A Day at the John’s school

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John Court

A day at John school
Guys who buy sex from prostitutes face their behavior head on in court-ordered program
By Joshua Emerson Smith

Illustration by Grant Reinero
Some men look embarrassed as they walk from the parking lot through the back entrance of a two-story office building on University Avenue in City Heights, which the San Diego Police Department refers to as the Multi Cultural Storefront. Others chat more casually as they walk through a hallway and into a room past a sign that reads, “Court Ordered Impact Panel.” 

A hipster wearing a trucker cap strolls up to a police officer sitting behind a folding table checking IDs and collecting $200 from each person. The payment has to be in a cashier’s check or money order, which the officer explains the young man can get at the 7-Eleven down the street.

An overweight middle-aged white guy in a yellow T-shirt and jeans hands the officer the proper payment and is directed to get in line for mandatory HIV testing, the results of which will be provided immediately.

By 6 p.m. about 30 men representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities, although none looking obviously affluent, silently fill several rows of chairs facing a table with a microphone at the back of the room. The last row of chairs is reserved for non-English speakers, for whom the presentation will be translated through headsets.

A tall, slender, middle-aged black man in a blue blazer and white trousers walks up to the front of the room and, in an English accent, speaks to the audience sympathetically.

“I’m going to say something that may sound a bit unusual, but I’m glad you’re here,” he says. “I’m glad you’re here because it’s an opportunity for you to get educated. It’s an opportunity for you to learn about the impact of a behavior that may appear to be a one-on-one transaction.”

Acting as the night’s moderator, the soft spoken man is one of nine volunteers helping to put on the program, which includes local homeowners, former prostitutes and recovering sex addicts. With programs every other month, volunteers from the community rotate involvement.

Created by the Mid-City Prostitution Task force in 2002, the program is called the Prostitution Impact Panel. Established to educate men arrested for buying sex on the realities of the sex-trade industry, its message is straightforward: The sex trade in San Diego is dangerous and demeaning, and a disturbing number of girls who walk the streets have suffered severe trauma as young children, often molestation at the hands of family members.

“You’re dealing with damaged people,” Crystal, a former prostitute tells the audience. “And what happens in the transaction is not only damaging the society, the neighborhood, but it’s damaging the damaged individual further.”

Under long, curly blonde hair, her face bears the marks of anguish and heavy drug use, a habit she explains she supported with prostitution. Given marijuana and raped by her step father at the age of 7, she says such experiences are common among sex workers, many of whom are controlled by violent pimps and gangs.

“Nobody goes out on the corner and sells their body because they want to,” she says. “There’s not one person that I’ve ever met, and I deal with a lot of survivors—not one of them was ever out there because they wanted to. We make you believe that we want to so that we can get more money out of you, but it’s not because we want to.”

In a deal only for first-time offenders, participants attend the three-hour panel of speakers in order to get their solicitation charge substantially reduced. That way, prospective employers and others may never know they were arrested for buying sex.

However, statistics suggest that participants may be leaving with more than just a favorable plea deal. Since the program started, less than 3 percent of offenders—32 of 1,155 participants—have been rearrested and convicted of solicitation or a similar crime, according to the San Diego City Attorney’s office.

The program’s gravity came as a surprise for Grant, a former Navy officer now in his early 40s. (CityBeat honored a request not to use his real name.)

“When you’re out there, you never think about how this girl has a pimp and she’s being abused,” he told CityBeat. “The only thing you’re thinking about is, I can help her, and she can help me.”

Sitting on the edge of his seat during the program, Grant appears rapt as he listens to a recovering sex addict named Paul. The bald, middle-aged man describes growing up with an alcoholic father who kept an accessible collection of porn in the front room. From a young age, Paul developed a serious habit of using sex and masturbation to numb feelings of neglect.

“I’ll tell you what this disease will do,” he told the audience. “I caught chlamydia from a sex worker. I went to the county and got the disease fixed. I’m driving around. I see the same sex worker. I go to her again, and get the same damn disease. Now, I’m not a stupid person, but the power of this disease made me do that again.”

For Grant, who was having sex with up to four women a night, the story had a powerful impact.

“I was in awe,” he said later. “I wanted to hear everything he had to say and how he got his problem fixed, because that was me.”

When Grant was 17, he was stationed with the Navy in the Philippines, and like many of the guys in his crew, while in port he had sex with numerous prostitutes. A tall, good-looking guy, he didn’t need to pay for sex, and he quickly developed a habit of going out to clubs and picking up women. Often, he’d sleep with a different person every night for weeks on end.

However, despite having regular girlfriends, he continued to frequent prostitutes for oral sex both overseas and here in the States.

“I knew that I must have had a problem because my girlfriend would be at home, and then I would leave the house and go pick up a street walker, you know,” he said. “Then go back home, and we might have sex. It’s like a high.”

In late March, he was arrested for soliciting an undercover cop. For years, he had frequently picked up girls on 32nd and Main streets in Barrio Logan, where prostitutes regularly wait for Navy officers. As a result of getting caught, he was forced to face his behavior.

Fearing ridicule, Grant had kept his actions largely secret from everyone in his life, never seeking help. During the impact panel, he’s introduced for the first time to the idea that sex addiction is a treatable disease.

“When I went to [Sexaholics Anonymous], I realized I couldn’t fix myself by myself,” Paul tells the audience. “But when I went to SA, I found an entire community of people who were willing to help me on my journey.

“If I can save you from doing the stupid shit that I have done, I didn’t waste a Monday night coming here,” he adds. “This is perfect. This is exactly what I need to do.”

The testimony had a powerful impact on Grant, who said he’s now determined to get help. But since attending the program, Grant has continued to engage in prostitution.

“I want to slow it down to where I can have one girl to be with and I don’t have to think about another girl,” he said. “I pray for that every night. Every night, I pray that I can just meet a girl, fall in love with her and just want to be with her.”

The stories of those speaking on the impact panel have different details. With little preaching, each person shared their individual narrative: Some folks used more drugs; others had more vicious encounters with rape and near-death.

However, nearly all the panelists shared the common experience of severe early-childhood trauma, their cautionary tales depicting failed attempts to deal with deep-rooted pain through drugs and other means of escape.

Almost unconsciously at the end of his interview with CityBeat, Grant mentioned his own trauma.

“My mom never hugged me,” he said solemnly. “Maybe that’s the reason I treat women the way I do, because I’m getting back at them, you know.”

Having grown up with his grandmother, Grant revealed feelings of abandonment that mirrored, to a degree, much of the pain that the panelists had shared with him.

“I feel lonely,” he said. “It’s kind of strange. I have all these women, but I still feel lonely. I never have been honest in a relationship. I’ve always cheated.”

He paused for a moment. “I’m probably going to have to do the classes. I’m going to have to address the issue.”
Write to joshuas@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on twitter at @jemersmith.

 

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The Human Trafficking Who: by Mollie Ah Sing

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What does VICTIM of human trafficking mean to you?
A victim of human trafficking is someone, male or female, adult or child, who is, by force, fraud, or coercion (mental or physical), subjected to do something they would not otherwise do, for little or no pay. A victim of human trafficking will have directly suffered psychological, spiritual, and/or physical harm through manipulative subjugation. A human can be trafficked for labor, sexual exploitation, or organs. A victim of human trafficking does not have to move from one place to another, but can be exploited in the very same space. A victim is coerced, mentally or physically, and forced into giving their life resources for another’s unjust benefit. A victim is a result of a system of violated human rights.

What does SURVIVOR of human trafficking mean to you?
A survivor of human trafficking is someone who has exited their dire situation (whether it is labor, sex, or organ related) by leaving, escaping, or being rescued. A survivor, after exiting, works, through service providers or other means, to establish a new and healthy life. A survivor may be of little or no means, documented or undocumented, male or female, child or adult. A survivor seeks to revitalize both mentally, spiritually, and/or physically. A survivor is in serious need of support by family, friends, the community, and service providers. A survivor has lived to seek justice for the crimes committed against them by regenerating a healthy lifestyle, releasing themselves from the clinging mental and psychological bonds, becoming an advocate, and/or seeking legal justice. A survivor is capable and working towards even greater freedom.
What does Re-Integrated person of human trafficking mean to you?
A re-integrated person of human trafficking is now a thriver in society. A thriver is no longer a victim or survivor of human trafficking. A thriver transitioned from a life of exploitation and a life of need and mental/spiritual/physical healing to become an independent, self-sufficient, and flourishing human being. A thriver has established healthy relationships within a community of people and operates in society in their own contributing niche. As a thriver, a history of human trafficking is recognized and acknowledged but no longer dictates how one interacts or operates in life. A thriver is actively engaged in achieving goals and dreams, big or little. A thriver has come full circle and become an indicator for hope and joy.
By: Mollie Ah Sing; Point Loma Nazarene Center for Justice and Reconciliation-Intern at BSCC

 

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Child Pornographer Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

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NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 10, 2014
SAN DIEGO – A Spring Valley college student was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff today to 10 years in prison in connection with child pornography charges.

Anthony Michael Gonzales, 23, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to a single count of Receipt of Images of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct. He was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to a victim and register as a sex offender upon release from prison.

According to a complaint, from October 2011 through March of 2012, agents with Homeland Security Investigations identified an Internet Protocol address on a peer-to-peer file sharing program that was trading in files suspected of containing child pornography.  The agents tracked the Internet Protocol address to Gonzales’ residence, which was located in Spring Valley, California.

In May 2012, the agents executed a search warrant on the residence and seized Gonzales’ laptop computer, which had the user name “Metatron.”  A forensic examination uncovered approximately 170 videos and 22,300 images suspected of containing child pornography.  On review of a sampling of at least 883 of the thousands of images, agents determined six of those images included bondage of children.

There also were images involving children who appeared to be under two years old. One DVD had approximately 100 images of child pornography.  At the time of his subsequent arrest, Gonzales was a 23-year-old student who possessed a thumb drive that also contain additional images of child pornography.

DEFENDANT                       Case Number 13CR3108-H

Anthony Michael Gonzales                        Spring Valley, CA

CHARGES

Count 4 – Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252(a)(2) Receipt of Images of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct. Maximum penalties: Five year mandatory minimum, 20 year maximum, restitution, $250,000 fine

INVESTIGATING AGENCY

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

 

 

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Coalition Meeting

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PCI and the Bilateral Safely Corridor Coalition (BSCC) would like to cordially invite you to our next
Unity Coalition Against Trafficking Meeting
at
The San Diego Foundation
Liberty Station
2508 Historic Decatur Rd., Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92106
Ph: 619-235-2300
on Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

BSCC will be talking about the Phone App, We will have a Guest Presenter Summer Stephan, and other announcements, Billboards, discussions and also the Demand

For questions or to RSVP: bmorales-egan@pciglobal.org or lcarter@pciglobal.org
or info@bsccinfo.org

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Giving Back Magazine

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