Letter to Chairman of Ruhama 25 January 2018

25 January 2018

Dear Colm O’Dwyer,

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of Ruhama, and addressing it care of the Law society to ensure it reaches you directly. There are some important issues I want raised at board level.

We have met, the “Unchosen” event 2014, I am the tall lady on crutches who verbally dismantled Sarah Benson. The document I handed Sarah Benson that she later used as a doodle pad was a sworn deposition (I stress, not a copy, it was signed, and endorsed, photocopy enclosed, address redacted). Stormont “accidentally” published it with one page omitted (marked on copy) and my name, address (my home of 28 years in the middle of a remote farm) and ex-directory phone number clearly displayed on page 1287 of their report in April 2014.

Six weeks or so later Ruhama and “Turn Off the Red Light” followed up by hosting and highlighting the worst kind of deliberate incitement to hated and harm against me by name on Facebook and Twitter, which largely remains online to this day (I have also retained proof to protect myself). It was malicious, unlawful, and morally repugnant, but I was unable to afford legal representation and FLAC was not an option due to their huge conflict of interest. The information commissioners finally got my name and address removed from the online report 2 years later.

If you think I was fair game let me tell you a little bit about me.

I have some form of high function autism, diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome. I also come from the middle class family from hell. I began my life having to save myself by running from everything that was supposed to protect me, into a world that was never going to believe the truth or warm to me anyway. I had compound PTSD 10 years before I ever sold sex. I have also developed some kind of chronic fatigue syndrome over the past 3 years.

I have coped for 60 years by isolating from the world more than most people could manage to sustain let alone tolerate. My ability to function came to depend on being able to isolate, but no alternative has ever been available, now it is too late because, at 60, I am too old, ill and exhausted to be able to cope with adapting.  Just as I could never have adapted to moving when my address was exposed. I still sleep with a commando knife within reach.

The contents of the sworn deposition I handed to Sarah Benson in front of you in March 2014, as well as the identical deposition I left with a young woman from “Turn Off the Red Light” (for Denise Charlton) that I could easily identify, are proof in themselves that they were aware of much of the above….but far from the only proof…

…and it was ok to publish my remote rural address and incite hate to try and intimidate me into playing along with harmful lies against my conscience.

You will never be able to imagine the anger in me, even before that, let alone since, and time does nothing to heal it.

Getting to the “Unchosen” event was one of the hardest things I have ever done (swearing out that affidavit was another), but it was easy compared to maintaining my self control once I was there. This leads me to my reason for writing to you, the vast gulf of misunderstanding between the perception that I (or indeed any of us) could ever be persuaded to engage with anyone from Ruhama, and the reality that it was all I could do to restrain myself from violence, then or now.

 

Due to my autism, I am someone who cannot sustain complex lies to the point where it has been a serious problem all my life. The impact of the fictional narrative from which Ruhama and “Turn Off the Red Light” built their case that came to depend on insisting that I was a liar (and due to the specific nature of the issues there is absolutely no room for “agreeing to differ”) was absolutely staggering and is something I will never recover from. Does no-one realise that lying about real people is harmful in and of itself?

Consider this, the impact of those lies on me in and of itself is a significant compounding of existing compound PTSD for which I can now never receive help or support without first proving I am the one telling the truth. Which “Turn Off the Red Light” member organisation should I turn to for that help first? To greater or lesser extent every single sex worker in the country is also in that same position.

I don’t really care about the big salaries, the junkets and the self-appointment to undeserved glory if it matters so much to them, my problem is with the harm Ruhama routinely cause to the majority of sex workers who refuse consent to engage with or be represented by them.

Let me give you a current example:

The Andreea video:

Ruhama advertised this campaign, aggressively, extensively and well in advance from 20 September 2017:

https://www.lmfm.ie/on-air/shows/the-michael-reade-show/michael-reade-show-podcasts/the-michael-reade-show-friday-september-22nd-2017/ (from 25 minutes)

http://www.ruhama.ie/assets/Press-Releases/Ruhama-Press-Release-Have-You-Seen-Andreea.pdf

https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereisandreea?vertical=default&src=hash

http://www.thejournal.ie/ruhama-andreea-3607674-Sep2017/

 

Combine the fact that it is unheard of for any sex worker to take out full size bus shelter ads at all, let alone by the dozen, (the rent costs about €200 a week and goes through a single company that vets content, likewise posters), and the wariness of sex work clients due to their recent criminalisation it is unlikely that the number advertised received a single call from anyone who was unaware that this was yet another expensive, artificial publicity stunt. It is unethical in the extreme for Ruhama to now present this as some form of valid research.

Any form of abolitionism (but particularly for pay) is, in and of itself, an inappropriate conflict of interest with helping and supporting sex workers because the premise of abolitionism that “sex work must be abolished to send a message to men that women are not sexual objects” makes no allowance for the human rights, welfare and needs of sex workers at all, preferring instead to objectify them and reinvent their reality to artificially support and substantiate the abolitionist agenda rather than determine and provide useful and appropriate support and resources.

Long or short term survival sex work, which in my own experience, represents the majority of sex workers (though, as autonomous adults, it is their private business whether they wish to disclose that or not), has absolutely nothing to do with sex, much less gender issues, and everything to do with overcoming economic desperation. It may be hard for people from relative privilege to understand but economic desperation seriously harms people and can kill them far more often than any form of violence outside of an active war zone.

None of those sex workers can afford to risk their income by reporting crimes to Gardai, and it is not only clients who realise this, it is also opportunist thieves and bullies of every kind, not just violent rapists. It is also, in real terms, a licence to extort without risk of apprehension.

The most basic common sense dictates that any assault on any market is also an assault on the income of those who depend upon it, and the more desperate and vulnerable the greater the damage.

Scapegoating clients conveniently hides the embarrassing reality that most women who would rather not sell sex are not the victims of pimps or clients, but rather driven by sheer economic desperation as the victims of shortcomings and failures in the same civil society that wants to deny them even the honest last resort of selling sex on saving themselves.

So while all allocated funding is wasted on perpetuating useless fiction there is no acknowledgement, let alone help real help for, the real problems driving sex workers at all, and however much more difficult and dangerous the last resort is made (which is ALL “end demand” achieves for sex workers) the wrong help currently available will still be useless.

I learned all this the hard way, I left sex work in 1993, and I am the one who did spend day after day phoning around various organisations trying to get a line on someone who could help me with the problems that had left me no alternative but sex work. I still haven’t found the slightest trace of real help or support to this day.

I have to accept that now my health is failing and I am too old to sell sex, the shortcomings of civil society in respect to my needs and limits will kill me in the end, probably at the next crisis – and coming to terms with that as a not-too-distant possibility is absolutely terrifying, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am so scared I can hardly bear to wake up in the morning. Think about that.

There is more to “helping and supporting” people than announcing that you are “helping and supporting” them and filling in funding applications.

Most of the sex workers in Ireland have every reason to be as angry with Ruhama as I am. Maybe they didn’t have the clout and the contacts to beat you in the courts or the Dail, but they know how much danger the “Turn Off the Red Light” campaign has knowingly placed them in. They know exactly how many deliberate lies have been told about them, they know exactly the extent to which they have been routinely silenced, humiliated, degraded, insulted and denied adulthood and agency. Sex workers are too angry, with too much cause, to go near Ruhama and how could they ever possibly trust them? Trust must be earned, and Ruhama have chosen to consistently give sex workers every reason to fear them instead.

Is the board aware that all of this is, and has been, the reality of the situation they are endorsing?

I am not including contact details for two simple reasons:

  1. I reserve the right to hamper any further attempts to cause me harm.
  2. I genuinely do not have the reserves of self control to cope with knowing for sure that all of this, including, but not limited to, my own situation (which is an additional, deeper impact for me to contend with) has also been ignored and dismissed as usual.

Perhaps the board should also spend a few minutes discussing how someone from their presumed user group has ever come to feel this way? We are people and our lives are not supposed to be a game of career and political advantage.

 

Gaye Dalton

 

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