I was poking around trying to find more information on the web about a group in Detroit that provides free sandwiches, condoms, counseling, etc. to women in prostitution, in an effort to help them survive and undermine pimp’s control over them. Unfortunately, what I could find was an article from the Detroit News gushing about a neighborhood group called the Video Posse which works together with the Wayne County sheriff’s office to harass women in prostitution, or women who just look suspicious, by videotaping them with camcorders, recording their descriptions and license plate numbers in a logbook, etc.
A volunteer for the group quite literally states (and the Wayne County sheriff agrees) that the objective is fear:
Now, I actually see a change: it’s almost like the prostitutes are afraid to walk the streets and the johns are afraid to park. They also repeatedly blame the women in prostitution (who are
parading up and down residential streets and referred to as
hookers) for doing what they need to do to survive. Look, something like 90% of women in prostitution report that they want to get out but can’t. If you really want to fight the dehumanizing institution of prostitution, then escalating harassment of prostituted women will not help any. Instead, provide economic options for the women so they can get out. Then go after the pimps who use torture and drug addiction and threats to keep the women under their control, and lock them away like it’s going out of style.
Update 2005-12-11: I don’t know how I missed this, but a couple of years ago I actually got an e-mail (which was then buried under other e-mails without my reading it) with a pointer to the outfit that I was looking for originally when I ran across the sorry article about the
Video Posse — the Street Outreach Project of Alternatives for Girls. They do very good work for women who are spat on, attacked, ignored, and left to die by the men who hold power — as pimps, as johns, as opportunistic cops, and as sanctimonious politicians. The Street Outreach Project uses a van as a mobile base, and sends teams through the streets of southwest Detroit and the Cass Corridor offering food, clothing, and shelter, along with HIV prevention materials, crisis intervention, rides for medical services, and referrals. They also organize support groups, activities, and case management services. You can help them in their work by contributing money, helping them with items from their wishlist, or by volunteering.