Bella Robinson: Sex Work Activism in Action
Thanks for taking time to chat, Bella. Folks here think Philly is a leader in discussion on human rights and sexual lifestyle, though I am beyond impressed by COYOTEri, and the role Brown University has taken in stepping up, and stepping out, to share perspectives on sex work and sex trafficking. Rhode Island seems more aware of the relevancy and need for sex work perspective and inclusion in the trafficking narrative than here in the Pa Commonwealth. In honor of December 17th, thanks for accepting three quick questions:
1. Why do you believe is it important for us to step out of the comfort zone and speak at colleges, community events, and other – often not sex work friendly or sex savvy – situations?
I think it is important that we educate the next generation on the facts regarding the problematic trafficking narrative because it is creating fabricated barriers between “us” and “them”.
We need to discuss the issues that sex workers face, and if they choose to work instead of go with “rescue” or “exit” , why they choose to stay in industry.
This is how we can help promote the health and safety of sex workers, while also creating more opportunities for people who are living in poverty. Cause face it, a lot of prostitution is economics.
As far as young people in the industry? I think it is important students understand that we are utterly failing our at risk youth because none of these heavily funded trafficking NGOs are providing any real long term or truly community centered services.
If we want to keep minors out of the sex industry than we are going to need to step up to the plate and help provide services and support to our youth, not just those getting the funding. I have to admit when I attend events sponsored by the trafficking organizations, I do find it is very traumatic and it sets off all my triggers to have to sit politely and listen to all the fake stats and info, until it is my turn to speak. Then its game on, and the confrontation with the factual evidence is presented. I know my facts.
2. How do you decompress from the stress of working with all the arrests in the media, along with knowing the risks of violence?
Ive learned I have to be careful how much negativity I take in on a daily basis. I find surrounding myself with a strong support system is helpful. I also have to make sure I take plenty of “me time”, whether it is getting a pedicure or binge watching netflix. This summer I took time to attend the Desiree Alliance conference so I could enter a safe space to renew my energy, reconnect with my people.
3. Has it been worth it to become a public activist as opposed to staying a private working woman?
Well – laughs – Since I had already been outed in the media when the SWAT team kicked in my door in NJ in 2008, and my family already knew, coming out as an activist was easy! (Laughs again) Yea – I no longer have any skeletons in the closest.
With my criminal record, and not having a formal education, I doubt seriously that I would ever land another job outside the sex industry. I figured since I was already outed and that over a dozen women had been murdered and dumped in Gilgo Beach in 2010-2011, that it was my calling and responsibility to stand up for the safety and protection of sex workers.
If I could go back, I would do it all over again. Sex work has been the only constant in my adult life, regardless of how many bad decisions I made over the years or how many times I was displaced, sex work always allowed me to find stability again. Even on a bad day, I think it beats working at Walmart.
We just need to see a stop to the violence.
The Providence Journal covered Bella’s 2016 December 17th event:
Recent Rhode Island Prostitute Murders:
2015 Ashley Masi
2006 Woonsocket Serial Killer Sentenced