Peculiar Sensibilities Concerning Prostitution
As with much else in Rhode Island, it could be that some of the decisive ambivalence about the continued permissibility of prostitution in the state would dissipate if people took a moment to understand what it actually means. The blog of a new Web site that URI Professor Donna Hughes and associate Melanie Shapiro have set up, Citizens Against Trafficking, presents a scene witnessed in a Middletown store:
A business owner has told Citizens Against Trafficking that late last year, an Asian woman fled a spa-brothel nearby and came to their shop to ask for assistance.
She burst into their store and excitedly tried to communicate. She could only speak a few words of English. She pointed to the brothel and used hand motions and the word “f***” to indicate that she was being forced to engage in sex acts.
When asked if she wanted to call the police, she said, “Me, no English. You.” When asked if she wanted them to call the police, she nodded her head to indicate yes.
She frightened and confused the shop owner by pointing to their little girl, then to the brothel, saying, “Baby. Bad. Bad.”
They asked her if she had any family or friends nearby. She said, “New York.”
Brothels, Rhode Islanders should note, will not restrict themselves to urban streets. According to Citizens Against Trafficking, the suburban store in which the above scene occurred has had enough and is relocating in another town (PDF):
After years of problems and the inability of the police to do anything about the brothel next door, POW Science is relocating to another part of the state. …
The customers of Lee Health Tuina Center are all men. The men try to enter the brothel inconspicuously. Eric calls them “cowardly” and says that they hide behind a wall if the door to the brothel is not opened immediately. They peek around the wall to make sure no one can see them before entering the brothel. Men used to park behind the wall between the brothel and POW Science until the Bulmers confronted the men and refused to let them park there or in front of their store. Sunday is the busiest day for the brothel, because the other
stores are closed.
The Bulmer’s suspicion that the Tuina Center was a brothel was confirmed when they read men’s descriptions of buying sex there on an Internet guide to prostitution. Another business owner in the strip mall emailed the Bulmers the men’s Internet writings describing prostitution and the prices for different sex acts they bought there.
Shortly after that, Eric found several hypodermic needles and syringes with blood in them on the ground in the parking lot in front of his business. Eric believes the needles were used by men before they entered the brothel. Eric filed a police report. …
On a number of occasions, the Bulmers have contacted the police to let them know what was going on. The police told them there was nothing they could do about it.
There’s an interesting dynamic on Aquidneck Island, I guess. In Portsmouth, Trisha Smith was driven from her strip mall for her eye-catching efforts to draw attention to the fact that it housed her lingerie and sex toy shop. In Middletown, an educational store is now being driven from its own strip mall because police can do nothing, various zoning and health inspectors claim to have no reason to act, and property owners Kevin and Vicky Tarsagian of Newport Properties don’t want to give up their slice of the lucrative sex trade.