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Black, Vulnerable and Trafficked, Part 6: How Selling Sex Impacts Black Mental Health

Although California Senate Bill 357 was intended to alleviate arrests of willing sex workers under anti-loitering laws, it opened up a Pandora’s box loophole that hinders the ability of law enforcement to halt human trafficking, especially of young Black and Brown girls.

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One key to healing is being able to talk about it. But access to culturally astute mental health professionals is hard to come by.
One key to healing is being able to talk about it. But access to culturally astute mental health professionals is hard to come by.

By Tanya Dennis and Vanessa Russell

 

Although California Senate Bill 357 was intended to alleviate arrests of willing sex workers under anti-loitering laws, it opened up a Pandora’s box loophole that hinders the ability of law enforcement to halt human trafficking, especially of young Black and Brown girls.

Over the last five weeks we’ve covered multiple ways that SB 357 and legislation like it allows sex buyers to prey on the vulnerabilities and ongoing economic instability of Black communities.

Each of the vulnerabilities – repeated trauma of poverty, racism, drug addiction, broken families — paint pictures of the difficult position that Black girls are placed in as they choose the sex industry over homelessness and hunger.

But is it really a choice when you have no other options?  Black people are continually faced with coercive opportunities from the sex industry.  Because they are overrepresented in the sex industry, many may think they want to be there or that they should be there, but a deeper look reveals that sex work for many is not a choice but a means to survive.

Being trafficked, aka sold to a sex buyer against one’s will, has a tremendous impact on mental health causing Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), depression, and panic disorders.

In a Psychology Today article, survivors share similar feelings:

  • “I was going through life on auto-pilot”
  • “I was always self-blaming”
  • “I felt shame and fear”
  • “I was not in touch with myself”
  • “With so many secrets I felt I had to keep, I didn’t want to get really close to anyone. I didn’t want people to know what I had been through, and I didn’t want to face these things myself.”

Even those who say they voluntarily worked in the sex industry said that being reduced to a product affected their mental health.

In a Proletarian Feminist article titled “Sex Work,” Esperanza, a socialist, feminist, transgender Latina woman, and survivor of the sex trade shared that “the reality of being a transgender prostitute was not so simple. What started out as empowering in my mind quickly became a trap I couldn’t escape.

In general, 16% of the Black population is experiencing mental illness, according to a Mental Health America story on the subject.  It’s no surprise that mental disorders are so prevalent in the Black community where 40% of those who are sexually exploited are Black and 1 in 5 Black women are survivors of rape.

One study reported by University of Pittsburgh Professor Rebecca Thurston in 2021 showed that people who experience sexual assault are at a higher risk of brain damage including cognitive decline, dementia, and stroke

Solving the Black mental health problem is complex. First, mental health services are not widely accepted in the Black community.  There is still a stigma about seeking help, LCSWAmy Morin wrote for VeryWellMind in October of 2020.  Historically, the Black community has characterized traditional counseling as something that you do when you are crazy and have completely lost control.

Talking about feelings in a chaise lounge chair and needing to take medicine can be viewed as a sign of weakness.   Also, when Black people do buy into receiving mental health services, they want them from someone they feel comfortable with, someone who is culturally astute.

Unfortunately, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that “only 2% of the estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. are Black, and just 4% of psychologists are Black.”

What would happen if we had more representation in the Black mental health space that integrated important parts of our faith with clinical educational insights that can inform our healing?

We could help Black people understand that they can rewire their brains with an improved thought life and at the same time continue to pray about negative thoughts as they arise.

Several evidence-based studies have shown that prayer is highly effective in traumatized patients and yet government agencies fight tooth and nail to keep faith-based practices and services separate from government sanctioned clinical versions of mental health services.

The Oakland Frontline Healers has formed a Black mental health providers coalition.  This group is making great strides to meet the needs of Black clients in non-traditional ways.

Unfortunately, when bills like SB 357 are passed without consideration for these issues and allocating funding to exit services including mental health, we are not able extend these resources to the people who need it the most.

Most of the services that Black people receive are pro bono which is indirectly taking from the Black clinician that has earned their way into this profession but once again cannot serve their own people without going broke.

This vicious cycle of Black people having to make all the sacrificing for our own people must end.  It is time for legislators to discontinue using black pain to pass legislation and leave Black people with the bill.

Robust funding of exit services such as mental health, outreach, housing, workforce development is long overdue.

Tanya Dennis is the facilitator for Oakland Frontline Healers and Vanessa Russell is the executive director of Love Never Fails.

 

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Art

Mayor Breed, Actor Morris Chestnut Attend S.F.’s Indie Night Film Festival

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry. The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

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(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell
(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell

By Y’Anad Burrell

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry.  The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

A weekly celebration of cinematic artistry designed to elevate emerging talent while providing a platform for networking and collaboration, entrepreneur Dave Brown created Indie Night to bridge gaps within the filmmaking community by fostering connections between like-minded individuals worldwide. The Indie Film Festival currently has over 450 film submissions worldwide, and its cinematic vault only continues to grow.

The festival showcased over 10 short films and trailers, and featured Faces of the “City: Fighting for the Soul of America,” produced by veteran actor Tisha Campbell.  This film is about the vibrancy and legacy of San Francisco. The festival also previewed “When It Reigns,” a trailer by Oakland’s burgeoning filmmaker Jamaica René.

Indie films have not just challenged traditional cinematic norms; they’ve shattered them. These films offer unique storytelling perspectives and push creative boundaries in truly inspiring ways. With their smaller budgets and independent spirit, they often tackle unconventional subjects and portray diverse characters, providing a refreshing alternative to mainstream cinema. As a result, indie films have resonated with audiences seeking an escape from formulaic blockbusters and are increasingly celebrated for their authenticity and originality.

Organizers say the mission of Indie Night is to elevate the craft of independent artists and creators. It also provides a venue for them to showcase their work, network, and exchange information with new and established creatives. It creates a community that values and supports independent art.

For more about the Indie Night Film Festival, visit www.indienightfilmfestival.com.

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Bay Area

Sen. Wiener, Mayor Breed Announce Bill to Shut Down Fencing of Stolen Goods

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods. Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

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By Oakland Post Staff

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods.

Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

“The sale of stolen items in San Francisco has created unsafe street conditions and health and safety hazards that have negatively impacted residents, businesses, City workers, and legitimate street vendors,” states a statement released by the mayor’s office.

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief Bill Scott praised the effort.

“I want to thank Mayor Breed and Senator Wiener for identifying new ways to combat the illegal fencing of stolen goods. This will help our hard-working officers continue to make progress in cracking down on retail theft,” said Scott.

Under the legislation, San Francisco can require vendors to obtain a permit to be able to sell items deemed as frequently stolen by asking for documentation that the merchandise was obtained legitimately, such as showing proof of purchase.

The legislation also establishes that those in violation would receive an infraction for the first two offenses and an infraction or a misdemeanor and up to six months in county jail for the third offense.

Under this bill, people can still:

  • Sell goods with a permit
  • Sell prepared food with a permit
  • Sell goods on the list of frequently stolen items with a permit and proof of purchase.

“In San Francisco we are working hard to make our streets safer and more welcoming for all. SB 925 would greatly help us get a handle on the sale of stolen goods, all while taking a narrow approach that specifically targets bad actors,” said Breed.

Wiener says the cultural richness of San Francisco and the livelihoods of legitimate street vendors are threatened when bad actors are allowed to openly sell stolen goods on the city’s streets.

“With this bill we’re taking a balanced approach that respects the critical role street vending plays in our community while holding fencing operations accountable for the disruption they cause. It’s critical that everyone feel safe on our streets, including street vendors and neighborhood residents,” said Wiener.

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