YWEP to share research findings from the Bad Encounter Line

Please forward widely and forgive duplications

Press Release

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday May 22nd, 2012
Contact: Stacy Erenberg 312 513 1399

Young Women’s Empowerment Project releases their NEW RESEARCH entitled DENIED HELP! How Youth in the Sex Trade & Street Economy are Turned Away from Systems Meant to Help Us & What We are Doing to Fight Back

Our Participatory Action Research (done by youth in the sex trade ages 12-23) shows how and why young people in the sex trade and street economy are being turned away from institutions set up to help.

Special Press Briefing
When: May 29th 3pm via Webinar
Time: 3pm-4pm CST/4pm-5pm EST/1pm-2pm PST

Live Event
 Thursday May 31st, 3pm-5pm
Where: Jane Adams Hull House 800 S. Halsted
What: Young Women’s Empowerment Project will give an interactive, multi media presentation that explains their  BAD ENCOUNTER LINE findings, and how YWEP is organizing young people to change the way Chicago sees and treats it’s homeless home free and street based youth.

The BEL findings demonstrate how institutions such as police, hospitals, social services and schools are harming young people they are supposed to serve and protect. The data from the BEL findings shows many themes of police sexually assaulting youth because of their gender, sexual identity, or lack of ability to fight back for being in the sex trade. One story is “ …in a sting set up by the cops. [the officer] got violence with me, handcuffed me and the raped me. He cleaned me up for the police station and i got sentenced to 4 months in jail for prostitution.” – anonymous Bad Encounter Line entry

The BEL research was done using a participatory action research model created  by and for young people directly affected by the issue of institutional violence and neglect. The BEL data and stories from girls in YWEPs constituency were turned  into a zine released quarterly. The BEL research report highlights the finding from the BEL zines collected in 2011.

The BEL report comes from our 2009 research findings which discovered that young people are being denied help from organizations based on their involvement in the sex trade and street economy. because they are homeless, because they are of color and or/ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The research also found that resilience is a stepping stone to resistance. YWEP created a campaign to build their own resilience and resistance to institutional violence and to change policies in place that allow us to be denied help in the first place.

For more information about the BEL research release please contact Stacy Erenberg 312 513 1399

Young Women’s Empowerment Project members discuss research findings: “Girls do what they have to do to survive”

Young Women’s Empowerment Project

Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) recently released their findings from a participatory action research project entitled, , “Girls do what they have to do to survive: Illuminating Methods used by Girls in the Sex Trade and Street Economy to Fight Back and Heal.” YWEP is a youth leadership organization grounded in harm reduction and social justice organizing by and for girls and young women (ages 12-23) impacted by the sex trade and street economies, and is run by girls and women with life experience in the sex trade and street economies.  YWEP members were interviewed about their research by Chicago Public Radio program, Eight Forty-Eight, who posted a podcast of the interview.

In the interview, co-director, Shira Hassan, discusses the way in which YWEP frames the sex trade and street economies,

We use the term sex trade as an umbrella term, and the umbrella term is to really pull all the experiences of what girls are doing to survive all the time, everyday. And so we use it to mean any way that girls are trading sex or sexuality, or forced to trade sex or sexuality, for anything like money, gifts, survival needs, documentation, places to stay, drugs, you know, it gets really complicated and varied. We are also for girls who are involved in the street economy. We make those distinctions just because they connect so clearly. We define the street economy as anything that you do for cash that’s not taxed. Whether that’s hair braiding, whether that’s selling CD’s on the corner, whether that’s an elaborate con, right? Something that you’re gonna do that’s gonna get you money that isn’t reportable.  Both of these methods are ways that girls have found to survive when they’re street-based.

Jazeera Iman, the study’s research coordinator, discussed how the research reveals the relationship between sexual and domestic violence between individuals, and institutional violence:

I heard a lot about girls experiencing exclusion from different services because of their participation in the sex trade, because of drug use, because of participation in the street economy, being of color, being young, being young mothers. I also see a lot of girls relying on each other, as opposed to relying on systems. A good example of that is a girl might turn to another girl for help with a medical problem as opposed to going to a clinic. Individual violence was enhanced by institutional violence, meaning that a girl would experience individual violence, for example, she’d get beat up, and then she would try to go to a clinic or hospital and get care, and they would refuse her because they know she’s involved in the sex trade. So, the individual violence she experienced is compounded upon by the institutional violence. She’s experiencing two forms of violence.

Shira continues,

I would say for us, the surprises in the data were about how much people were being denied help from institutions. And by help, we don’t mean rescue or saving. We mean, I need stitches. We don’t mean, save me from the street. We mean, give me a hug, or I need to file a report against this person. We’re not even talking about elaborate forms of life changing help, we’re talking about really simple emergency intervention type care that was really shocking to hear how infrequently girls were being successful in getting that help from systems.

Shira and Jazeera also discussed how the research challenges definitions of what gets counted as resilience, healing from violence, coping, and self care.

Even though our resilience methods may be untraditional, they still work for us.

One of the key findings we had is that resilience is a stepping stone to resistance. So why we wanted to focus in on that was to show that girls are in fact doing things to take care of themselves, and that, as a whole, our community is often looked at as people who cannot do anything to take care of themselves. … You need to see that we are taking care of ourselves and each other.

Listen to the entire podcast.

Young Women's Empowerment Project

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