Media

Survivors Say No Full Decriminalization of Prostitution

July 2019

An open letter from Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking

Dear Presidential Candidates,

We, the undersigned survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, have experienced years of abuse, violence, objectification, and dehumanization in the sex trade. We know first-hand the devastating harm and long-term trauma that happens as a result of being exploited in an industry predicated on racial, gender, and income inequality.

We are aware that candidates running for President are being asked for their positions on proposals to decriminalize the sex trade, and we are deeply alarmed, honestly horrified, by recent statements that suggest an openness to decriminalizing the sex trade in its entirety. We urge presidential candidates to learn from survivors the truth about the pervasive harms and suffering perpetrated by sex buyers, pimps, traffickers, and other exploiters before issuing statements about the sex trade.

At a time when we are culturally taking a stand against violence and harassment towards women and marginalized groups, creating spaces of inclusion and opportunity, why would we take a step backward by allowing these very groups to be further exposed to the harms of prostitution as long as it is monetized?

To be clear, we support decriminalizing people sold in prostitution, as we care deeply about their safety and well-being. We know all too well that marginalized groups are at higher risk for exploitation and therefore are especially vulnerable to the harms of the sex trade. But decriminalizing the sex trade in its entirety would have disastrous consequences. Do not be confused- full decriminalization means allowing pimps, sex buyers, and brothel owners to operate with impunity. Sex trafficking (including that of children) and organized crime increases when pimping and sex buying are legalized.

As survivors, our voices and lived experiences are essential to these discussions. We are eager to share our perspectives and have a productive dialogue with all Presidential candidates and others running for elected office. However, we will not be spoken for or have our voices hijacked by anyone claiming that trafficking survivors support full decriminalization of pimps, buyers, and brothel owners. We will no longer stand by while our truths are misunderstood or misrepresented to support the misguided aims of the pro-prostitution “de facto” progressive political agenda.

The vast majority of survivors of prostitution and trafficking want to put an end to the buying and selling of vulnerable people and know first hand that the best way to do so is to ensure that pimping and sex buying remain behaviors that aren’t encouraged or tolerated.

Respectfully,

Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher, Survivor Leader
SPACE International U.S.A. — Member
Ambassador-At-Large, United Nations

Rebecca Bender, MACT
CEO & Founder: RBI, Survivor Leader

Signees:*

Abbey Brooks-Derzay 
Account Manager

A.L. 
Development Consultant

Alexandra Wright 
Operations Specialist 
The Samaritan Women

Alexis Flores
Survivor

Alicia Ley 
Director of Safe Housing 
RAHAB Ministries

Alisa Bernard 
Director of Education and Partnerships 
The Organization for Prostitution Survivors

Allana Bearse 
Founder 
The Little Tree Project, LLC

Allison Franklin Hogg 
Policy Fellow and Survivor Leader 
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Ally-Marie Diamond 
Survivor

Amanda Casey 
Director of Advocacy 
Trafficking Justice

Amanda Gale Forest 
Founder, Survivor Advocate 
OCEANS

Amelia Tiganus 
feminist activist and abolitionist of prostitution

Amy Cornelius 
Founding Director 
Sidewalk Soldiers

Amy Engle 
LAMFT

Amy Smith

Amy Wing

Andrea Benson

Andrea Lavigne 
Sex Trafficking Think Tank

Angel Jade 
MachSpeed

Angela R. Clark 
Survivor Consultant 
National Survivor Network

Angelica K.

Angie Conn 
Survivor of HT and commercial exploitation

Ann Marie Jones

Anna M. McDonald 
Qualified Mental Health Specialist
Allwell Behavioral Health Services

Anneke Lucas 
President 
Liberation Prison Yoga

Annie Lobert 
President & Founder 
Hookers For Jesus

April De Los Santos 
Survivor Mentor 
One More Child

April Scarborough 
President and Founder/ survivor 
Victoria’s Lighthouse

Arcie 
RunawayGirl Inc

Aron Katrina Massey 
Founder 
MPower

Arthi Sachdev 
Accounting Clerk 
Awaken

Ashlie Bailey 
Survivor Leader 
Henry, Leroy, Oscar Call Your Mom! Campaign

Aubrey Lloyd

Audra Hill 
Survivor leader 
Into The Jordan

Audrey Morrissey 
Associate Director
My Life My Choice

Autumn Burris 
Founding CEO 
Survivors for Solutions

Barbara Amaya 
Author, Advocate 
BASMARTGIRL

Barbara Graham

Bernie Weigand

Brandy Funk 
Support Staff 
Aspen House

B.C. 
E-Commerce Specialist 
Free Our Girls Rebecca Binder Initiative/Elevate Academy/Free Our Girls

Brenda Marcos

Brenda Myers-Powell 
Executive Director 
Dreamcatcher Foundation

Brenda V 
CLOYD

Bridget Perrier 
Co-Founder/First Nations Educator 
Sextrade101

Brittany Dobson

Brittany Maynard 
1999

Brittany Meyer 
Advocate

Brittney Garcia 
Admissions Coordinator 
Aspen Magdalene House

Brook Parker Bello PH.D 
CEO 
More Too Life

Bunny Singleton 
The Organization For Prostitution Survivors

C. Daniels

Callie Sheard

Cara Clark
Survivor
Rebecca Bender Initiative-Elevate Academy

Carissa Phelps 
CEO “Creating Employment Opportunities” 
Runaway Girl, Inc.

Carli

Carmen 
Consultant 
Survivor

Caroline Lambert 
Table on Delk, Inc

Cassandre 
Exited

Catherine Elizabeth Geren 
Survivor Leader 
CourageLIVES

Cecilia

Cecilia Lopez 
Founder 
A21 Freedom Chasers

Chanel Dionne

Charlene Flynn

Chelsea Anderton 
Survivors Angels / Survivors of the Sex Trade

Chelsey Buckley 
Survivor Leader and Mentor 
Bags of Hope and We Rise

Chelsie Ann Lancaster 
Elijah Rising

Cheri Crider 
Outreach Survivor Leader 
Amirah, Inc.

Cherie Jimenez 
Survivor, Director 
EVA Center

Chris Stark 
Author, Educator, Consultant 
Survivor

Christine Cesa 
Survivor Advocate

Cindy Hathcock 
Executive Director 
My Safe Haven

Corina Hernandez 
Advocate

Courtney Alihelisdi 
Survivor Advocate

Cristian Eduardo Nava Lopez

Crystal Touchstone 
Survivor Leader 
One More Child

Dallas Seibert

Dana Levy 
Self Employed

Darlene Pawlik 
Speaker 
The Darling Princess

Dasha

Debra Haltom

Debra Rush 
Founder/CEO 
Breaking the Chains

Delores D. Day 
Executive Director 
Restore Innocence Ranch

Denise Roman 
Treasures Ministry

Desiree J Trail 
Mother, Artist, Public Speaker

Diane Campbell Bridge Hope

dmrdel

Donna E. Bruce 
Peer Counselor

Dorothy Hurley 
Case Manager 
Cedar Ridge Behavioral Health

Dr. Alexandra (Sandi) Pierce 
Othayonih Research

Dr. Ingeborg Kraus 
Founder 
Scientists for a World without prostitution

Dr. Jennifer Lovenstein 
Pharmacist

Dr. Vednita Carter 
Founder/CEO 
Vednita Carter Ministries

Drea Douglas

Ebony Linker 
Survivor

Eileen Martinez 
Coordinator

Em Ann

Emily Grace

Emily Hollerbach 
Growth and Support Specialist

Emily Shore 
Author/Advocate 
Women At Risk, Int/Independent Author

Emmy Myers 
Founder 
Lacey’s Hope Project

Eric Harris 
Consultant 
Indiana Trafficking Victim Assistance Program ITVAP

Erin Wright 
Founder CEO 
SHE Survivors for Hope by Empowerment

Esther

Estrella Sanchez

Evelyn Chumbow
Baker McKenzie LLP

Felicia J Hyde

Filcaise

Fiona Broadfoot 
CEO 
Build A Girl Project

Gabriela Lozano

Gabriella 
Waitress 
Bags of Hope

Geneviève Gilbert 
Founder and CEO 
Pink Cross Foundation Australia

Gina M Salazar 
Victim Advocate /Survivor Leader

Grizelda Write 
Survivor Exit

Hailey Grace 
Survivor 
The Underground

Hannah Bedwell

Hannah Blair

Hannah Jones 
Intake Specialist

Heather Hammerstrom

Heather Johnson

Hunter Lang

Huschke Mau M.A. 
Netzwerk Ella

Iain Martin 
Oilfield truck driver 
Hookers for Jesus

Jackie Lynne 
Co-founder 
Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (Canada)

Jacqueline Lea 
Area Retail Sales Manager 
Veronica’s Voice, Inc.

Jacquelynn Loos 
Community Advocate Supervisor 
REST

Jane
Founder and executive Director 
Glory House

Janine Montgomery 
Executive Director 
Youth Trust Project

Jasmine 
Director 
Jasmine Road

Jasmine 
CEO/Founder 
SAFE Network Inc

Jasmine Grace Marino 
Founder & Director 
Bags of Hope Ministries

Jasmine Hall

Jasmine Holcomb 
Case Specialist

J. B.
Child Sex Trafficking Survivor

Jeanette Chamberlain

Jeanette Westbrook 
MSSW 
SPACE International

Jenifer Hankel 
Deputy

Jenn Martin 
Survivor Mentor

Jenni S. Jessen 
CEO
Compass 31

Jennifer A Murphy 
Founder, CEO & Clinical Director 
Fabulous Faithful Freedom Fighters, Inc.

Jennifer Heard 
Sidewalk Soldiers

Jennifer Tucker 
CSE Survivor and Advocate 
Esteem Outreach, Life Center Church — Tacoma

Jeri Moomaw 
Executive Director 
Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative

Jerome Elam 
CEO and President 
Trafficking in America Task Force

Jerry Thomas

Jes

Jess

Jessica Benke

Jessica Brumley 
Server

Jessica Kay Halling 
Program Director 
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children

Jessica L. Kim 
Vice president 
Survivor Leader Network of San Diego

Jessica Lindner
Free Our Girls

Jessica Patton 
Victim/Survivor of Sex Trafficking

Jessika 
Survivor

Jewell Baraka 
Writer 
Exodus Cry

Jill Martin

Jim Gibbs 
CEO

Jodie West

Julie Medeiros 
Program Director

Kailee Diaz

Kasie Robbins

Kat Wehunt 
Executive Director 
The Formation Project

Katarina MacLeod 
Founder 
Rising Angels

Kathi Hardy 
Founder/ Executive Director 
Freedom From Exploitation, Inc.

Kathleen Mitchell 
Retired Founder 
DIGNITY Phoenix AZ

Kathy Bryan 
Director of Operations 
Rebecca Bender Initiative

Kathy McGibbon 
Director of Outreach 
Street Grace

Katrina Taylor 
Awareness Cordinator

Katy

Kayla Ravanelli

Kayti Batya 
Survivor Leader 
Street Grace

Keelin Washington

Keisha Head 
Founder 
Project 360 Degrees

Kelley Alsobrook

Kelly Dore 
Executive Director 
National Human Trafficking Survivor Coalition

Kelly Patterson 
Life Treasures LLC

Kelsie Lawson

Kendra 
Survivor speak/advocate 
Lavished Ministry

Kim F

Kimberly S 
Caregiver/ survivor ambassador 
Lotus Legal Clinic

Krishonda Arnold 
Freedom Calling

Kristen Tebow, LMSW 
Founder Youth Trust Project

Kristine H.

Kristy Childs 
Founder, President 
Veronica’s Voice

Krystal Mach

Kyra Doubek 
CSEC Behavioral Health Specialist 
Kent Youth & Family Services

La Toya Gix 
Executive Director 
Divine Interventionz L.P.

Laura D 
Healthcare Professional

Laura Jimenez

Laura Mancuso 
A21 Campaign

Laurin Crosson 
Founder /Director Rockstarr.org 
LB

LeeAnn Lemke

Leprêtre

Leslie Evans

Leslie F. King 
Founder/CEO 
Sacred Beginnings

Leticia Reyes 
PTA president 
Sanctuary for Families

LeTishia Miers 
Food service 
Survivor SWLA Abolitionist

Liletha Williams 
CoFounder 
Survivor Impact Group

Lily Rivera

Lina 
Sex trafficking survivor

Linda 
Teached 
Catholic

Lindsey Hass 
Survivor advisory Consultant 
South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force

Lisa Hughes 
Advocate

Liz Kaney Myntti 
Social Services Program Manager
RBI

LJ Owen M.A., J.D., Esq.

Loretta Gale 
1959

Lucy Bloom 
Veronica’s Voice

Lydia Lawson

Lynn Schirmer

M Hines 
One Amarillo

M Williams 
Survivor

Madonna Collins 
College student 
Survivor

Makia 
SWKA

Marie Merklinger 
Member SPACE International

Marjorie Saylor 
Founder/CEO 
The Well Path

Marlene B Laxina 
Legal Advocate

Marti MacGibbon 
Author, Comedian

Martin Dufresne 
Translator 
Montreal Men Against Sexism

Mary Ann McGann

Mary Parrish

Mary Skelly 
Registered Nurse

Mary Tibbetts 
Chief Advisor and Survivor Lead 
Just Love Worldwide

Matthew Morgan

Megan Lundstrom 
Executive Director 
Free Our Girls

Melanie Thompson 
Survivor Advocate

Mercedes Pickard 
Sex-Trafficking Victims Advocate 
Community-Works

Michele Dailey 
Office Administrator 
Survivor

Michelle Abel

Michelle Johnson 
Survivor Engagement 
Empower225

Michelle Lew

Mrs. Mickey Meji 
Member SPACE International

Mikala Kay 
Nurses Aide

Mindy Best 
C-CHW NA

Missy

Misty

Misty Hall 
Resident Director 
Transformation Garden

Mitchell Hellum

Molly Cole

Monica Gary 
Pastor

Monya Davis MA CATC IV 
INTERVENTION PROFESSIONALS

Myjah Williams

Nancy C Dodd 
Missoula Human Trafficking Task Force

Natasha Falle 
Director of Services 
Sex Trade 101: Public Awareness & Education

Ne’Cole Daniels 
Member SPACE International

Nichole Burrell

Nicole 
Bartender 
Valiant Hearts

Nicole Azaán 
Certified Coach & Behavioral Consultant 
Life After Trafficking Empowerment

Nicole Bell Chief 
Executive Officer 
Living In Freedom Together-LIFT

Nikki 
Recovery specialist 
Bags of Hope Ministry/ Survivor

Nikki Gonzalez

Nikki Musgrave 
Cashier

Nola Kesia Brantley-Harris 
CEO 
Nola Brantley Speaks

Paige Starcher

Pamala M. Pilkington

Pamela Grace

Poppy Jean Romero

Rachel 
Survivor 
Beloved

Rachel Moran 
Founder 
SPACE International

Rachel Niemiec 
Nurse Practitioner and Survivor 
New England Coalition Against Trafficking (NECAT)

Rachel Pointer 
Movement Liaison 
Free The People Movement

Rebecca Bender 
CEO & Founder, Survivor Leader 
Rebecca Bender Initiative

Rebecca Mott 
Writer 
Nordic Model Now and blogger

Rebekah Charleston 
Executive Director 
Valiant Hearts

Rebekah Smiltneek 
Communication Director 
Freedom Cry Inc.

Regina Dao 
LGBTQ+ Adolescent Health Specialist

Renae

Renee Galvan 
Teacher

Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher 
Ambassador-At-Large United Nations 
SPACE International U.S.A. — Member

Robin Levasseur 
Advocate for Sexual Assault Miss

Robin Miller 
Survivor and Advocate

Roslynn Gallegos

Russell Glenn Wilson 
Human Trafficking Subject Matter Expert/Consultant

Ruth Rondon 
Retired 
Michigan human trafficking Health Advisory Board

Ruth Scanlan

Ruth-Ann Moody

Ryn Hammontree 
Ambassador 
4Sarah and Atlanta redemption ink

Sabrinna Valisce 
Member 
SPACE International

Samantha Hardy
Bayside Christian Church

Samantha Houghtaling

Sandra Norak

Sandy Storm 
Author, Speaker & Abolitionist

Sara 
Elevate Academy

Sarah

Sarah Barbot 
Executive Director 
Be the Light, Inc

Sarah Eytalis 
Survivor

Sarah Vegas 
Founder and Executive Director 
Stand 4 Justice Movement

Sarah Zalonis 
Consultant/Research/Data 
Polaris Project and Courtneys House

Sari Hunt

Savannah Parvu 
Survivor Leader & Speaker

September Trible

Shamere McKenzie 
Chief Executive Officer 
Sun Gate Foundation

Shandra Woworuntu 
CEO Mentari

Shanna Parker 
CEO 
Angels Go To Work

Shawnee Love HHD, PhD 
Founder/Owner, Doctor, Legal Adviser, Survivor Leader, Investigator, Activist, Visionary, Writer, Advocate, Social Worker, Ethics Monitor, etc… 
Purple Hearts Missions Possible & Healthy Horizons {The Original}; Native American Warriorz Task Force

Shay Carter

Sheila Rivera 
Volunteer Recovery facilitator Survivor — many affiliations

Sherry Lynn Dooley

Simone Watson 
Director 
Nordic Model Australia Coalition

Sonia Dunlap 
Shade

Stacie Spriggs

Stacy Reed 
Supervisor of Mentoring Services 
RIA House

Stanna Wieclawska Kyriakou 
Consultant Forensic Pathologist 
talkFREEdom

Staysha Hackmann 
Survivor Leader, Sex Trafficking Intervention Coordinator 
Community Works

Stephanie Anderson 
Advisor, Consultant 
Traffick Refuge, Salvation Army, LWM Reentry

Stephanie Stansberry

süna 
disciple 
Sun And Flowers Music Survivor Warrior Victim Advocate Volunteer Victim Advocate

Susan Munsey 
Director of Programs 
GenerateHope

Tam blaikie 
Children social Care

Tami Reichert 
Executive Director 
Anchor of Hope

Tammy Bitanga 
Peer Support Specialist, Advocate, Community Outreach Coordinator 
Ho’ola Na Pua

Tanja Rahm 
Member 
SPACE International

Temple Woodrum 
Church Laison 
Lavished Ministries

Teresa Tally 
Minister 
RBI

Terry Forliti 
Executive Director 
Breaking Free

Theresa Flores 
CEO 
The SOAP Project- Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution

Tiffany Ducksworth 
Crew member 
Damascus Road

Tina Dixon

Tina Frundt 
Executive Director 
Courtneys House

Tina Kadolph 
Survivor leader 
501c3 President 
Love Missions

Tracy 
Advocate

Tracy Rowland 
Lived experience expert

Trinity Schumann 
Trinity Schumann Awareness Program

Trudee Able-Peterson 
Survivor/Social Services Professional 
Independent Consultant/Homeless Youth Services

Twana Lucas 
Survivor

Ursel Hughes 
Mentor

Vicki Daharsh
Voter/Taxpayer

Vicki Wooten

Victoria Hagstrom MD 
President/CMO 
anew Medspa.clinic

Wanda Fisher 
Stop the Traffik (Elevatelife Church)5

Wendi Westmoreland

Wendy “Renee” Berry 
Rebecca Bender- Elevate Academy student

Willow Kennedy 
Survivor/ Founder 
Sunray’s of Grace

* Disclaimer: An additional seven survivors expressed support for the letter, but wished for their names to remain private and confidential. (Subject to audit.)

  • "When I look back now I see that prostitutuion lured and consumed those of us who were already marginalised in society. If you were poor, if you were disadvantaged, if you had come from a broken home or had vulnerabilities connected to prior cycles of abuse, especially sexual abuse, prostitution was there waiting for you. Prostitution is a trap, and it’s not a coincidence that all over the world it ensnares those who are already struggling to survive."
    - Rachel Moran, Dublin, Ireland
  • "What I know today is that women are victimised by the system of prostitution by innumerable perpetrators, and at the same time victimised by a society which is not only allowing but encouraging prostitution by accepting it as a 'job like any other'. We are victims of a society blind in one eye, advancing the wealth of a privileged few over the suffering of an incalculable number of women and children."
    - Marie Merklinger, Stuttgart, Germany
  • "Many people ask me, how did I get into prostitution, was I “trafficked” or was I a willing participant? What many don’t understand is - however we entered - what the act of prostitution does to us; how it slowly strips us of any semblance of ourselves, as we try to sell part of our bodies, while keeping our soul intact. Prostitution preys on the most vulnerable; it takes us places we never intended to go, all driven by those who feel entitled to pay for our bodies. "
    - Cherie Jimenez, Boston, USA
  • "At the tender age of fifteen I was coerced into the brutal world of prostitution, I immediately lost my identity. I liken my day to day life to being on the front lines of a battlefield. I spent the next eleven years shut down and disassociated. I supressed feelings of shame and disgust constantly, by telling myself that this was a job like any other."
    - Fiona Broadfoot, Bradford, UK
  • "I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength and have been able now to be an asset to my community and to my people."
    - Bridget Perrier, Toronto, Canada
  • "It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t."
    - Marian Hatcher, Chicago, USA
  • "When New Zealand passed full decriminalisation, things changed in unexpected ways and I came to understand that the myths of legal protection, autonomy, increased choice and greater community acceptance were unfounded.. The myth of health being better was proved false in less than 6 months of the law reform. Women were kissing and risking herpes, doing oral sex without condoms with the risk of throat warts, doing rougher and riskier practices just to get the jobs.. I dealt with punters changing expectations. I had no choice but to fight against this model ever spreading to another country."
    - Sabrinna Valisce, Melbourne, Australia
  • "For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again."
    - Tanja Rahm, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • "Remembering friend’s I have lost along the way, and taking a glance at all the violence, rape and inhumane activities, I just can’t help but recognize my luck to alive today."
    - Mickey Meji, Cape Town, South Africa
  • "My body, mind, and spirit survived so many things for so many years. The sexual exploitation and violence I endured was almost like something that happened to someone else. If I had told myself the truth about what was being done to me, my psyche would have splintered into a million pieces."
    - Autumn Burris, Denver, USA
  • "Just because dancing (stripping) is legal does not mean it’s not violence against women - Stripping and prostitution go hand in hand."
    - Vednita Carter, St Paul, USA
Read more testimonials
"For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again."
- Tanja Rahm, Copenhagen, Denmark
Read more testimonials