If I, or anyone, directs you to this page I advise you to read it carefully.
This was a surprise:
Let me make this crystal clear, I do not receive, and would not accept, payment on this issue from anyone, including George Soros and never will. If you repeat such an assertion after being directed to this page I will do my level best to take legal action against you – who knows? I may even succeed, so don’t chance it.
Now, because I do not believe that “because I say so” is ever enough, let me explain how that determination came about.
My real activism began in 1993 in opposition to the recriminalisation of street sex workers (which turned out to be as catastrophic as I said it would be, in all the same ways I said it would be). This stance placed me in alliance with the tandem operation of Ruhama and the (then) Women’s Health Project.
At that time I had been forced out of sex work by the criminal elements that were moving back into the streets, in a far more organised form than ever before, in expectation of the passing of the 1993 Sexual Offences Act. I had no money and no future except for a couple of thousand pounds given to me by concerned regular clients to help me get by.
Politically I was very naive in those days, I would walk into meetings and radio stations *EXPECTING* to be treated as an equal human being, and with that expectation nailed to my forehead I usually was – except by Ruhama and the Women’s Health Project.
The Health Needs of Women Working In Prostitution in the Republic of Ireland Report 1994 (PDF)
WOMEN WORKING IN PROSTITUTION : TOWARDS A HEALTHIER FUTURE Report 1996 (PDF)
Half of the funding for the Women’s Health Project came from an umbrella organisation called Europap that was heading in the direction of supporting German style legalisation the other half came from the regional forerunner of the current Health Service Executive (and possibly a little from the Department of Justice). My first lesson in real world civil society consisted in bringing the accounts sheets home from a conference, doing a few sums and realising that the Women’s Health Project workers everybody assumed to be selfless volunteers , were, in fact on a higher hourly rate than the sex workers but without the downtime.
Ruhama’s funding in those early days is far less clear – they declared themselves “a voluntary organisation run by the Good Shepherd Sisters.” The Good Shepherd Sisters had an unpromising history which was only beginning to reveal itself at that time, and their office address at Kilmacud house had it’s own separate part in that.*
Then I had a sense that some of the Ruhama Nuns I met reminded me of my own experiences of abuse within the UK care system and I expected something similar would come to light one day, never suspecting the enormity of it. The Nuns I knew in the UK care system were always the good guys…smart, feisty and sincere – it was only the convent rejects you had to watch out for, and they were, invariably, malevolent. Despite the earnest attempts of one social worker and two street walkers who had benefited from a convent education to raise the level of my awareness, when I first came across Ruhama I had absolutely no perception of Nuns as anything negative. Encountering Ruhama was like a punch in the face, the first time and every time. The frightening thing is that despite all the rebranding, re-staffing, and huge government funding since, writing this now I realise that Ruhama has hardly changed at all. It always comes as a shock to me that anyone would be seen to take them seriously, because to me the toxicity of their dynamic and approach to sex workers is a blatant, palpable thing to the point of parody.
One of the first things I noticed was that the Alliance of these two organisations seemed to operate a strategy of undermining the confidence of the few women that did engage with them to act or express themselves independently of Ruhama and the Women’s Health Project. You must understand, this is not a conclusion I jumped to, what I could see was unthinkable to me, it was also, to someone as vulnerable and alone as me, a terrifying prospect for the future so it was a long time before I stopped trying to find other explanations and accepted it.
The second thing I noticed was that they seemed to be grooming the few women that did engage with them to DEMAND payment before speaking in the media or at conferences. They always paid those women themselves, and it was from that I began to notice that as soon as you let someone pay you for advocacy, you give a piece of your autonomy away, even if you are certain you are just using them to get where you want to go in any sense you are still walking into a trap you may never be able to get out of.
I made up my mind then that I would never accept payment, whatever my circumstances, however much they offered, and however badly I needed it. Initially this only applied to the sex work issue, Ruhama and the Women’s Health Project but over time that found reason to extend to so many other issues and organisations that I now consider it a personal, blanket ban.
Recently I have been shown evidence of some pretty staggering salaries being paid to “survivors of prostitution” by, loosely, the same clique of exceptionally wealthy people. But what happens if one of them starts to listen to sex workers, as they should have done all along? Even if that only goes as far as accepting that silencing sex workers and imposing third party definition on them is wrong and MUST END. If they ever come out and declare that new perspective publicly they will probably loose literally everything and be on the receiving end of the savage abolitionist malice sex workers have come to know so well too.
I could not live in that moral prison, and I wouldn’t advise anyone with a conscience, or real concern for others, to try.
Sex work isn’t the only issue that concerns me, because this is a topic I could ramble on about indefinitely let me quote you someone else who put it succinctly:
This country is turning gradually into a veritable S@@t hole. There is a large and growing number of NGO’s (i.e. organisations run on state and EU funds) which pander to the needs and requirements of social control and interference which in turn spawns an avalanche of career activists.
Self advocacy is kryptonite for career activists, as a result there has been an ongoing concerted effort to discourage it where ever it rears it’s head, Ruhama and the Women’s Health Project were my first encounter with the phenomenon that effectively commodifies real human beings by their disability, disadvantage and even desperation as luctrative counters to be traded on local, national or even international Civil Society markets. Sadly I went on to encounter the same attitude over and over again.
I have no affiliation whatsoever with SWAIIreland initially because, on first encounter, in 2011, their attitude reminded me too vividly of the Women’s Health Project in it’s early days when it also followed a remarkably similar agenda, and it just went downhill since. I think it is safe to say, on bitter experience, that they might cross the road if I was drowning but only to throw a bucket of water over me.
Ruhama got a sweet-faced elderly Nun to hand me a stiff white envelope after their first conference in 1994 or 5 – I thought is was a mass card and a nice gesture – it contained £20 instead and left me feeling “prostituted” for the first and only time in my life.
An anonymous person sent me a €30 phone credit number in 2012 or 2013 and made it plain that if I didn’t use it it would be left waste.
End Full Disclosure:
That’s it – I am not kidding when I say that I am #NotforSale
*Article linked is laundry denial but, perhaps as a result, it documents the roles of various buildings including Ruhama’s first home at Kilmacud House and their second at All Hallows, Drumcondra