Here at Red Beans and Life, we know that New Orleans is a great place to have a good time, but we also won’t deny there is a dark side to the city.
Here, we hope to publicize and promote the many helpful non-profits doing great work in the city. While most may think of New Orleans as a party town, when you get past that you find a darkness to the city that good people and volunteers work tirelessly to fight and improve. Here at RB&L, we strongly support anything that aims to help improve the city and assist residents and visitors. For our first feature, we have chosen Eden House.
Eden House is a non-profit organization aimed at helping victims of prostitution and sex-trafficking by providing long-term housing and assimilation (counseling, job training, family assistance) services at no cost. Founded by Kara French and run by executive director Kara Van De Carr, these ladies are doing their part to assist a demographic of the city that has been largely left to be forgotten in dark alleys and seedy hotel rooms.
It was the Super Bowl 2018 bid that got me thinking about this subject. I remembered an article I’d read about the Super Bowl being the largest event for trafficking and prostitution in the nation. While the statistics around that claim are heavily disputed, it should be noted that many working girls are transported to cities during times where there is an influx of visitors. And it makes sense, there’s money flowing and tourists from all over the country filing into one city. It’s like Halloween, Christmas and New Years rolled into one for the pimps and handlers of these victims. While I would have loved nothing more than hosting the Super Bowl again (and having the Saints dominate in it) if these allegations are true, then I want no part of it in my town.
But what about other events in the city that bring a large population of visitors? With events like Mardi Gras, NBA All-Star Games, Sugarbowl, as well as the numerous festivals and conventions, do people see this dangerous industry at work? Or
are we so used to it that no one wants to make a fuss?
Well, I’ve never been one to shy away from making a fuss, so here it is. An active trafficking advocate in Louisiana, Clemmie Greelee (right), told her story to Monica Hernadez at WWLTV about being kidnapped and forced into the commercial sex industry (with an interview from Eden House’s Kara Van De Carr) and just the brief details are chilling to read. New Orleans is in the business of welcoming visitors and giving them the kind of experience that they just can’t find in their own cities. Does that mean more insidious and dubious activities have to be entertained? Not in my opinion. I’m all for having a great time, I welcome visitors to do the same, but when you leave I’m the one that has to live in a town where these morally reprehensible activities are perpetuated. And when you participate in the market, you feed it. You are the problem.
Professor Laura Murphy (left) at Loyola University was the first to bring a spotlight to this major societal plight in Loyola’s Modern Slavery Research Project. Her most prominent discovery? The utter lack of research and social programs aimed at helping victims of prostitution or sex trafficking in Louisiana. She equates these women, threatened and abused into working, as slaves in this article for the Loyola Maroon. In the article, she reminded citizens, both local and national, to understand that Louisiana cannot “allow slavery to exist in our midst, given that long historical legacy of it.”
While some reading this article may not consider prostitution a victimizing crime, would your opinion change if you knew that most begin in the sex industry between ages 12-16 years old? Don’t believe me? Here is the report from the U.S. Justice Department. Would it change your opinion if you knew that these girls are taken under threat of violence to themselves or their families? That they are made dependent, not come dependent, on drugs like crack-cocaine and heroin, forced on them by their pimps to keep them scared and submissive? Yet, in the eyes of Louisiana law, they are the perpetrators, not the victims. Do you think we are helping these women by making it harder for them to work or are we criminalizing them and thus keeping them in the cycle of abuse and exploitation?
Interestingly enough, the sex industry has recently come under legislative discussion in association with the rise of panhandling and begging seen in the city’s major intersections and business areas. The original language of the bill would have enforced harsher intervention for those begging or hitchhiking along with sex workers, but apparently that kind of legislation is “unconstitutional.” So instead, the bill has “ tightened up the language so it only applies to prostitution” according to a recent Times-Picayune article.
So the homeless and the panhandlers are protected and these women are not. Law enforcement officers are allowed to question or bother a potential “criminal” until they move on or do something to get arrested. Maybe the aim of the bill is to put a stop to this profession, stop the spread of disease and other unlawful activities. Maybe the city is mad that it is missing out on their untaxed revenue. Either way, making more criminals and offering no way out of the lifestyle isn’t the answer either. But now that Eden House is in New Orleans, perhaps the tide can be changed.
My hope that the reason the city passed this recent legislation is for the good of the women involved and the community. Outlawing the world’s oldest profession in a town like New Orleans seems like a monumental task. In the early 1700s, when no one in France wanted to populate the newly colonized New Orleans, they sent their criminals, their prostitutes their soldiers to be some of the city’s first residents. They literally built this town. For a greater part of the city’s existence there was an entire district of the city assigned to this profession: Storyville. I won’t get into the complex and utterly fascinating history of the Storyville, but take a look at photographer (WARNING: tasteful but probably NSFW images) E.J. Bellocq’s portrait series of prostitutes from the turn of the century for a look at how long this industry has been promulgated in New Orleans. While the portraits, music and legends of the district have been romanticized today, these women would have likely appreciated a place like Eden House to come to for help.
If you would like to become involved with Eden House, you can contact them online, donate here and see a list of things that they are in need of for their organization as well as their upcoming and past events.
What do you think of recent laws passed concerning prostitution? Do you think these laws help or hurt sex workers? What do you think of the industry in New Orleans, please share your opinions and thoughts in our Comments Section!