Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about trafficking and other negative issues in the sex industry in Ireland.
He said to me "Pat, you are always saying you'd love to be able to do more towards combating trafficking, helping escorts etc, and you say your business is doing ok... I hear there is an organisation called Ruhama that helps trafficked women in Ireland... Why don't you make a serious donation to this organisation?"
As I explained to my friend, I do already make regular donations to charities working against trafficking across Europe, though not Ruhama, but yes I could do more I think, and I would love to do more.
This suggestion coincided with a recent experience I had grabbing a coffee at London Heathrow airport. I saw the company selling the coffee - Costa - was planning a "Costa Foundation Day" where all the profits they made that day were to be invested in programmes to improve the lives of people living in the poorer coffee growing regions.
I saw this and thought... What a great idea... And here is E-I - a successful business in an industry which, like coffee, has its issues in places - wouldn't it be great if E-I could do something like this? And maybe it is not just me who feels this way, maybe there are escorts in Ireland or Irish escort clients who would also like to give something if we had a fundraising drive to raise money for a really good cause?
My problem is though, who would you donate the money to?
To date I have donated to several organisations across Europe working against trafficking and to support sex workers in various ways, which I have read about and been impressed by. None of these organisations are Irish, but I have figured there is point in donating to organisations in other parts of Europe, especially the parts of Europe where women are often trafficked from, as if women are being trafficked to Ireland, these are the sorts of places they are likely coming from.
However, I think it would be great if we could donate to organisations who are clearly working in Ireland. After all, that is what is most appropriate really.
Ruhama, I have a problem with to be honest.
Back when I was working as an escort myself, several ladies I knew got involved with Ruhama at different stages in their lives and all the feedback I got from these ladies was very negative.
I was told Ruhama were totally anti prostitution, phone sex, lap dancing and all other forms of sex work and would only help ladies who agreed (a) to never work in the sex industry again, (b) to never associate with any women they knew who still worked in the sex industry and (c) to agree with them that prostitution etc can only be a terrible sin. A few ladies told me Ruhama actually went as far as to set nuns on them! Essentially, all the ladies I knew who decided to give Ruhama a try, got nothing positive from it.
Then, a couple of years ago, Ruhama was in all the papers, publicising these new trafficking helpline numbers they had, and I thought to myself... Ok I've never heard great things about Ruhama, but maybe something is better than nothing, maybe although many women aren't going to find Ruhama helpful, there are still some women out there who would find Ruhamaís service helpful? So I requested permission from Ruhama to publish their helpline numbers on this website. Needless to say, the numbers were never published as permission wasn't granted. Ruhama donít want their helpline numbers published here, even though this is probably one of the most likely places women in prostitution visit.
After that I was talking to a sex shop owner and he was telling me Ruhama is run by nuns and it is not even a registered charity, they're a limited company.
Finally there was Ruhamaís much reported public pledge that they will help any victim of trafficking in Ireland. That actually pissed me off, because it was like Ruhama telling Joe Bloggs on the street not to worry about trafficking as an organisation exists in Ireland that will help any woman trafficked. This is not true, there clearly isnít proper support for trafficking victims in Ireland at all, and Ruhama making it look like there is may drum up more donations for them, but is actually totally unhelpful to the overall situation... It discourages proper efforts against trafficking being made, because if Joe Bloggs doesnít think further efforts are needed, he does nothing.
Of course, Ruhama and us see things very differently and want very different things also. They are totally against prostitution, lap dancing etc and would like to see laws passed to make men who avail of escort services made criminals. We are not against prostitution and certainly donít want to see prostitution criminalised. We would like to see more support, advice and care for sex workers in Ireland, proper resources for the adult women who choose to work in this industry and of course help for women who would like to get out of the industry for whatever reason or are underage or have been trafficked.
Many organisations around the world working against trafficking are anti prostitution and would therefore not be a good choice for us to support, not to mention such organisations might consider money from E-I, escorts or escort clients "bad money" and therefore not want our donation anyway. Theyíd probably look upon this idea as like a tobacco company donating to a cancer charity.
I of course also wouldnít want to work my butt off to raise money for an organisation that would probably spend it promoting their opinions which are not at all in-line with our way of thinking, instead of spending it helping women.
Another friend I talked to about this suggested, if there is no suitable charity out there, why donít I set up an E-I Foundation like Costa Coffee have? This is an interesting idea, but frankly, I donít think it is a feasible one as Iím already worked off my socks running E-I, not to mention I donít have the experience required. I donít completely disregard this idea though, as although I think setting up a foundation would be going too far, I have often thought maybe we could help by paying for independent parties to create good quality info, e.g. get a top solicitors firm to write a guide to escorting and the law for escorts or get a medical professional to write quality content about safe sex practices in this business.
One organisation Iíve seen that I really like is http://www.sw5.info/. They are in London and working mainly in the male prostitution field, but I like their stuff... If there was an organisation like this in Ireland I think Iíd want to support it.
So, over to you folks...
Has anybody got any thoughts or ideas regards this issue? What do you guys think of Ruhama and other organisations working in prostitution? Is it possible I've heard wrong about Ruhama, have any women got positive stories about them?