I just got back from Juneau, talking to legislative aides, Alaska State Representatives and Alaska State Senators about what this bill would entail for our Alaska communities as a whole. Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) has been visiting Juneau for 5 years now to educate and lobby for legislation to work towards criminalizing police sexual misconduct and changing the sex trafficking law so that consensual sex workers aren’t charged with trafficking themselves.
First, let me start this post by saying the HB225/SB165 bill in front of our politicians in Juneau would have made it possible for me to be incarcerated for a lifetime. Yes. Life. I am still feeling a certain away about going to jail for “sex trafficking” in the first place. Yes, it sucked while I was in. I lost a lot of material stuff (replaceable) but, I was able to watch my daughter graduate high school. I have been able to bring her down to the states for college. I have been able to watch my son perform some amazing theatre throughout Alaska celebrating his Tlingit culture. I have been able to live a life, even after going to jail.
If HB225/SB165 gets passed, my measly few years will be NOTHING compared to the minimum 20 years Alaskan sex workers will be looking at upon initial charges. A misdemeanor prostitution charge would become a sex trafficking unclassified felony charge. MINIMUM 20 years.
You read that right. MINIMUM 20 years.
But wait. There is more.
This doesn’t mean “well, just don’t book for others.”
That is still the law. Sex workers know that.
This means that if I, or you, or Beautiful Betsy, have a place of prostitution -meaning a hotel room, an Airbnb, an apartment – it can warrant a charge of an unclassified felony of sex trafficking.
This also means if I were to text Beautiful Betsy and ask about her about a new client who wants to meet and is listing her as a reference (making sure he is a decent guy I can be comfortable seeing sometime, usually alone in a room, essentially screening him before I set an appointment) I can be charged with an unclassified felony of sex trafficking.
And Beautiful Betsy can be charged with an unclassified felony of sex trafficking as well.
Does this make any sense at all? An unclassified felony on the basis of that.
Yes. You read that right.
A MINIMUM of 20 years. 20 years to 99 years. Just like murder.
I feel like I am repeating myself. Thank god for copy and paste, right?
But wait, there is more!
It authorizes members of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to act as “peace officers” which will further their ability to commit sexual assaults on sex workers and sex trafficking victims in the course of prostitution sting operations, just like the police are allowed to do now.
This also enacts the new crime of “patron of a victim of sex trafficking”.
A person is guilty of being a patron of a victim of sex trafficking if the person solicits sexual conduct with reckless disregard that the person they are soliciting is a victim of sex trafficking.
That’s not new! That’s sex trafficking in the first degree right now.
If the person solicited is under 18 years of age this offense will be a B sex felony. Wait.
Right now, it is an unclassified felony. So, instead, they are lowering the penalty? Rather than an unclassified felony, it will become a Class B sex felony? See Alaska’s sex trafficking in the first-degree definition right now, before HB225/SB165.
AS 11.66.110. Sex Trafficking in the First Degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of sex trafficking in the first degree if the person
(1) induces or causes another person to engage in prostitution through the use of force;
(2) as other than a patron of a prostitute, induces or causes another person who is under 20 years of age to engage in prostitution; or
(3) induces or causes a person in that person’s legal custody to engage in prostitution.
(b) In a prosecution under (a)(2) of this section, it is not a defense that the defendant reasonably believed that the person induced or caused to engage in prostitution was 20 years of age or older. (c) Except as provided in (d) of this section, sex trafficking in the first degree is a class A felony. (d) A person convicted under (a)(2) of this section is guilty of an unclassified felony.
After HB225/SB165 this would be a Class B felony, rather than an unclassfied felony.
HB225/SB165 goes on to propose: If the person solicited is an adult, this offense will be a C sex felony. This crime would be sentenced under then enhanced penalties for sexual felonies and the person would be required to register as a sex offender.
Did that just make it possible that if someone is arrested for having consensual sex, that they will be charged with a Class C felony? A patron? So clients looking for of age, consensual sex, would have to register as a sex offender?
Also, check out sextraffickingalaska.com to learn more about Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP). We are a group of current and former sex workers, sex trafficking victims, and our allies working towards safety and protection in Alaska’s sex industry. We educate and advocate for each other as individuals trying to access equal protection under the law or other public services, and also at the legislative level. The only reason I am able to be articulate about this legislation is because of the work CUSP has done these last 5 years.
In addition to tackling HB 225, this year the Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) is asking legislators to disallow the “but your honor, she’s a whore,” defense and to make it an aggravator – a sentence increaser – if a crime is committed against a person engaged in sex work, if the crime involves a sex work transaction, or if a perpetrator pays the victim.
CUSP has a petition to make these legislative changes here:
When we first talked about creating the aggravator language, we were only thinking of sex workers and of non-sex workers who are easily discredited as crime victims when they can be discredited as whore-ish. Hipp’s case pointed to the need for an aggravator bill to also include perpetrators who pay their victims. “A child molester who sexually abuses a child and then pays them is an insidious manipulation,” said Pam Karalunas, a consultant, trainer, the recently retired chapter coordinator of the Alaska Children’s Alliance, and founding manager of RCPC Stevie’s Place Child Advocacy Center. “It is meant to focus responsibility on the child, both in the child’s mind and in the minds of adults who may learn of the abuse.”
CUSP is seeking donations of $632 in order to afford to the continuation to educate Alaska legislators about the conditions for sex workers and sex trafficking victims. There are two of us going to Juneau (myself being one) and housing and airfare has been donated.
In 2003 I had two young children and my first husband and I were two months behind in our mortgage, a home we had just moved into less than a year before. I had been homeless before and swore it wouldn’t happen again. When I was in college I knew women that had escorted and it seemed the fasted and easiest way to pay our bills. I called the numbers in the free weekly paper where escort agencies advertised. Only one called me back.
The woman on the phone was quick and to the point.
When can you start?
As soon as possible.
How old was I?
She liked my answers and I was given an address and told to come by.
I went the next day, a trailer across the street from where I had burnt out as a drug alcohol counselor months before.
A short fat Thai guy answered the door. His puffy round face swallowed dark eyes that darted around distrustingly as he stood in the entryway smoking a cigarette. When he let me in it became apparent it was just us. We appraised each other. I had at least two inches on the guy and although anything could happen I figured my chances would be better than 50/50 unless he had a gun.
He gave a quick tour and my flight or fight adrenaline calmed a bit.
Here was the living room with two well-used recliners and a small couch facing a boxy TV from the 80’s. Here was the narrow hallway with two rooms and a bathroom on the right.
The back room had a small narrow bed on wooden legs without a pillow, only a thin sheet covering it, the other room, across from the bathroom, a twin bed, no pillow, same thin sheet cover.
“Sheets are right here, always put clean sheet on!” he barked with a thick accent.
“Here is sink, wash, always take garbage out. Always!”
I nodded and followed him back to the small living room.
“Phone rings, answer it. Sometimes call, sometimes knock. I get half. All is $100. You okay?”
I nodded. Did I not look okay? Was I okay? What the hell was I doing? Is this real?
With that, he nodded and went into a room at the front of the trailer, where the kitchen and his bed were hidden. I sat and took in my surroundings. I turned the TV on.
I didn’t understand what he meant by “all is $100.” I had no idea what someone would wear on the first day of work as a sex worker. I had actually Googled “what escorts wear” and was bombarded with images of thigh highs and stiletto heels. I owned neither.
I went with casual. Jeans, a form-fitting t-shirt, not too much makeup, but just a bit more eye makeup than you would expect the average soccer mom to wear. I sat and waited. I needed $1200 in order for me and my two kids to not be homeless at Christmas.
Not ten minutes went by before a burst of blonde came through the door. She looked as surprised to see me. She was younger, but not by much. I later found out she was 24 and she went by Monica.
“You’re new!” she laughed. She didn’t seem awful or hateful. I was relieved to see someone who could tell me what the $100 entailed.
“Ever worked before?” she asked, plopping down her huge purse in the space between us on the couch, pulling out her makeup and applying more foundation with a sponge. She didn’t need any more makeup on.
“No. Brand new. ”
She put her sponge down and looked at me, her eyes seemed friendly. She half laughed.
“Okay, sooooooo…. A few pointers.”
She gave me the rundown, from what to charge, to how to take the lead in the beginning, to how to get him the hell out so I could get to the next client. It was too much. I really wanted to take notes but didn’t want to seem like a total nerd.
“Always get the money before anything, and if he’s a cop, he can’t get naked and touch you, so make sure he gets naked and touches you. Oh and don’t let him try to do anything without a condom, no matter how much extra he wants to pay. Also, don’t tell him anything about your life, family, name, kids. Not a good idea, ya know?” I nodded, really wishing I could take notes. I would write everything down later that night at home.
I didn’t know at the time but the part of the police not able to get naked and touch me wasn’t true.
“Is that your name? Uh….no, your other name…your working name?” she smiled. She had perfect straight white teeth. Too white. Were they real?
I became Miranda.
A few months later I felt I didn’t need Vui. I had been paying him half and knew enough to go independent so I joined finances with another independent sex worker I met thru Vui’s and together we rented a furnished two bedroom apartment. I learned how to put my ads in the free paper to advertise. It was expensive to advertise in the free paper but that was where everyone found us. I bought a business license so I could advertise in the regular newspaper. I taught myself how to post online. The phone started ringing at all hours and I had yet learned any boundaries. I ran myself ragged.
Other sex workers we knew wanted to use our incall location. Soon, there was too much traffic and the landlord started asking questions I didn’t know how to answer. I found a house downtown, it was in a seedy area but there was plenty of parking and had a decent fenced backyard where we could lounge half naked and listen to music. We were all in this together. We outgrew that, so next up was a smallish commercial location. The landlord let me paint the walls a Pepto pink. I was smoking way too much weed to be able to make such encompassing decisions. It was horrendous. I bought ad space at the radio station to announce our grand opening. I created a snazzy website to highlight pictures and contact information for Excel of Alaska. We were a dozen strong by now, a sisterhood (and even one amazing college bi guy) were we could laugh and bemoan the idiocracies that only daily nudity and happy endings could entail.
Soon enough that space became small and I found a four bedroom two story residential home. I was happy to leave the Pepto pink palace.
Renamed The Parlor, the large house was fairly busy. Open from 10am to 11pm, we offered walk-ins and calls to the house to set up appointments, just like when I had started two years earlier. It was a business. Two blocks away stood The Chateau, a well known Alaskan brothel that had been in business for two decades, closed due to tax fraud. I made sure to pay my taxes.
At the house, we created community and desperately needed boundaries. I read Veronica Monet’s Sex Secrets of Escorts: What Men Really Want and was able to get some valuable ideas on how to proceed. Really, up until then, we were clueless and just making things up as we went along. We held weekly meetings where we discussed issues that surfaced (like how we wanted to do or not do lineups, or what to do when we had an unruly customer) and signed up for our times to be on the schedule. There were anywhere from 8 to 10 of us, and at least 3 were scheduled per shift, with two shifts in a day.
Things went smoothly until one night we were burglarized. It happened when we were closed and it was caught on the cameras. I knew it had to have been someone who worked there at one point because they knew where the drop box was. I invested in a large safe the size of a filing cabinet and bolted it to the floor. Then we were robbed. I wasn’t there, but several ladies were, including one of my closest friends. The bullet fired came inches from her head when the robbers became upset that the safe couldn’t be opened.
The police did nothing to investigate. Instead, a few weeks later, they did a prostitution sting that I learned about one morning when I came in and saw the evidence receipts on the kitchen counter. The police cleaned out the safe, listed $340 as the amount, and arrested two women. They quickly bailed out. No police officer ever came to talk to me.
The final straw was the landlord coming over and tossing everything out, saying I hadn’t paid rent. I had, but it was to the man who had evidently been “subleasing” it, unbeknownst to me. I knew I could pursue legal remedies but I was exhausted. It was time to close shop and move on.
I held a job at the local paper for a short time while I worked as an independent sex worker. I had got remarried during the time of The Parlor and things just weren’t working out. I got divorced and struggled with feelings of failure that I numbed by drinking heavily.
Months later I stabbed a man I didn’t even know at a bar. I was looking at 7 to 10 years. My kids were still young and I thought my life was over. Somehow I landed a “whale” client. I was given a hefty allowance and had no worries. The 7 to 10 years became ankle monitoring thanks to a private attorney and an agreement to pay the man’s medical bills. Still, I wanted to be self-sufficient, and I was getting older. A 401K plan and medical insurance seemed responsible and safe. I found an admin position at a gas exploration company where I was able to use my skills. I was able to utilize my degree and gain additional training in the human resources field. I remarried.
In 2012 Monica, (the one who had imparted the valuable life-changing information my first night and who I had stayed friends with and worked with on and off through the years), fell upon hard times and returned to Alaska. I put up some ads for her. Never being able to go halfway, I created another website after another friend asked me to post and screen for her as well. Excel of Alaska was created. Within months I became overwhelmed and sick of the time wasters that called so I sold the business, website, and cards, to a young up and coming rapper who’s girlfriend was a few sex worker. I wished him luck. Still, it was hard to walk away. I liked the ability to make extra money and provide for my kids’ things I never had growing up. Plus, I was good at what I did. As long as I kept boundaries and not overwork, I would be alright. Sensual Alaska was created by lessons learned.
One of the things I loved about Sensual Alaska was the creative aspect of website design. I resigned the “knock or call” I had learned because of the need to screen clients. Dangerous things happened to many of my friends and the police never did anything to protect us. I utilized my computer sleuthing skills and completely screened clients before setting up appointments. I still had regulars from years before. I became pickier with who I worked with, not wanting to become overwhelmed. My motto was no drama, no drugs, no drunks.
Fast forward two years.
July 9th, 2014.
I was adding some affiliation codes to the Sensual Alaska website as I sat at my kitchen table drinking coffee. Through the kitchen window, I saw someone I didn’t recognize walk to my door. I felt shaky fear immediately. I knew something was wrong. I was a private person and people just didn’t show up at my house. I was being robbed or arrested.
As I sat on my porch with the lead investigating officer I was adamant that the independent contractor agreements were proof that I wasn’t a sex trafficker. I knew his tactics, saying he wanted to help me, that maybe I knew others in the business. I wasn’t the one they wanted really, but unless I knew some sex traffickers they would have to arrest me. I didn’t know any traffickers. I didn’t know anyone underage. I didn’t associate with others in the business, I stayed to myself and I assured him that if I did come across situations like that I would’ve called the police because victimizing people, especially kids, was horrific.
I hadn’t realized the laws regarding prostitution had changed in 2012. What had been Promoting Prostitution charges became Sex Trafficking charges. This increased the penalties, causing Class A Promoting Prostitution misdemeanors, punishable up to one year, being bumped up to Class C, punishable by up to five years. Class C felonies bumped up to Class B felonies, and so on. I was charged with eight counts of Sex Trafficking, all Class B’s and Class C’s.
Sex traffickers held women, men, and children captive and made them have sex. That wasn’t me. Everyone had their own key to the incall. We made our own schedules. We had contests with weekly prizes of who had the most appointments. We were a community, working together for safety, bitching about crappy clients and competing with each other on tips. It didn’t matter. I fit the broad definition of sex trafficking that was now Alaska law.
Sex work sure, but sex trafficking. No.
I was sure they would get it figured out. I was hopeful that the long-awaited trip I had planned with my now-14-year-old daughter, five days away, would still happen.
It didn’t. In the beginning, I had such high hopes that I would be able to resume to my normal life.
The judge ordered the strictest bail conditions possible. Electronic monitoring (at my cost of $600 a month), a live third party at all times, and lockdown at home. And no electronics-phone or computer- in my possession. I was still on probation from my years earlier assault, arrested only 2 weeks before I had completed five years of probation without issue, so I was also charged with a petition to revoke probation since I had been arrested, an additional reason for increased bail conditions.
I was able to be out on bail with those conditions for a few months. I wasn’t able to pay my mortgage and had to ask friends to help. Friends brought food over so I could feed my kids, and my sister, who was my third party. After Christmas, right before my daughters 15th birthday, my sister decided she had to go back home. I found a new live third party, which was denied, so I went back to jail, my daughter returning home from school with her mom in jail, again. These were the darkest days of my life and I still recede to quiet places in my mind when I think of these days.
My attorney said I was looking at a 25-year minimum sentence.
While I was out on bail my then-husband Quinn Batts was arrested for Sex Trafficking, charged because he had helped me run my prostitution enterprise. His part in my enterprise: he would grab the laundry from the incall.
The State used him as a bargaining chip when they did offer me a plea deal; plead guilty to a Sex Trafficking Class B felony, and he would be able to plead guilty to a Sex Trafficking Class C felony charge. I would have open sentencing, with six to ten years, per judge discretion, and he would have five years, with five years suspended. It was too risky to fight my case, although my attorney was opinionated and exceptional, this was the best outcome.
As per part of the plea deal was I was allowed to bail out again, same conditions minus the live third party. I had the summer to get things in order. I spent every moment I could with my family, with loved ones. I had so much fear of missing my daughter’s high school years.
I contemplated suicide.
I contemplated cutting off the monitor and running away.
I took life day by day and stood as tall as I could at my sentencing, which turned out to be two-day ordeal, beginning on Friday, August 14th, where it was continued and I gratefully had the weekend to be with my children.
On Monday, August 17th, 2015 I was sentenced to five and a half years, just as my daughter started her first year in high school. I was remanded at sentencing. I had remained hopeful the judge would allow me ankle monitor or some other miracle would happen, still, I wasn’t entirely surprised.
Nervous, I tried to make small talk with the female trooper transporting me from the courthouse to the Anchorage Jail. She was quiet until we were waiting at the Anchorage Jail as I was turned over for intake. She told me I was lower than the scum on the bottom of her shoe. I was so angry. I knew then that I was marked as a sex trafficker in the eyes of society.
I walked the yard after being transferred to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center mulling over the day when I could and would speak up for myself. I knew that I wasn’t a piece of shit person and had a long road before me dealing with how society saw me. What would I say? What could I say?
While at the halfway house I faced additional harassment from staff because of my charge. My teenage daughter wasn’t allowed to visit me unless her biological dad brought her in. A man I had divorced when she was three years old and had a wife that did not want him to bring our daughter to visit me.
Because I had the word “sex” in my crime staff and probation officers, people that had control over my life and what and where I could go, made limiting choices for me. The home I had raised my kids in I had to sell since the mobile home park saw my name splashed all over the media and refused to allow me to return. I lost the two dogs I had for over seven years, my son, although by then a young man, became essentially homeless. I told myself I would be okay, it was all just material belongings. Yet even now I have moments of anger coupled with anxiety.
Yes. I was a sex worker.
Yes, I screened clients and set up appointments for myself and others.
And yes I have a sex trafficking charge.
Because of this, I have stuck with my minimum wage job as a server, a job I found while I was at the halfway house. I lucked out and was able to rent a room from a friend, and when she moved out I was able to take over the lease, but before that finding anyone that would rent to me was impossible. To be homeless would mean my daughter couldn’t live with me. To be homeless would mean going back to jail because on electronic monitoring, you had to have an address and a landline for the equipment.
On November 14, 2018, I was granted discretionary parole. I was scheduled to see my parole officer twice a month, which after a few months was changed to once a month.
I am sure Alaska hoped I would go away quietly, grateful for the five years I was sentenced to. Yet, I was given more consequences than readily visible at my sentencing. My charge limits me because society hears “sex trafficking” and has a preconceived view of what that is, not entirely dependent on individual morals. Truly, when “sex trafficker” is mentioned, even I get a distinct view in my mind. Law enforcement around the world has been well funded by the End Demand movement and the term “consensual” might as well mean “immoral” to many.
Sex workers have been removed from the discussion and the systematic killing of both consent and autonomy has been removed by FOSTA/SESTA. This has seemed to be instrumental in the quelling of numerous deaths of sex workers, vastly ignored by mainstream media. Only sensationalism stands strong, while border agents are serial killers and once vibrant and safe sex workers are found strangled in the park or shot multiple times by police.
I am active in being a part of changing the laws that criminalize sex workers working together for safety and security. We need decriminalization of sex work in order to realistically fight sex trafficking, as well as combat the violence and stigma that sex workers face daily.
I speak up and tell others my story in hopes that more people will understand that sex trafficking and sex work are two very different things. Consent. Consensual. These are terms that have been drowned out by the moral crusaders that say anyone selling their body is unworthy of making an informed decision. The sensationalism of sex trafficking has permeated societies view of sex workers in a very systematic way.
I will not sink quietly into the backdrop. I will write about it. It’s my truth and I get to tell it. I am due to be off parole, with no further legal entanglements this upcoming December 2018.
The last few years have not made me bitter, but instead, have caused me to take a look at what I believe in and what I am willing to risk for my freedom of choice.
I presented this to the 2018 CLPP (Civil Liberties & Public Policy, held at the Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts on Friday, April 13th, 2018.
CLPP is a national reproductive rights and justice organization dedicated to educating, mentoring, and inspiring new generations of advocates, leaders, and supporters. Combining activism, organizing, leadership training, and reproductive rights movement building, CLPP promotes an inclusive agenda that advances reproductive rights and health, and social and economic justice.
My presentation, titled “When Sex Trafficking is Sensationalized: Criminalizing Working Together” was created to bring awareness and a broader understanding of how sex work and sex trafficking are being conflated.
I used Alaska as a case study and explored the differences between the Federal definition of sex trafficking, as well as the differences between New York and Texas State sex trafficking laws.
Also, many may not know this, but in some States, people charged with prostitution, sex trafficking or even patronizing a prostitute must register as a sex offender.
Comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome. I would like to sit down with different organizations and with our lawmakers to discuss the information presented in this.
Thank you to everyone who helped with this, either with invaluable information, their time, and sitting in my run-throughs.
It is November 11th, 2017. Saturday morning. I will be released in less than 72 hours. Until recently I had thought my release date was May 27th, 2018. I felt grateful enough just to be spending my last few months on electronic monitoring. I could have just kept happily plugging along, knowing I was able to go home at night to my kids. Not too long ago I was lucky to have 10 minutes on the phone with my daughter for that day.
I don’t know who you are, reading this, but let me give a brief overview of my story. It won’t be as short as I’d like it, but I will try my hardest to not bore you.
My mom was 17 when I was born, my dad, 27. He had just been released from Lemon Creek Correctional. That’s in Juneau, where I am from. The marriage was short, and I have only one memory of seeing my mom and dad around each other. I was 4, we had just picked him up at the courthouse. I was in the backseat and my mom introduced him as Milton, My dad. I have other memories of Milton too, alone, age 5. I’ve worked hard at suppressing those memories. Later in life, I faced them, and in turn, faced many of the demons that kept me ensnared in my own dark places. In my late 20’s Milton OD’ed before I could face him with my forgiveness. He was my biggest cheerleader for my recovery from drugs and alcohol. He was found dead from an overdose. This was my first funeral. I didn’t stand up and say anything. Over time I have realized this as my only regret in life. I realized just how fearful I was in life at that time.
In my teens the State of Alaska raised me. Juneau Youth Services (Miller House), a few foster homes, and Johnson Youth Center (JYC) were my parents. I learned the serenity prayer behind a god-awful orange door at JYC. I experienced being a kid at Miller House. I learned that other families were just as screwed up in the foster homes I briefly stayed at. I was a runner. I would leave when things were going too good or when I didn’t get my way. I was a sad and hell-bent on ending my life as a teenager.
Fast forward a few years and seven treatment centers, and I am on a bench. Akeela. I was relocated to Anchorage Alaska by an adult probation officer that I have thanked a few times for saving me from myself. I am forever grateful for Akeela saving me from me.
I have had more clean time and recovery in my life than using at this point. I am grateful for that. My two kids, one actually an adult now, have seen my struggles, both when using and in recovery, and have had to deal with the brunt of this arrest and incarceration. They are loved and are stronger than I was at either of their ages. I didn’t give them up to the State and have been there as a parent every step of the way.
So what happened July 2014 didn’t devastate me. It knocked me down for a moment, but I am okay.
How did that happen? Oh, did I fail to mention that I answered an escort ad in The Press in 2004? I was 30 and was a burnt out drug & alcohol counselor, teaching water aerobics and youth yoga, barely making my mortgage. The final straw was an abusive husband. Escorting enabled me to leave an abusive situation that was harming my children and myself. I was able to pay my bills and provide for my children and myself. I worked for two different services and it was just a short time before I embarked on my own, with a few friends I had met on the way. One who taught me everything I know.
If we have met, you know my personality. I don’t know how to go halfway. I go full speed. Over the years, I have mellowed a bit, gained a few boundaries, insight over my actions, quit before it got too deep or said sorry when needed, but when I started on my own I was in the shadows of The Chateau, of Ravenite. I ran a business and was good at it. After a few years and a robbery at the incall location where a dear friend of mine was almost shot, I decided to close up shop and went to go work at the local paper.
I still worked as an independent for a short time before landing a whale (google if you don’t know). I took a break for several years, only to return to the business with a management role and as an occasional worker.
Not even 2 years later my daughter, while at her dads’ for the week, saw me on the news. I was arrested on 7 counts of Sex Trafficking. I won’t go into what Alaska’s definition of Sex Trafficking is, or how I see this as the new “War on Sex Workers” similar to the “War on Drugs”. I have written previous blogs focused on this.
I was arrested a few days before a long-awaited vacation to Knotts Berry Farm with my daughter. Tickets, hotel, everything bought and paid for. I watched planes in the sky from the plexiglass window at Hiland Mountain Correctional the night we were supposed to go. I was trying to bail out when I was charged with yet another felony. Class A Sex Trafficking. Someone I booked was 20. I was looking at 25 plus years. My life was over. I was able to bail out after 3 months, on GPS ankle monitor with an added live third party person who had to be with me 24/7, locked down at home, not allowed to be in possession of a phone or access the internet. Those were the darkest days in my life. I was sure my story would end in suicide or I was going to be on the run for the rest of my life. The only thing that stopped me from either of those choices were my two kids. I had felt I had done more than enough damage to them by the arrest.
My sister had been my live third party for about 2 months when she decided she couldn’t do it anymore. I went back to Hiland Mountain Correctional a week before my daughters 14th birthday. After two months I was able to bail out on GPS ankle monitor, sans the live third party, only if I took a plea deal. Plead guilty to a Class B Sex Trafficking charge, and I could stay out until July when I would be sentenced to 6 to 10 years. Open sentencing. Linked to this was my husband’s plea deal as well. He would only be convicted of a Class C Sex Trafficking charge and spend no time in jail. With him out, he could take care of my daughter and our home. I knew this was the best option.
Paying the $500 plus for my GPS ankle monitor every month I was out wasn’t easy. I had to depend on many others and on donations from a GoFundMe account a friend had set up. We didn’t have enough food to eat and I would dish my daughter up first. I really didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. I was able to volunteer at a food bank, along with my daughter, and we got the bulk of our food that way. Watching my daughter help others pick out food, how she cared and spoke to people from all walks of life, brought tears to my eyes. I had to be strong. I wasn’t a monster. How could I have such amazing, kind kids if I was such a horrible person?
I was still in shock that running an escort agency with consensual, of age women and men could send me to jail for that length of time. I knew my business may not have been completely kosher, but I had a business license, kept records, filed taxes, and had anyone who I worked with sign an independent contractor agreement that stated they wouldn’t trade sex for money and were working of their own volition. When I heard the term Sex Trafficking I thought of women being forced to have sex and kept locked away. I had no faith that I wouldn’t go away for years because everything was upside down.
My sentencing started on Friday and finished up on Monday a week after my 41st birthday. I had the weekend to make my peace with my life, I enjoyed those moments and held the ones I loved a little longer. A little tighter. I didn’t know why my life was the way it was, but I embraced it. I stood with courage as the court officers led me to the holding cells after I was sentenced to five and a half years.
Still, the transportation officer that moved me from the courthouse to the Anchorage Jail reminded me of how far I had yet to go. After trying to make some small talk with her on the short ride, she said: “Don’t even try to talk to me, you’re the lowest human there is, a bottom feeder, those poor women, you ruined their lives.” I was in shock. That is what a State Official thought of me and my charge. I could only imagine what the general public thought.
In jail, I read. I hoped I could get through it and not be emotionally scarred. I eventually lost the home I had raised my kids in. I lost all but a few boxes and most of my pictures. I had lost “Home” but was finding it within myself and the ones who I loved. I knew I would come back to the pieces of my life. All was not lost.
There were days in jail when the phone was off all day. When I couldn’t hear my loved one’s voices. I walked the yard a lot. Eventually, the husband disappeared. His friend, the roommate, didn’t pay rent to my son and the gas was turned off. My TV was stolen. The husband went to jail for a month on a PTRP and came out in time for Christmas and in time to clean out my bank account. I was denied by Electronic Monitoring because of the “sexual nature” of my offense. My custody level was increased for the same reason. I dug deep. I had finished a set of steps before I went in and sat a wrote.
What am I powerless over? I wrote a list and completed a moral inventory. I wrote and embraced whatever my day brought. I refused to live life on autopilot. This might have hurt but I wasn’t going to go through this for anything. This would not break me, I was determined to thrive and walk out of jail stronger. I would grow to know myself more than I ever had hoped to.
I fought the custody level decision and was put back on minimum. My in-house Probation Officer sympathized with me on the EM decision and put paperwork in for my furlough.
I was sent to the Glenwood Center on Groundhog Day. February 2nd, 2016. My recovery and patience were tested for a little more than a year there. After applying to EM twice while there, and denied twice, I applied one last time. I had nothing better to do that morning when an EM Probation Officer came into the facility and said EM was looking at people they had denied before. I filled out the paper haphazardly and turned it in, fully expecting another denial. I was on Level 4 and plugging along. I had another 16 months left and had already been about Glenwood about a year.
If what I was doing was Sex Trafficking, what happens in halfway houses is Labor Trafficking. I had more self-respect and voice when I was an escort. At Glenwood, you have to work a minimum of 32 hours a week, and if you aren’t working you have consequences. You cannot turn down any job. If you get fired or laid off, you lose whatever level you have earned. How life was at Glenwood has been a topic of several posts. I have a few more in me, but that will come after I am off paper. I will say this: Recently, they moved the women out and relocated them to a different halfway house, and I heard they lost their DOC contract and are closing their doors. Good.
On March 31st, 2017, I was given the opportunity to serve my time on EM. EM is a privilege, and being home with my daughter, with my son, was an absolute freedom I cherished, regardless of any EM guidelines. I was able to get online again. I was able to touch bases with those that wrote me from all over the world, thanks to SWOP Behind Bars. I was able to start this blog and tell parts of my story. I’ve been allowed to go participate in Criminal Justice Commission meetings, attended a few Human Trafficking Working Groups, and have spoken up at the Anchorage Assembly about SB91/54. I am able to give back to SWOP Behind Bars, updating their website with the countless names of others sex workers serving time.
I went before the parole board in September 2017. I was asked many questions about my “crime”. Those close to me were afraid I would be outspoken in my personal opinion of sex work. Somehow, I was able, to be honest with my beliefs and still say something that the parole board found redeeming because they approved my parole.
In less than 72 hours I will be released. Not much will change in my day to day life, but the emotional aspect of this cannot be discounted. I knew I had to sit down and write something, not to show others how far I’ve come, but to have some closure for myself. A record of this. I denied myself the words I needed to share at my dads funeral. I won’t do that to myself again.
What I would say at the end of this adventure has muddied my mind since my arrest. I had always hoped there would be an end to what in the beginning I could only describe as a nightmare. I had days where I didn’t think I would make it. I thought I would break.
Now it is coming to a close and I am looking thru my personal journals I have kept through this. I found one entry, written 2 years ago. On 11/14/2017 I will be on parole, but on 11/14/2015 I had just found out that my TV was stolen. This was during the darkest of my time before I found my strength. I was just starting to realize in order to get through something I actually had to go through it. Thankfully, I was willing to do the work. I knew I was worth the cost of the battle. Although I am not religious, I had a higher power. I wasn’t God.
“Things will be okay, God has this in his hands” are the last two lines from that journal entry.
I don’t know what my future holds, but I do have some goals in mind. I know now not to limit myself to what I can envision. So, here goes to a full, happy and free life. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey, and continues to be. My life is beautiful.
Everyone has a date or a few dates that impact their lives.
July 9th, 2014 is one of mine.
It was 3 years ago yesterday that I was arrested for Sex Trafficking. Never in my wildest dreams would I have seen that coming. Promoting prostitution, sure, but SEX TRAFFICKING. What the hell.
Anniversaries are stressful for me. They are personal holidays where I measure how far I’ve come or how much time I have wasted. I don’t know about you, but I never measure up to the standards I have in my mind. I am a perfectionist, and have high expectations of myself. Over the years, I’ve learned to not put those same expectations on others. At almost 43 years old, I am attempting to give myself some slack in that area.
Not even a week after I was arrested was the big vacation my then 13 year old daughter and I had been planning. Her birthday is in January, and it was her birthday present. Universal Studios, Knottsberry Farm, just mom and daughter time in sunny California. Shopping, waterparks, ice cream. Memories that would carry us through the difficult moments of teenage rebellion that I knew where in my near future. Instead, I looked out the thick window of my two bunk cell, staring at the empty sky, when that plane we were supposed to be on was taking off.
I will forever owe her a vacation.
With this in mind, I am at home on electronic monitoring on lockdown today. I am still going through my paperwork I saved, and have plenty of journals from Hiland Mountain and GWC. This morning I stumbled upon something I wrote the day I got to GWC. I thought it would be a fitting way to celebrate not being in a closed wall jail, when only 3 short years ago I was uncertain of what the future would hold. With so many uncertainties, I quickly got used to not making plans.
It is taking me some time to think about the future. I have 10 months, and really in my mind, anything can happen to me between now and then.
The State owns me, so all my plans are for the long term.
Leave Alaska. Buy an RV. Travel. Blog. Write. Speak out without fear of being put back in jail.
Here are copies, forgive the many typos, as old fashioned typewriters are unforgiving!
I am now working at IHOP, after the job at The Bradley House ended when the summer season was over, I started as a cook at IHOP. After about 5 months I went to the FOH, and became a server. Much better money.
I am living in a cheap apartment about a 15 minute walk from my work. My now 16 year old daughter flew out on a plane last night to visit family. Not quite a California vacation, but I know that she knows that I know I owe her one.
My life is different than what I imagined it would be 3 years ago. I cannot wait to see how it changes in another 3 years.
Last night I watched a documentary about sex trafficking on Netflix. I braced myself for the bias views that many documentaries show of sex work, and knew I was in for a frustrating watch just by the Trick blurb:
This in-depth documentary examines all sides of America’s sex-trafficking trade, which destroys lives as it generates $3 billion a year.
Reading that, I at least thought that all sides, as they stated, would be represented. Instead I sat in on an hour and 13 minutes of assaults, rapes, kidnappings and torture. That is sex-trafficking. What was frustrating was the lumping of all sex work as sex-trafficking. I expected an in-depth documentary stating it will “examine all sides of America’s sex-trafficking trade” would cover all sides of the $3 billion sex-trafficking trade, yet it did nothing more than show me what sadly happens across the world. This is why I am strong in my belief that stating all prostitution is sex-trafficking undermines real sex-trafficking. Personally, men making money off women as pimps has never been okay, but for Tricked to say all sex workers are sex slaves is erroneous.
Sex work is not sex-trafficking. Sex-trafficking is sex-trafficking!
Per Obama, shown at a press conference at the end of the documentary, sex-trafficking is human trafficking, and therefore modern slavery.
Lets be real. All sex work is not modern day slavery.
Beware: This is where I will personalize this documentary.
To moralize sex work and state it is modern day slavery and sex trafficking is complete laziness on behalf of our lawmakers. Something must change.
“Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers…[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed.”
Marjan Wijers Chair of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings in her article in the book Global Sex Workers 1998
I have experienced modern day slavery. Anyone who has spent any “quality” time incarcerated has experience with it. The closest I have ever got to human slavery and having a real pimp was when I was in jail (human slavery), and in the halfway house (my pimp). In jail I worked for $1 an hour. I had one of the highest paying jobs, on average the pay is 35-65 cents an hour. At the halfway house I gave all my money to them, my checks, my tips, and I had to jump through hoops to request up to $100 a week (never allowed more than $100 on you, otherwise they would take it, you would get a write-up, and would not see the money again. That was the policy). I was forced to work when sick. I had consequences for not working a minimum of 32 hours a week. Do you see the pimp correlations?
Human trafficking is defined in the U.N. Trafficking Protocol as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of adbuction, or fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”
1) The action of trafficking which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons
2) The means of trafficking which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability
3) The purpose of trafficking which is always exploitation. In the words of the Trafficking Protocol, article 3 “exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
My crime, Sex Trafficking, is because I was a sex-worker, and I have the ability to advertise, market, create websites, screen clients, book appointments, and schedule appointments. I worked with women of age, and they had their own keys to the incall location. I booked for a few women I never even met in person, after the necessary age identification and independent contractor agreements were signed. After watching Tricked I wonder why the State of Alaska found it so necessary to focus on me and what my sentencing judge called a “slick call girl operation” rather than real sex traffickers.
Alaska changed their prostitution laws in 2012. Alaska’s definition of “sex trafficking” is broad and vague. Federal sex trafficking laws focus on fraud, coercion, and the exploitation of minors. Alaska’s law, on the other hand, defines trafficking more broadly, to include those who work indoors, or who work together. Read a clear overview in its entirety here.
As I stated before, I have a Sex Trafficking charge, a class B felony. I was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 5.5 years. I am still incarcerated as I write this. I just made it to electronic monitoring, so now rather than the tax payers paying $140 and up a day to incarcerate me, I get to subsidize my incarceration, paying $400 a month to Department of Corrections rather than only the tax payers footing the entire bill.