The Ugly Reality of Pretty Woman

Today marks 25 years since the film Pretty Woman was released, and the cast has reunited for the first time to reminisce about the making of a film that has become one of the most popular love stories for a generation of moviegoers.

I have to admit that as a teenager, I too loved the story of Pretty Woman. However, as I journeyed down the path that led to my life’s work and my passion for advocating for women trapped in the prostitution industry, I have often looked back on my approval of that film with a sense of regret. I have learned from research and my first-hand contact with women in the sex industry that the reality of prostitution is not a romantic fantasy but a tragic horror story. Sadly, in my work with Exodus Cry, my colleagues and I have encountered young women who have told us thatPretty Women lured them into the sex industry by leading them to believe that prostitution was glamorous and romantic. We interviewed one such girl for our documentary about sex trafficking. Stephanie was sexually abused as a child and entered into prostitution underage. She was dominated by an abusive, controlling pimp and trafficked for sex. Her experience was extremely brutal. She told us, “I watched the movie, Pretty Woman, and I was like, well gosh, look at her, she’s beautiful, she’s making money, she’s meeting guys, and she fell in love with this guy, and she’s living in this nice hotel suite, and has everything she wants, and she’s fallen in love, man I need to become a ho. That’s what I thought, so, that’s what I did. I experienced nothing like Pretty Woman, it’s totally, totally different. I’ve been held hostage at gunpoint, raped, robbed, strangled, beaten up, everything, by customers.”

How many young, naive, and unsuspecting women over the last 25 years were deceived by the fairy tale of Pretty Woman and led into a life of abuse, trauma, and slavery? We can only estimate the role—however big or small—that this film played in adding to the vulnerability of young women at risk for being coerced into the industry. As such, the cast today should be issuing an apology to those women and raising awareness about the plight of girls trafficked in the commercial sex industry, as well as the inherent and serious harms of prostitution. You see, Julia Roberts’ teethy smile is not the true face of prostitution. The real face of prostitution is the battered and bruised face of Maria, an actual prostituted woman in Eastern Europe who is depicted in this award-winning photograph. Maria, like 75 percent of women in prostitution, has been raped.1 Maria, like 95 percent of women in prostitution has been seriously physically abused and battered.2 Maria, like 68 percent of women in prostitution suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to her “job”.3 Maria most likely entered into prostitution as a child after a history of sexual abuse, as most women in prostitution do. And Maria is probably under the brutally abusive control of a pimp, as most women in prostitution are. Maria is a victim of sex trafficking. Julia’s role was indeed a fantasy. The reality isn’t pretty. Don’t believe the myth.

prettywoman

Footnotes

1. Farley, Melissa et al. “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 33-74. 2003.; and Farley, Melissa. ed. Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress. Haworth Press, New York. 2003.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

4. Photo Credit: Brent Stirton’s award-winning photo of Maria.

5. Photo Credit: Julia Roberts in a scene from Pretty Woman.


Fifty Shades of Violence Against Women

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There is nothing sexy or empowering about whips and chains, intimidation, humiliation, torture, and signing slave contracts. Fifty Shades of Grey is normalizing violence against women. Anyone who cares aboutthe plight of women facing oppression and abuse should NOT support this movie.(or the book)

This film is a public celebration of sexual violence, and it is important to understand the way that media changes societal norms. As one who is committed to battling the sexual slavery of women around the world, I find it necessary to comment on this film and call for others to see beyond the facade of “mere entertainment”, and understand the effect this kind of media is having upon our society.

Research has shown that there is a measurable phenomenon called the “media effect”. This is when visual media influences societal norms and even preferences. Research done over the past 30 years has demonstrated that viewing violent sexual content has the effect of powerfully and significantly changing attitudes toward sexual violence, including rape, for both men and women. After viewing violent sexual media, men think women deserve the treatment (even rape), secretly desire it, and enjoy it. Women who view violent sexual content begin to believe that they should accept that behavior, desire it, and that they should enjoy it (if they don’t, they should act like they do). Sexually violent media specifically in research has been shown to have the ability to CHANGE attitudes about violence and rape… It produces what is called “permission giving beliefs”… These are beliefs that make sexual violence permissible from both the victim and perpetrators’ standpoint.

Furthermore, the detrimental effect of sexually violent media and its ability to normalize abuse, goes beyond the bedroom. Women who are victims of prostitution almost unanimously report that violent pornography influenced the abuses that are done to them. Violent pornography changes the sexual template of men (and women) meaning it changes what kind of sex they desire. Sex buyers begin to desire the kind of sex they see, and they demand it from the trafficked women they have sex with. If you heard some of the horrific sexual abuses that these women face because men want to act out what they have seen on film, it would break your heart.

That is only the beginning of what I could say about this topic. But for the sake of time I’ll stop there.


“Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Laila Mickelwait MPd

While reading through the gospels this past week so many things struck me that I had never seen in the past.  In fact, something happened while reading that had never happened before, it was as if I was there.  I was there and I could hear the way Jesus was speaking, more than that, it was as if I could feel his heart’s emotions as he said the words.  One of the things that hit me was the meaning behind the words Jesus cried out while hanging on the cross. Mark 15:33-34 says “And when the sixth hour had come there was a darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  In the past I had always read this verse and felt…

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Interview about Human Trafficking and Nefarious with Michelle Kwok on RTHK Hong Kong

http://programme.rthk.hk//assets/contentindex/asx/radio3_5160_177891_18932.asx


Nefarious: Merchant of Souls on DVD Today!

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is by far the best documentary/film on human trafficking ever made. It goes in depth to look at all of the complex factors that enable this horrific crime against humanity to continue and offers solutions in order to empower the viewer to take action. Unlike other films on the topic, Nefarious makes the important connection between prostitution and human trafficking and has a global perspective. The film is packed with solid facts, statistics and expert interviews and it is a must see for anyone who is interested in tackling the issue of human trafficking.  The re-enactments are well done, the interviews are hard hitting and he was able to engage the hearts and emotions of the audience while at the same time engaging the mind. The film is inspirational, emotive, hard-hitting, informative and will leave you both speechless and empowered.

Order your DVD today at www.nefariousdocumentary.com 


Israel to Ban the Purchase of Sexual Services

By RUTH EGLASH Jerusalem Post
Last updated: 02/15/2012 18:59

Bill passes first reading in Knesset plenum, to be forwarded to parliamentary c’tee for adjustments before becoming law.

Prostitute [illustrative]

By Edgard Garrido / Reuters

A bill that will make paying for sex services a criminal offense passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday and will be forwarded to one of the parliamentary committees for further review and adjustments before becoming law.

The legislation was proposed by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women, and is supported by many Knesset members from across the political spectrum.

It will impose a sentence of six-months in jail or community service on any person who utilizes the services of a prostitute or pays for any other related sexual services.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave the bill its initial stamp of approval, and the proposed draft is already being well-received by nonprofit organizations working with victims of prostitution and trafficking.

Earlier on Wednesday, Zuaretz held a hearing in her committee to discuss the success of the bill thus far and to explore next steps if and when the law is finally passed.

In her opening statement to the committee, Zuaretz emphasized that she feels it is her duty as an elected official to “protect human dignity” and that her work in making this law a reality is part and parcel of that. She described the legislation as a central element in empowering social change with regard to prostitution and human trafficking.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), chairwoman of the Committee on the Status of Women, called the bill an “historic achievement.”

“When I signed on this law, I thought it was only a pipe dream and that nothing would really be done to protect these women,” she said.

“But I believe that if you are determined then you can, one day, create a new order in society.”

Hotovely added that in the process of making this law a reality, Zuaretz had succeeded in changing accepted social norms, similar to when the law dealing with sexual harassment was first approved.

Heads of various nongovernment organizations working to eliminate human trafficking and sexual slavery, academics and other government officials also hailed the preliminary approval of the law, pointing out that it has already gone a long way toward changing accepted social attitudes toward the country’s booming sex industry.

Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that there are currently more than 15,000 people working in the prostitution industry in Israel, 5,000 of whom are minors. Israel has been a destination country for more than 25,000 victims of human trafficking since the 1990s.

Research further suggests that many of Israel’s prostitutes and sex slaves are controlled by pimps and some experience violence at the hands of their clients. The clients come from every segment of society and every ethnic, religious and socioeconomic stratum.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Tzippi Nachshon-Glick, director of Services for Adults and Young Adults at Risk in the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, also spoke about the existing government program to help rehabilitate women looking to leave the sex industry.

Nachshon-Glick said that the program, which was initiated by the government in 2006 and receives up to NIS 10 million a year for shelters and rehabilitation programs in Haifa and Tel Aviv, will soon be expanded to Beersheba and Eilat.


Interview about prostitution reform and the Swedish model of legislation

http://blogs.abc.net.au/files/laila-mickelwait.mp3