On August 15, 1987, a room full of male and female adult sex workers that included a cross-section of male hustlers, female prostitutes, a porn model, and a madam, gathered together for the first "Prostitutes Anonymous" meeting in Tarzana, California. The program was founded by Jody Williams, a woman who had been dubbed by the media during her high profile arrest in 1984 as the "High Tech Madam". Not because she was a "madam" but to try and explain all of the high tech equipment found at the warehouse she'd been using as a "safe house" and store front.
Jody had formed this group at a time when the American public, as well as the political, legal, correctional and treatment community had two very clear, incorrect, beliefs about the world. First, the world believed that an "addiction" was based on a substance with addictive components. They believed that alcoholism and drug addictions were diseases based on the substances being "addictive". It was also a time when no one believed that sex trafficking was even "real" - having gone the way of "white slavery on the Barbary Coast.
This was at a time when the concepts of gambling, sexual, and even video game addictions had not been recognized yet because they were "behavioral" - not based on a substance one puts in one's body. Since then it's now considered "obvious" that one can be "addicted" or have an "unhealthy relationship" with food, sex, money, etc. by the treatment community and thus the world.
Also, many people don't understand why Jody had placed a brothel two blocks from the Van Nuys police station, had surveillance equipment on the inside of her establishments, nor why she had paid quite a large sum of money to have a programmer install the "first" computerized database in a brothel for her to use to screen clients. Put into context this was 1984 - long before there were portable cell phones, laptops, or even the internet was the norm. Los Angeles had a record number of serial killers running around targeting prostitutes - while LAPD did nothing. Look at the case of the "Grim Reaper" as just one example of what the sex industry was dealing with in Los Angeles back in the 1970's and 80's.
To further show you what the "times" were like - Xaviera Hollender had published the "Happy Hooker" book which soared onto the "NY Times Best Seller" list. This became a hit movie where she openly showed engaging in bestiality to a warm reception. Adult movies used to only be available for viewing in XXX theaters or as "art films". So when "Deep Throat" was released in main stream theaters - it had lines two blocks long for the "hip" crowd to be the first to view.
In 1980, Linda Lovelace came out with her story of being "trafficked" or "forced" to film the XXX movie "Deep Throat" by her pimp, Chuck Traynor, at the other end of a gun. No one believed her. Audiences "boo'd" her off talk show stages. She was the first "domestic" victim of trafficking to speak out that this was happening in the porn industry.
Linda's story was not validated by anyone because Chuck had gone on to manage Marilyn Chambers in more XXX movies. No one wanted to stop that gravy train - so Linda's story was received the same way it would if someone came forward today talking about being abducted by aliens. To say she was not believed is an understatement.
A friend of Jody's escaped the Hillside Stranglers with 51 stab wounds. The hospital refused to admit her because she was a "prostitute". After stitching her up and releasing her, and she became strong enough to go to the police - Jody and this woman approached the "Hillside Strangler Task Force" with their names, address, where they owned a business, etc.
They were promptly thrown out of their office. When asked why the police officer said "because we can't get a warrant based on the word of a whore". The courts did not view "our" testimony as "credible". If you'd like to see how prostitutes were treated by law enforcement back in the 1980's while we were not only being murdered for sport, but also sold like cattle to traffickers - then watch "Frozen Ground" with Nicholas Cage for a beautiful portrayal of the climate at the time "our" pleas for help were received by law enforcement.
Something had to change. When Jody formed that first meeting of "Prostitutes Anonymous" she also formed the first hotline. There was no "distinction" between a sex worker nor a "trafficking victim" to be made because the concepts, nor the terms had even been invented yet. For this reason, any call from anyone for any reason who wanted help to leave or "escape" the sex industry was invited to call despite the fact the program had a 12 step format.
As calls regarding trafficking vs. those who say they want help to leave the sex industry, increased, and now the public recognizes the differences between a sex worker and a trafficking victim, the need to separate the two from each other in order to protect the "traditions" of how to operate a 12 step program became necessary.
In 1995, Prostitutes Anonymous was renamed to Sex Workers Anonymous because of the invention of the internet. Adult filters would block the word "prostitute" so the name had to be changed so people could find them through search engines.
As you can see "things change". So in 2008, Trafficking and Prostitution Services was born in order to focus different resources and procedures upon the calls for assistance with domestic sex trafficking issues. Issues our legal and therapeutic systems still aren't up to speed on how to deal with them because many offices are still even arguing over what "it" is even. This development was much the same as how " Alcoholics Anonymous" developed the offshoot of the "National Council on Alcoholism" to also address "outside issues". This is why TAPS exists now.
There are trafficking victims today in the USA who can not call for help themselves. Like those victims of the Hillside Strangler, some are being kept locked away in rooms, or chained to beds. They certainly aren't allowed near phones alone. Some are so brainwashed or deceived they don't even realize they're being used against their own free will. Young victims don't even understand the term "trafficking victim". For this reason, we rely upon "tips" from people calling us to alert us about a situation where they believe someone is being held or used against their will. We will then work with you, and law enforcement if the case requires, to assist getting them to freedom. Sometimes we can get into places law enforcement can't. So whatever the case may be - if you, or someone you know, is being used or held against their will in any part of the sex industry then maybe we can help.
All calls, emails or letters are entirely confidential and answered by a survivor of trafficking. We are a 501c3 nonprofit. If you'd like to know our tax ID number - then please just ask.
(copyright 1987-2015 All Rights Reserved - J.L. Williams