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USA: Victim - focus should be on men who pay prostitutes

Publish Date: 13 Apr 2011
Source: Daily Globe
By: Kristi Eaton, Associated Press

A Minnesota woman who spent 27 years in the sex industry said police shouldn't punish women who participate in prostitution but focus on the men who pay them.

Joy Friedman was 13 years old when she was first locked in a room and forced to have sex. At 15, Friedman was held captive in a basement and raped by a pimp and three other men. Friedman said Wednesday she survived beatings, stabbings and rapes over the next three decades before getting help in 2000.

Friedman spoke before about 100 law enforcement officials, mental health experts and community members at a conference hosted by Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans.

"Prostituted women are not the problem," she said. "The men buying them are."

Now the women's program manager at Breaking Free, a non-profit organization in St. Paul, Friedman works with current and former sex industry workers to escape sex trafficking.

It's a myth that people choose to work in the sex industry, said Friedman, 48.

"This is not a choice to have sexual acts performed on you. No one in their right mind chooses that," she said, adding that people with drug addictions or desperate to provide for their families are not in their right mind. "It's not a choice. It's a lack of choices."

Friedman said low self-esteem also is a factor driving underage girls into the industry. As a multiracial child, she said she often felt like she didn't belong. The sex industry didn't care who she was.

"What I found was that prostitution didn't care," she said. "They didn't care about my race. They did care that I was workable."

The men who paid to have sex with her, who she calls "ticking time bombs," would take out their aggression on her. She was beaten with a baseball bat, hit with a piece of wood and had gasoline poured on her.

"At the time, I felt that my destiny was to be placed on this Earth so that you could get your abuse and your issues out on me, so that you could move forward and want to be a positive person and marry her and show her the true inner you that I was knew was there," she said.

Mark Elam, director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans, said one-third of trafficked children meet their abusers online.

Oklahoma's two major interstates, I-35 and I-40, are often used to transport victims across state lines, he said.


Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
http://www.dglobe.com/event/apArticle/id/D9MJ23P80/


Stop Demand makes the following comments - to raise awareness, educate and encourage readers towards critical analysis.

Excellent article!  In addition to Joy Friedman's call on the Police, calls must also be made on politicians and legislators to step up to the plate and focus on tackling male demand, in order to end the degradation and harm for women and girls that is inherent within prostitution.  

Sweden, Norway and Iceland have provided a blueprint - by criminalising 'sex buyers' and decriminalising and offering assistance to the 'sellers'.