James Baldwin wrote “The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: she has become a threat.”
I had no idea how threatening my voice was until I started to make it heard. None of us trafficking and prostitution survivors did, until we started to write about the brutality we’ve experienced and these big players within these pimp-dominated ‘sex worker activist’ groups started to do everything they could to silence us and deny we exist. Survivor bloggers are cyber-stalked via Facebook, email, twitter and hateful blog comments. Our email accounts are hacked and private information that could endanger us is tweeted or revealed elsewhere online. Spiteful emails about us are sent to people we work with. Supportive activists who feature our writing on their blogs are similarly swarmed with vilifying emails and comments.
I’d like to give you a glimpse of this intense cyber-bullying, using myself as an example. I’m not asking for sympathy; I want to show you what survivor activists go through when we break the silence.
I came out as a survivor online in March 2011. Almost immediately pro-sex industry men and women affiliated with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) USA and other pimp-led activist organizations began emailing me and posting aggressive comments on my Facebook wall. As I got bolder I started leaving comments after articles about prostitution in major newspapers and blogs. At this point I did not have my own blog, and we hadn’t yet formed Survivors Connect Network. I was an obscure private person. Nonetheless, members of the “Network of Sex Work Projects” found me. An anonymous email brought me to this creepy thread about me on admitted pimp Maggie McNeill’s blog. Another anonymous email led me to this piece on Bound Not Gagged. Here McNeill implies that I’m a puppet controlled by abolitionists. Norma Jean Almodovar, the executive director of COYOTE LA, suggests that I might not exist. Billie Jackson, the founder of SWOP Colorado, criticizes my language. Maxine Doogan, the leader of the Erotic Service Providers’ Union states that I remind her of another troublemaker. She links to a video created by Michael Whiteacre, a lawyer and filmmaker connected with the pornography industry. The video, called The Devil and Shelley Lubben, slanders Lubben, a survivor who speaks out about abuse in the porn industry. It includes an interview with an actor who was in a pornographic movie that depicts Lubben with six men. He discusses her sexual performance. The message is clear: Make waves and this could happen to you.
These invasive tactics have only amplified as time passes. There have been numerous other creepy comment threads and blog posts which pick at me and make false statements written by people I’ve never met who are affiliated with these ‘sex worker activist’ groups. They are a constant background noise and the volume keeps increasing. Most survivors who write or speak about prostitution go through this.
Any examples I give are just splashes from an ocean of harassment. Examine these droplets:
- A few hours after the first ever video broadcast of a talk by Survivors Connect (SC) members, rich and famous Brooke Magnanti sends a tweet to her 49,900 followers, Elena Jeffreys, head of the Scarlett Alliance, an Australian sex worker group affiliated with SWOP USA, and McNeill. The tweet states that SC members are “like Operation Rescue” an extremist group known for harassing women at abortion clinics. Survivors Connect formed just four months ago. Our 48 members are all crime victims and survivors of trafficking/prostitution. McNeill blogs at Sex Workers without Borders (SWWB) with Jill McCracken, a college professor who is part of SWOP USA. No one at Survivors Connect has ever met Magnanti, McNeill or Jeffreys.
- After receiving aggressive tweets from McNeill I ask her to please stop tweeting my name. (I’ve blocked her, but if she types the @ sign before my name, I still get her messages). She ignores my request, and I repeat it many times, explaining that I’m finding the twitter swarm that’s building around her constant tweets scary. Michael Whiteacre, a lawyer and filmmaker involved with the porn industry (Remember him? He made that hit piece on survivor activist Shelley Lubben) joins the fray. I tell them their intensity is threatening, but they don’t stop, no matter how many times I ask. McNeill tweets “I want you to feel threatened so you BACK DOWN” several times. Later Christina Page, a doctoral student connected with SWOP USA, joins in. I’ve never met McNeill, Page or Whiteacre.
- As I’m editing this article I get a tweet from another stranger which contains encoded language that refers to the confidential part of my life. If I were to interpret this fully I would be revealing my location by a matter of just miles. The message here is clear: We know where you are.
This is what it’s like for survivor activists every day. You ignore it as much as you can, and then eventually these people get so extreme, threatening or outrageous that they draw you in. When this happens, I sometimes fall through the floor of my life and into the past’s deep water. I become the scared, beat up girl I used to be, locked in a room in a brothel. Then it’s hard to find my way back to the present. Resurfacing, I’ll stare into blankness for hours while my legs shake. I’ll feel hollow and my husband’s voice will seem to come from far away.
Read the rest of the article at www.secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com
- Pimps Posing as “Sex Worker Activists” & Other Conflicts of Interest (secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com)
- Pimps Posing as “Sex Worker Activists” (freedomfrompornculture.wordpress.com)
- Nevada’s Legal Brothels are Coercive Too (secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com)