Following news on Friday that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in the Palm Beach area of Florida, Mr. Kraft through a spokesperson categorically denied that he engaged in any illegal activity.
Leaving aside the fact that it’s somewhat preposterous that a billionaire would patronize a spa where the going rate for massages is $50-79, we here at Washington Babylon salute your denial sir!
Perhaps next time you might look for house call services. That will cost you more of the greenbacks, but surely you must agree that’s preferable to the nightmarish humiliation you must be experiencing now. We know you’re an upstanding citizen and would never have patronized a known human trafficking ring. We think the massage parlor you got caught at may or may not be engaged in human trafficking, and we would like to extend an invitation for you to join our campaign to educate the public, the cops and the courts about the difference between prostitution and human sex trafficking, leading ultimately to the decriminalization of sex work and protection of sex worker rights.
Among our other insightful offerings on political and cultural goings on, Washington Babylon is campaign central for 2020 presidential contender Petunia the Skunk, who we created to mock what’s sure to become a shit-show presidential election. Petunia’s running mate – who will be the first vice president in history to be elected, rather than selected by a party primary winner – is Bella Robinson, a nationally known sex workers human rights advocate.
Mrs. Robinson has worked tirelessly since 2010 among the community of sex workers in Rhode Island. She is the executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, or COYOTE for short. The chapter conducts outreach, lobbies the state for legislation to benefit sex workers, and works with researchers at Brown University. The FBI in 2017 confirmed 562 cases of sex trafficking, of more than 8,500 cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
A 2016 Rhode Island investigation of a presumed sex trafficking ring led to a crackdown on 15 massage parlors run by small groups of immigrant sex workers, working together in order to ensure their safety. “Shutting down massage parlors did not result in more safety for these women, but instead, to more isolation, marginalization and deportation,” said Mrs. Robinson.
Mrs. Robinson describes her work with sex workers as non-judgmental. “If someone wants out of the lifestyle, we will help them do that. We try to help drug users get into treatment. We report sex trafficking if we think it’s happening. The police would be able to help more women if they came to us for information,” she said.
Treasure Coast newspapers reported on Thursday that the Vero Beach police chief said the women at the massage parlors “tell us they’re OK, but they’re not. We know that. Even though we have charges on some of them, we’d rather them be victims.” Police said the women lived inside the spas and performed sex work. The women were not allowed to leave the spas on their own and spoke only Mandarin or Cantonese. Many came from China on temporary work visas, believing they had legitimate jobs awaiting them. Others answered ads for masseuse jobs but were pressured into sex work, police said.
The police raid in the Palm Beach area was the culmination of a six-month investigation that included preliminary surveillance observing a clientele comprised mostly of men; an undercover detective visiting the spa in Vero Beach equipped with a camera, a recorder and cash, and, finally, a court order granted for installation of hidden cameras inside the spa.
Last April President Trump signed into law a measure passed by the U.S. Congress to Fight Online Sex Trafficking and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking, or FOSTA-SESTA, a law that is currently being challenged in the federal court system on basis of the 1st and 5th Amendments – free speech and self-incrimination. Nicknamed the anti-trafficking bill, FOSTA-SESTA unfortunately does not make any distinction between prostitution and human sex trafficking. Under the law, sex workers and victims of sex trafficking alike are criminals.
While sex workers seek ultimately to decriminalize prostitution and establish rights for the trade, in the short term it’s important that people understand sex workers are not victims. “Sex workers are adult women who refuse to conform and poor women who refuse to live in poverty or become homeless. They are mothers struggling to pay their rent and feed their kids,” Mrs. Robinson said.
“If lawmakers think snitching on sex workers will somehow rescue them from trafficking, they are wrong. All they are doing is sealing their fate with criminal records so they can never leave the sex industry.”
Adding injury to insult, just two months after FOSTA-SESTA became law, the Trump Administration directed the Department of Justice to prohibit use of federal funds for legal services for crime victims. As reported by the Huffington Post, human trafficking victims previously used federal funding to get their criminal records expunged or dismissed. And more than 90 percent of human trafficking victims are arrested for crimes like prostitution, truancy or drug possession while they are being trafficked.
So, Mr. Kraft, please let us know if you would like to support Mrs. Robinson’s candidacy and sex worker rights. We would be pleased to have your patronage!