Sunday 11 January 2009

Julie Bindel, on Norma Hotaling

British radical feminist, Julie Bindel, wrote an article in memory of Norma Hotaling, a formerly prostituted woman, a US campaigner against the sex trade and the founder of the SAGE project, Standing Against Global Exploitation - whose mission is "to improve the lives of individuals victimized by, or at risk for sexual exploitation, violence and prostitution through trauma recovery services, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, housing assistance and legal advocacy."

This from Julie Bindel's Guardian article:

Norma Hotaling, who has died aged 57 of pancreatic cancer, was internationally renowned for her advocacy work in the US on behalf of victims of sexual violence, in particular prostitution and trafficking. The Florida-born campaigner founded a world-famous programme to deter men from paying for sex.

Hotaling herself had endured the worst type of violence. Shortly after the death of her father, when she was three years old, she was sexually abused for the first time, with further occurrences between the ages of five and seven. She went to school in Palm Springs, but by the time she was 18, she was on the streets selling sex and soon became a heroin addict.

In 1989, after 21 years in prostitution, Hotaling decided she had had enough. She turned herself in at the nearest police station and insisted that she be put in jail, where she stayed for six weeks, almost dying during drug withdrawal. She soon began to devote her life to helping other women. First working with Aids sufferers, in 1992 she founded Standing against Global Exploitation (Sage), a San Francisco-based centre offering services to help women out of prostitution.

Furious that street prostitutes continued to be arrested and blamed for their circumstances, Hotaling decided to try to educate people living in neighbourhoods most affected by the trade. She began meeting regularly with community leaders, explaining that the women were not there out of choice, but that the kerb crawlers were. It was then that she decided to do something about the demand side of prostitution.

Ironically, it was her collaboration with the police officer who had arrested her countless times in the 1980s for soliciting, Lieutenant Joe Dutto, that enabled her work with sex buyers to take off. She contacted him after hearing of his concern about the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the city, and, by then armed with a degree in health education from San Francisco state university, offered her skills.

Hotaling devised a programme that was to become known as the John's school, which came to be replicated across scores of cities in the US, Canada and the UK. Formally known as the First Offenders of Prostitution Program (Fopp), charges against first offenders were dropped if they paid a fee and attended a day-long course, including sessions run by former prostitutes, on the realities of the sex trade. Most of the fees went to help women attend the Sage programme.

"I was scared," she said about the first time she ran Fopp. "I knew they would hate me. I never thought in my wildest dreams they would get anything out of it. At the end of the programme they were all crying." Very few men who attend Fopp are known to reoffend, and its existence has enabled a change in emphasis to focus on the demand for prostitution as the cause of the problem.

In recognition of her work with Sage and Fopp, Hotaling received more than 20 awards, including Oprah's angel award in 2001, presented to her on air by Winfrey herself. She also advised governments on how to tackle trafficking and prostitution and addressed conferences all over the world.

Asked in 1997 how she managed to work with women who have complex problems, she replied: "It's like caring for orchids. They die so easily. But you take the dead-looking stem to someone who knows orchids and that person can look at the root and say, 'Look! There's still a little bit of life here.'"

Hotaling never married. She is survived by her mother and brother.

• Norma Hotaling, campaigner, born 21 July 1951; died 16 December 2008

And another wonderfully courageous feminist has died. I feel a deep grief...



Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie, thank you for posting Julie Bindel's tribute article about Norma Hotaling. It included information that I never knew about Norma and her work. Norma's comparison of the women damaged by sexually servicing these masses of men and some of their fragile chances for survival to orchids is so touching. take care of yourself Maggie.

Maggie said...

Thanks for visiting, Nikki.

ms. jared said...

i was so sad when i read that. she spoke at a conference i was at a couple of years ago and she really was an amazing and inspiring woman. she did so much while she was here and she will be missed.

bonobobabe said...

Wow, what an amazing woman!

JaneDoeThreads said...

Hi, hope you don't mind me popping in here, I archived this website long way back, and I work mostly on women's human rights on an international level [particularly in nation-states that are theocratic and that sanction the worst abuses out there],

anyway one of the areas I advocate against is in trafficking of women/children on both sex industry/labor. I have a tribe on tribe net, that I started way back in my more 'militant angry' days but over time I learned how to focus and not react with knee jerk, etc.,, anyway, I get this tribe started again and I rename it, and boom,

immediately I get a post from a prostitution 'rights' woman, and of course coming from the anti-trafficking and KNOWING the realities there I responded, polite I thought yet firm,

and she comes back at me with this pro-prostitution b.s. At first I replied in rage then I thought, no, you know NOT this time, so I went here, looked at some of your why you don't allow comments and borrowed a couple of them [crediting you] and I deleted the other posts, saw this one and I was not aware that she passed on, she was a great woman and I have referred to the Sage quite often. Anyway,

I debated whether to argue/debate this woman then it dawned on me, Why is she asking me, to fight for prostitution rights [then of course she insults me saying I'm anti-male, anti-sex, yada yada yada] and it dawns on me,

Why the hell isn't she and those like her, demanding their johns, rather than US? I've dealt with the pro-sex industry in the polemic and have gotten into it with the lawyers who defend porn,

so know that is just, Unbelievable, but wasn't sure how to address this woman and thought, you know this is Exactly what she wants is to paint me into a corner,

so, I replied but, rather than argue the whole anti-porn debate, I instead,

replied asking or suggesting to her, how she could go about lobbying her demands to the very ones, she services.

It was rather long and I guess I could say, a bit of a smart ass reply but, for once, it put the ball right back into Her[their corner],

and I thought, this is pretty good and I should share it,

so, here it is, read through her reply to my first why I can't support her, etc etc etc., then she comes back at me, and I used a different strategy,

and I think, well, might just be onto something. IF you can use it,

any of you, feel free to do so. It might be a tad crass, but in the evidence that I have seen on a first case/person to person basis, with women who have been trafficked,

I don't have a lot of tolerance, so, I went for it. Here it is,

if you can use it, go right ahead.