. Any action which pushes prostitution further underground makes it harder for sex workers, including young people, to come forward to report violence and exploitation. Violent men know this and are quick to take advantage.
- Call or fax the Village Voice Media and let them know that you support their Truth Behind Sex Trafficking series – phone: 212-475-3333/fax: 212-475-8944. Let your local VVM publication know (see list below). Support Village Voice’s campaign for the Bill which provides resources for children at risk http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s112-596 .
- Write/call/email the Women’s Funding Network asking why they are supporting the project A Future Not the Past, why they are promoting false information on trafficking and child prostitution, and why they are ignoring the impact of such campaigns on sex workers’ rights and safety. Contact interim CEO Elizabeth Schaffer, firstname.lastname@example.org and Chief Program Officer Michelle Ozumba,email@example.com Phone: (415) 441-0706/fax: (415) 441-0827 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write to your local press, congressional reps and city officials. Complain about misinformation on trafficking, how anti-trafficking laws are being used to target immigrant people, the lack of resources for young people, and the rise in poverty, homelessness, unemployment and welfare cuts (see attached briefing) that are driving more women, especially mothers and young people, into prostitution.
Please let us know of any responses you get. Thanks!
VILLAGE VOICE PUBLICATIONS
Village Voice / New York
LA Weekly / Los Angeles
Westword / Denver
New Times / Phoenix
Houston Press / Houston
Observer / Dallas
Riverfront Times / St. Louis
New Times / Miami
City Pages / Minneapolis
New Times / Broward
OC Weekly / Orange County
Seattle Weekly / Seattle
SF Weekly / San Francisco
 In 2010, Congress disbursed over $21 million to nearly 100 groups—including municipalities and local law enforcement agencies—that are fighting sex and labor trafficking. Some have clear religious or prohibitionist agendas: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ($4 million), World Relief Corporation of National Association of Evangelicals ($60,000), Polaris Project ($800,000), the Church United for Community Development ($150,000), and Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking ($250,000).
Issued by: US PROStitutes Collective
P.O. Box 14512
San Francisco, CA 94114