Burlington City Council hears from professionals that sex trade and prostitution are connected

Burlington City Council on Monday heard what the public thinks about a charter change proposal to eliminate regulation of prostitution in the city — and many people argued prostitution and the sex trade are inseparable, despite some councilors’ claims to the contrary.

If the council approves of the change, the measure would appear as a charter change proposal for Town Meeting Day voters to decide on March 1.

Stephanie Clark, CEO of Amirah, an organization that advocates for victims of sex trafficking, was among the first people to address councilors. She shared some concerning data.

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CONNECTED TO THE SEX TRADE: Professionals who work with former sex workers say sex trafficking and prostitution are strongly connected.

“We work with women who are U.S. citizens, and to date, 61 percent of the women we have served in our residential program were sold for sex in Vermont during their time in the sex trade,” Clark said.

Her organization has served more than 400 sex trafficking survivors over the past decade. She said Burlington is widely known as a hotspot for sex work.

“That is particularly active in Burlington and is directly related to the gang activity,” Clark said. “Those who survived the Vermont sex trade experience brutalization from gangs, hospitalizations from broken pelvises, complete jaw replacements, severe beatings, physical humiliation, and access to opiates and fentanyl — along with continued support in abusing these substances.”

She added that former workers and their family members have been targeted by traffickers and gang members, and often have to flee their homes.

“Should this [measure pass] you are guaranteed an increase in violence and an increased in the most marginalized here in Vermont continuing to be exploited and trafficked,” Clark said.

Speaking over Zoom, local resident Christine Rigo spoke in favor of the charter change. She argued the change is needed to eliminate stigmas about prostitution.

“This is a great first step in destigmatizing sex work — helping our erotic laborers feel seen and recognized as the valued community members they are,” she said. “If the goal is to destigmatize, then promoting of the stereotype that sex workers are all fems and taking their agency by infantizing them all as helpless victims is not removing a stigma, it’s just changing it.”

Alisa Bernard, director of public policy for Thistle Farms in North Pomfret, has spent more than 25 years battling harmful policies that promote the exploitation of women. She suggested that if the city wants to repeal this language concerning prostitution from its laws, there should be new language to address that sex traffickers need to get out of that business.

Bernard read a letter on behalf of the sex-trafficking survivors that she’s worked with:

If the me-too movement has taught us anything it’s that the voices of survivors should be heard, respected, and believed. In the past months, survivors of the sex trade have stepped forward and provided testimony during the Burlington City Council meetings, we have spoken up against the city’s choice to repeal all language in your ordinances and charters regarding prostitution. But instead of listening to survivors, our voices have been dismissed.

Bernard also said that the city may have dismissed such warnings because they come from sex trafficking survivors, rather than prostitutes.

She said that before the council votes, the councilors should know that “prostitution has everything to do with trafficking. … Trafficking exists because of demands for commercial sex. When that demand is normalized through policies — or in this case abolishing policies — it … creates easier on-ramps into the sex trade for those who are already marginalized among us.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken and Public domain
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9 thoughts on “Burlington City Council hears from professionals that sex trade and prostitution are connected

  1. If you access youporn, pornhub, etc, you are a part of this. Many of those women are objectified and raped for $. Same stuff. Purposeful degradation of the nuclear family and values not established by the corrupt government. Its not too l as late, fix yourselves!

  2. I don’t understand why everyone is worried about females being used and abused, we are talking about legalizing prostitution in Burlington Vermont which implies most likely we are discussing male prostitution.

  3. Lets face it…its men that force women into prostitution on every level.
    Lets start there – some honest looking in the mirror and owning how this trade has existed at all, and what its ALWAYS TIED TO: violence, death, drugs, sex trafficking and human trafficking for sex including children, and corruption and perversion of the worst kind.
    Why does anyone in Vermont want to encourage that kind of depravity?
    That is seriously putting an open for business sign on the door for Satanists: come to Vermont where child, sex and human trafficking and all the drugs you can think of… cuz you know… you can’t DO any of that without being completely numb, don’t’cha’know?!
    This is NOT women driving this on any level.
    No woman in the trade except Ghislaine Maxwell will tell another woman “Its good for you honey.”
    There must be a lot of pressure from retiring pedophiles to assure a constant supply or something. Cuz I’m pretty sure the Tunbridge Fair was the target of a lot of Vermont concern when it was revealed children were being trafficked through there in the not so distant past (Cathy O’Brien, TRANCE FORMATION OF AMERICA).
    Someone is bound and determined to make Vermont their version of dystopia.
    They clearly have all of us in mind, and we should be thankful because its, for our good.

    • AIO,

      Of course, it’s all the fault of men. Women have no free will. They are just fragile emotional ​morons easily manipulated by ingenious but evil men and everyone knows it!

    • Did you say “pedophile “? These days folks call that a MAP…..”minor attracted person “….and to them its perfectly acceptable, until its their kids.

      DID EVERYONE SEE MAYOR WEINBURGER ‘S HOUSE JUST GOT BROKEN INTO???? AH THE CIRCLE TURNS……

  4. Where are all the ” Pink Hat ” liberal women, screaming about this abuse of these
    corner walking ” Ladies “……

    Burlington’s City Council aka, ” Gaggle of Fools ” that are honestly thinking about
    making streetwalkers a ” legit business adventure “, you can’t make this stuff up
    so will these whores be paying taxes, have health insurance, as sooner or later
    they will need it.

    So Burlington’s property owners need to step up and disband this ” Gaggle Of Fools ”
    the Queen City has become a homeless shelter and now a whore house !!

    How pathetic.

    • of course they will plan to tax…will need surveillance though, so that will create a job or 3…….This is CRAZY MAKING. Where is the common sense?

  5. So we again see what Progressive thinking is all about…….Unbelievable!

    The Burlington City Council has nearly ruined the city’s police department with its bone-headed “Defund the Police” disaster. Now they’re getting ready to present Act II of their farce that has to date gone so wrong…….When do the good people of Burlington say “enough”?

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