‘Who’s buying sex in Center City on lunch break?’ Bill takes aim at sex trafficking at massage parlors

Behind darkened doors, barred windows, or surveilled entrances, thousands of massage parlors hiding exploited sex workers are operating across the country. But lately, in some cities, more of the visitors knocking on their doors are inspectors.

In San Francisco, 150 illicit massage businesses have been shut down since 2015 largely thanks to enforcement of a new municipal code. A toughened ordinance led to the shutdown of 38 businesses in Houston within a year.

And nationwide, at least 13 cities have proposed new ordinances since a report in January documented the operation of more than 9,000 illicit massage businesses in the U.S. — establishments that are commonly used as fronts for sex trafficking of vulnerable women.

 

Philadelphia could be next to join; on Thursday, Councilman William K. Greenlee introduced a bill to add regulations aimed at making a dent in the number of such businesses here.

In several cities, recently enacted measures have successfully shut down illicit businesses without penalizing the workers, who are often victims of trafficking. The approach is a far cry from the traditional police busts that result in prostitution arrests for the workers but do little to stop the owners from reopening a week later with a new name or new employees.

 

“We want to make sure that these places aren’t just fronts for human trafficking,” said Greenlee, who plans to talk with stakeholders about the proposal over the summer. “Human trafficking is clearly a problem and it’s happening, at least to some [extent], in our city. … We need to try to address it.”

The bill would create licensing and registration requirements that would put burdens on owners opening illegitimate shops.  Violations could shut down businesses and discourage new ones from opening.

 

“We need to make it harder for these businesses to just pop up and go down and pop up,” said Shea Rhodes, director of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, whom Greenlee’s office consulted.

Since January, 46 illicit massage businesses have been shut down across the country in part or completely because of code enforcement, according to Polaris, an advocacy group that runs the national human-trafficking hotline and that released the January report.

About 260 illicit massage businesses are in Pennsylvania and 370 in New Jersey. They operate in the city and neighboring counties, the Inquirer and Daily News has reported.

The businesses are most commonly staffed by female immigrants from Asian countries who come here under false promises of visas, good pay, or a new life, according to Polaris. They are then forced into sex work by massage-business owners, who add on debt after debt to keep the women in servitude.

 

Greenlee’s bill would require every massage establishment to be licensed with the city in addition to the state, display certificates and prices publicly, keep detailed records of services, and not operate outside the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Under the bill, violations found during inspections could result in fines of $200 to $2,000, which can add up daily, and possible license suspension or revocation. It also includes a proposed  $500 annual license fee.

 

Code enforcement can cause businesses to shut down through several paths: The owner’s license is revoked, the number of violations add up and the operation can successfully be closed down as a nuisance, or the violations are used as evidence in a criminal case. Plus, the owner may decide to close up shop when facing fines.

 

“The owners just say, ‘This isn’t worth it,’ ” said Meghan Carton, strategic initiatives specialist with Polaris. “In Philadelphia, where they haven’t had a civil enforcement tool, this will be a shock to [owners].”

 

The bill would hold owners accountable for any violations by the business, thus protecting the workers from fines. It also requires workers to be fully clothed.

Greenlee’s draft bill could change after conversations with experts and other stakeholders, his office said. Key provisions in other cities have included a regulation against anyone living or sleeping on business premises, which can prevent workers from being held captive inside, and against internal locks, so that workers cannot be confined in rooms with clients and inspectors can open the door unannounced.

Other ordinances have aimed to keep the businesses from cropping up after being shut down by prohibiting another massage business from opening in the same location or by barring an owner from opening another business. Those provisions aren’t yet in Philadelphia’s bill.

 

Villanova’s Rhodes said there also needs to be more awareness that paying for sex is a crime.

 

“Who’s buying sex in Center City on their lunch break?” she asked. “What businesses do they work for? And how are they finding the locations to go and buy sex? Are they using their desk phones and desk computers to search for it?”

 

As part of its strategic plan against human trafficking, Houston in 2016 strengthened its massage-business ordinance, created a municipal court diversion program to connect potential victims with legal services, and set up a program to find them care and temporary shelter.

 

And in San Francisco, health department officials have used a mix of citations, penalties, permit suspensions and revocations, local zoning regulations, and discerning review of new permit applications to reduce the number of permitted massage establishments in the city from 350 to 193.

 

“The employees are generally viewed as the victims, so the fines and penalties are largely directed toward the owners,” said Patrick Fosdahl, an assistant director in the city’s Department of Public Health.

Officials and experts have one other group in mind when crafting these laws: real massage therapists. The bill is crafted to put a minimal burden on aboveboard businesses.

 

“We’re not trying to hurt the legitimate massage therapists,” Greenlee said. “We have a problem here in Philadelphia and we need to try to address it the best we can.”

 

 

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Pennsylvania must do more to protect transgender people from violence

Last Sunday at 5 a.m., a trans woman named Michelle Washington — who also went by “Tamika” — was found shot in the head and left for dead in North Philadelphia. Coming just a day after another trans woman, Muhlaysia Booker, was found shot and killed in Dallas, this homicide marked the fifth trans woman violently killed in the United States this year. Last year, we lost more than two dozen trans women to violence. More than half of those women were African American, and this year, all five recorded trans victims of homicide are African American women as well.

In April, a video surfaced in which a man named Edward Thomas savagely beat Booker until she was unconscious, while a crowd of people watched and other men joined. Eventually a group of women intervened and pulled her to safety, possibly saving her life at that moment. But a month later, the same woman would be found dead due to homicidal violence, without a suspect identified.

With two trans women of color found dead within 24 hours in different parts of the country, and 2018 being one of the deadliest years on record for trans women — especially black and Latino trans women — it’s past time we address this violence. This includes adding measures to combat anti-trans violence to the top of the page on progressive agendas. In particular, we need to end shoddy legal defenses used to justify this violence.

The gay and trans “panic” defense is “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder,” as the National LGBT Bar Association defines it. This strategy can include arguments that the gay or trans victim of violence made a sexual advance that caused “panic” in the attacker, or that the victim’s identity was reasonably viewed as “threatening” by the attacker, who then acted in self-defense. These defenses may even be employed when the attacker and the victim had a prior relationship, and the attacker wants to claim that they were “tricked” regarding the victim’s identity.

These arguments wrongly suggest that gay or trans identities pose an inherent safety risk, and that violence against LGBTQ people is justifiable simply when another person objects to their identities. Such an excuse for violence is flat-out wrong — yet it succeeds in some cases, reducing the sentences of those who commit hate crimes. This defense was put forth to justify, for example, the 1998 beating and killing of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in Wyoming.

In recent years, lawmakers have pushed back against this line of defense. Here in Pennsylvania, State Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D., Lehigh) introduced a bill addressing gay and trans panic defense, but the bill didn’t make it out of the Judiciary Committee. In July of last year, State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Philadelphia) began to lobby his colleagues to pass similar legislation, but we have yet to have anything for the governor to sign.

Pennsylvania — which still does not include LGBTQ people in its laws protecting against hate crimes — needs to step up on this issue. It’s time to start protecting women like Michelle Washington, and like Shantee Tucker, a 30-year-old black trans woman shot and killed in Philadelphia last year. Those are two lives we cannot bring back. But we can do more for the trans community in the future.

 

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Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law

A federal judge blocked a Mississippi law on Friday that forbids abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, Judge Carlton Reeves said the law “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortions services until after six weeks.”

“Allowing the law to take effect would force the clinic to stop providing most abortion care,” wrote Reeves, adding that “by banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the law prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”

The law was set to take effect in July.

Supporters of abortion rights argue the law collides with Supreme Court precedent, violating a woman’s right to seek an abortion prior to viability.

The law is part of a new wave of restrictions introduced by Republican-led states — emboldened by President Donald Trump — to introduce legislation that calls into question Supreme Court precedent. The laws, none of which have gone into effect in 2019, triggered protests across the country on Tuesday, the same day Reeves heard arguments in Mississippi.

Critics worry that with the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to take the seat of swing vote retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court might eventually move to cut back on its landmark opinion Roe V. Wade, if not gut the 1973 decision.

The-CNN-Wire

& © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

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Theresa – Halloween

 

Here’s another random blast from the distant past…

There was a girl at the place I worked. She claimed she had an abusive boyfriend. I encouraged her to leave him because she didn’t deserve that. She says she left him and needs someone to talk to. We go out a few times. We start seriously dating. We have a stupid five month anniversary date planned for Halloween.

She calls and says she can’t make it on account of work and will be too tired afterwards. The next day she calls me over to talk. (That’s never good) When I get there she informs me that she wasn’t at work she was fucking her ex all day and they’re getting back together. We get into a shouting match. She’s not responsible; Bullshit. They have history; Yeah, he hit her. He never really hit her; Lying snake. Why am I so mad; Because she’s a trollop. And so on. I left (Yes, in the heat of the moment I wanted to hit her. (Not really!) That’s why I left. Should I be applauded for that? No, it’s just something that happened. I shouldn’t have ever admitted to feeling anything. I’m sorry.) and she spent the day begging me to come back. I refused to speak to her because I was angry and confused and needed some space.

Naturally when she can’t reach me she calls into work and claims I sexually assaulted her. I don’t know this, go to work, and get taken aside. The company is concerned about the allegations and wants to call the cops. I swear it was an ongoing relationship, completely consensual, and they didn’t need to call the cops. They point out we’re still both employees and the company can’t have us both working there if it is true. There are liabilities to consider and the police will sort everything out. I’ll just sit in jail for a couple of days while they do that. So, I offer to quit in exchange for them not calling the police as I really didn’t want to go to jail. I was in an independent contractor position. I didn’t even really work for them. The company didn’t need to get involved. This is a private issue. They agree and let me go under the condition that if they ever see me again they’re calling the cops on me for harassing her. I go home, crawl into bed and pray for death.

A little less than a week later she emails to tell me her boyfriend told her she couldn’t see me so she wants to see me to make sure I’m okay. I explain that I’m not okay because she is a lying cheating whore who ruined my life and I wish all the evil in the world upon her (Yes, including that her boyfriend would actually beat her to death. It’s shocking I know but I liked her less now than before and was still hurt so I said mean things to her. I’m literally Hitler and Satan’s bastard child right?) and want nothing to do with her. She claims nothing that happened was her fault, he made her say I raped her, and the beatings have gotten worse. I din’t respond.

 

 

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Racquel Writes! 5 Lessons I Learned from my Divorce

via 5 Lessons I Learned from my Divorce

 

http://www.racquelwrites.com

 

 

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Kaja – Out of the Blue – Part 3

Pennsylvania’s DUI law prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while:
•having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more
•having any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance in the body, or
•impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent that it affects the person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Generally, a driver is deemed to have violated the law if a chemical test conducted within two hours of driving shows a BAC that’s above the legal limit. (Get an estimate of how many drinks it takes to put you at .08%.)

The consequences of a DUI conviction depend on the circumstances, including whether the motorist has prior DUI convictions. This article covers second-offense penalties. (Read more about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws, including first-offense and third-offense consequences.)

(75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3802 (2017).)

What Is Considered a “Second-Offense” DUI

In Pennsylvania, a DUI is considered a “second offense” if the motorist has one prior DUI conviction that occurred within the past ten years—including most out-of-state DUI convictions.

(75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3806 (2017).)

Penalties for a Second DUI

The consequences of a second DUI conviction—which can be the result of a plea bargain or being found guilty after a trial—differ depending on the facts of the case. But generally, the possible penalties include:
•DUI based on impairment or a BAC of at least .08% but less than .1%. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment or having a BAC of .08% or more but less than .1% is a misdemeanor. A convicted driver is looking at $300 to $2,500 in fines, five days to six months in jail, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
•Impairment DUIs involving injuries, death, or property damage and DUIs involving BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and someone was injured or killed or another’s property was damaged or the driver had a BAC of .1% or more but less than .16% is a misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 30 days to six months in jail, $750 to $5,000 in fines, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment. (Also, read about Pennsylvania’s homicide-by-vehicle laws.)
•Impairment DUIs involving a refusal to take a breath test and DUIs involving BAC of at least .16% or controlled substances. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and refused to take a breath test or the driver had a BAC of at least .16% or any concentration of a controlled substance is a first-degree misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 90 days to five years in jail, at least $1,500 in fines, and an 18-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
DUIs with a minor passenger. A second offender who’s caught driving under the influence with a passenger who is under 18 years old is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, the convicted motorist is looking at least $2,500 in fines and one to six months in jail. The driver also faces an 18-month license suspension.

So they basically threw the book at Kaja to teach her a serious lesson.

Starting August 25, 2017, anyone convicted of a second DUI must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed to obtain a restricted license during the suspension period.

(18 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1104 (2017); 75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3802, 3803, 3804, 3805 (2017); Commonwealth v. Giron, 155 A.3d 635, 638 (2017).)

 

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