face or no face?

Vanessa D’Alessio wrote a great piece over at TitsandSass around the issue of showing your face in conjunction with your online escort work. My response got eaten by the Intertubes, I think. Instead of reposting, I decided to expand on it a little here.

This article has been at the back of my mind since I read it last week. My arc has been slightly different than hers. When I started stripping, I was fairly out and allowed myself to be photographed, topless, for one of my club’s websites (back when the Internet was indeed tubes that connected computers using gerbils and string). They never removed the picture despite repeated requests, even after I left stripping and began escorting. (It was later removed only because they redid their site.)

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imperfect victims

What every sex worker faces in the fight for justice, whether in the larger activist sense or in the smaller sense of considering whether to file a police report or restraining order.

These thoughts came about due to reading the about the legal defense tactics of Oklahoma cop Daniel Holtzclaw, “The Claw.” He specifically chosen stigmatized women with criminal charges of some kind or another to rape: sex workers, women with drug addictions, and all of them black. He knew they were easy targets and no one would believe them if they ever dared come forward, including a 17yr old. His actions came to light after he sexually assaulted a woman who was none of the above. (Echoes of Gary Ridgeway, anyone?)

Unsurprisingly, his defense is resting on tearing apart the women he assaulted, which is easy to do because they’re imperfect victims. They’re not angels, even the underage teen had an outstanding warrant for trespassing.

The empty-courtroom lack of support for the victims of Holtzclaw is what moved me to write this post. Some of his victims are fellow sex workers. I’m not aware of any sex work org that offered support to them in any form, correct me if I’m wrong. Various women’s groups seem to be shying away from supporting his victims as well, presumably because they are not “perfect” women, especially with drug use and sex work aspects.

These tactics have been used on every woman who has ever filed rape charges against anyone; against any sex worker who has attempted to file charges against anyone for anything. The most recent use of both sex work stigma and the imperfect victim in the courtroom is Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver’s (aka War Machine) defense that since his ex-girlfriend Christie Mack was a porn star, she pre-consented to everything he did to her.

Imperfect victims may not be easy to like. They may do shady or illegal things themselves. They make what others consider bad decisions. (Generally, it’s seen as bad decision on their part to get in the way of their assaulter’s fist or rapist’s penis.)

While most people use the term “unsympathetic” victim, I’m using the term “imperfect” because I think this has much more to do with the victims being easily judged by others for their flaws and shortcomings, as opposed to whether or not they’re relatable and/or pitiable. Their obvious social imperfections make it very easy to “other” them, leading to their condemnation — as opposed to focusing on the perpetrators who harmed them.

Yes, there’s a personal interest here. All Jill and I have been for the past 3.5yrs are imperfect victims (that is, assuming we’re seen as victims at all). I do not like identifying as a “victim” but from a legal standpoint, I am. Like these woman, a predator saw an opportunity and took it. Every lawyer Jill and I have consulted with has been concerned about our sex work coming up in court. Because of this “concern” by gutless lawyers, we’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom because they were too afraid to take on the case. Why was it somehow bad that I was a sex worker injured by my client, yet not seen as legally vulnerable for him to have been a client? Sex work stigma, imperfect victim, female.

Imperfect victims exist everywhere, not just among women and sex workers. Younis Chekkouri, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, is an imperfect victim, despite apparently being haplessly innocent. Isn’t innocence part of the definition of victimhood? Why then, is innocence removed from imperfect victims? Because, somehow, their lives render them less-innocent than the perpetrators who harmed them.

This has been said before, but if a perpetrator is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, how does it manage to work that the victim of certain crimes is automatically guilty, never to be innocent at all?

Every single time another person (usually black, often unarmed) is killed by police, their lives are scrutinized to find just how much of an imperfect victim they are in order to justify their death. The amazing discovery is that, aside from Tamir Rice (a child), none of these victims were perfect. They were human, sometimes making poor decisions, sometimes prior law-breakers, even if the laws broken were minor. Their imperfect victim status is touted as all the reason in the world for their death. It’s certainly a line of logic that sex workers recognize. When it comes to heavily stigmatized people, basically, you’re an imperfect victim because you’re still breathing.

While the antihero is a celebrated figure, imperfect victims open themselves up to re-victimization simply by being imperfect. Why does it work that way? Is it the inherent vulnerability of being a victim in the first place? I think that has a lot to do with it, actually. Only the perfect are allowed to be vulnerable, if you are imperfect then you had it coming to you. An antihero is not a victim. Often, antiheroes seek revenge and this is the opposite of vulnerable. Antiheroes aren’t “othered,” they’re seen as something to emulate.

The best, most meta statement on the antihero/victim dichotomy is summed up neatly in The Crow. Eric Draven comes back from the dead to hunt down and kill the extremely criminal men who killed him and his fiance. As he begins his night of revenge, he ironically tells one of the men (before stabbing him to death), “Victims. Aren’t we all?”

Imperfect victims who have the guts to come forward, especially once their cases make it to court, should be offered moral support — at the very least. This battle gets fought over and over again: every time a child abuse victim speaks up, a rape victim files charges, a sex worker is harmed by a client or someone in their personal life, and so on. At what point does the reverse happen and the perpetrator become an imperfect criminal? Even mass shooters often manage to escape the amount of blame heaped on the average rape victim, as minimizing excuse after excuse is offered for the shooters’ actions.

What makes a perfect victim? Being none of the above. White and male makes a huge difference to accessing justice, or managing not to be the victim of a crime in the first place. Money creates an even bigger gap (some of the people unjustly killed by police in this year have been white men who were poor). These three things alone will prevent the desire to show imperfections. Nice, right? (And who needs moral support when the entire system is perfectly aligned with your needs?)

surgery!

It took three years, but I finally had my neck surgery in June. Details and non-gross pictures to follow.

the problem

The US surgeons and doctors I spent thousands of dollars seeing were wrong in every way. First, they all missed my cracked vertebrae (aka broken neck). My broken neck could have also been very useful in a legal setting to prove the force of the plane crash. I do not have a history of broken bones (though I suspect a couple of my toes have been broken at some point).

Second, they’re all stuck on the idea of “conservative treatment” as opposed to surgically fixing what is wrong. No pills or shots or waiting two years will unherniate a herniated disc. Anyone who tries to claim differently is full of shit (and most of them were full of it).

Third, the US’s sole method of treatment for a herniated cervical disc is spinal fusion. The problem with fusing two vertebrae together with a disc of bone is that it adds abnormal stress to the surrounding bones and tissues, leading to more problems and future surgeries every couple of years. Great for the doctor’s and drug company’s pockets. Not so great for your neck and quality of life.

the solution

I have had very little experience with other countries’ medical systems but decided I could waste a little more money on a consultation with a surgeon (after I forced the front office to give me a cost estimate for the surgery to even know whether or not it was worth my time and money for the consultation). It is the best money I’ve invested in my healthcare yet.

Not only did I get an empathetic, objective doctor, I got one unbound by the US medical industry. Which means he was free to practice medicine in the way that best suits the patient and offers the most health benefits. He is the one who spotted my broken neck in my original July 2012 images. He explained the dangers of cervical fusion and why they prefer disc replacement. (The info on the US disc fusion scam I found out from one of Jill’s doctors.) After getting a new MRI of my neck, the good news is that I only need one disc replaced, the disc between my C5/C6 vertebrae. This is a simple surgery.

X-rays during surgery, lying on my back. It's easy to see the problem.
X-rays during surgery, lying on my back. It’s easy to see the problem.

The replacement “disc” really looks like half of a small plastic pencil sharpener, with grooved teeth on the top and bottom. He said it feels like a cork. There is no metal hardware left in my neck, the natural force of my spine and the grooved teeth hold it in place. I also gained 1/4 inch in height. 🙂

The cost was right at $20,000USD; when you add in consultations, images, pre-surgery workup and post-surgery medication. If I could have had the same surgery in the US, it would have been an extra $10-20K more just for the surgery and overnight stay. My surgery included a private suite because I had to stay overnight for recovery and observation. I had a TV and Wifi, I surfed a little online but mostly slept. I didn’t even bother with the TV. I had a private bathroom rivaling a decent hotel bathroom (with handicap bars for safety reasons). Jill was with me for this and she had a bench couch several feet long, with pillows and blankets if she were going to spend the night. Though she didn’t need to spend the night, it was clear they were as concerned for family members as the patient. The food was actually great, I chose from a menu and had no problem choosing vegan options. I ate like a horse after the surgery (in other words, normally).

Jill just told me today that I did indeed watch TV all afternoon after surgery, episodes of “Criminal Minds.” Apparently I thought I was watching HGTV. I have no memory of this but it makes me laugh. I hope I enjoyed whatever I hallucinated I was watching.

I’m completely sold on the idea of having my main medical care outside the US. I hesitate to use the term “medical tourism” because that implies a one-and-done attitude, which is no longer my attitude. I am in a place that is known for encouraging medical tourism but the doctors are not at all money-hungry, say-anything types. They practice medicine as it is meant to be practiced. I don’t think they realize how much it means to me. If I were a weepy person, I would have wept with gratitude several times during the process.

the surgery

You can read a detailed explanation of what is done during the surgery here. I had osteophytes (aka bone spurs), so those were shaved off while the surgeon was in my neck. The surgery itself took an hour, I think he said. I was fully under. It is the first surgery of my life. I had no major problems recovering, though I suffered an extreme bout of being hot, and had muscle spasms. I vaguely remember this. It does feel like my thermostat has been reset to “hot” and I’ve been cold-natured my whole life. I don’t know if this effect will subside or not. (I am sure the plane crash damaged my pituitary gland and I’ve been running hotter-than-normal since, but this is on a whole new level.) Anesthesia does many things, and different people have different reactions. I wore a soft cervical collar for 3 days after, which made sleeping difficult. I wasn’t doing much else anyway.

Pain was easily controlled with a mild prescription pain-killer. I only took it for a couple days for comfort. The worst pain was living with the injury for three years. Surgical pain? Hardly noticeable. (This is normal for this type of surgery.)

Screws inserted in my bone, the disc is removed.
Screws inserted in my bone, the damaged disc is removed.

Recovery has been fairly easy. About two weeks after, I started having severe pain and stiffness, as if from whiplash. My follow-up visit explained that my muscles were out of shape because it had been three solid years since the plane crash. Some muscles were used to holding my head a certain way, while other muscles basically atrophied. Now that I have normal movement, my muscles are having to adjust.

The surgical follow-up basic neurological test was completely normal. I know that immediately after surgery I raised my left arm over my head and I felt no tingling. I could rest with that arm behind my head, no problem. I can even put a full towel on my head after my shower and no pain!!! I no longer have to use my special lightweight hair-drying turban if I don’t wish to. I can toss my hair back, turn my head both ways. I still have muscle pain when doing any motion that lifts the weight of my head but it is slowly lessening.

My scar is very minimal. I’m using a scar-reducing serum and Scar Away Silicone Sheets religiously. They glued my skin instead of using railroad track stitches. I will have a scar no matter what, but it won’t be more than a faint line in a few months. I recommend the Scar Away sheets; I honestly can’t tell if the serum is having any effect or not.

There are still weird nerve issues going on in my neck and jaw. This is normal because they’ve done some disruptive work on my neck. It’s all surface issues, so I think it’s really just the nerves under my skin that are affected. My skin is clearly unhappy but it is slowly going back to normal. Again, this isn’t anything abnormal from surgery, especially when we’re talking about the skin of the neck, skin that is more delicate than many other places on the body.

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat. This has changed my life for the better. I hoped that it would and it has. It’s a huge step forward in getting my life back and getting my body back. I will always have cognitive issues, no surgery can cure that. But my physical issues are over.

Living without pain and with nearly-full mobility is kind of weird now. (I’ll regain full mobility in time as my muscles get used to it.)

but…

My surgery was on June 12. The plane crash was on June 13, 2012. It took that long. I lived with constant pain and problems and limited mobility and constant fear of further injury for three years. (Something like a fender-bender could have paralyzed or killed me.)

I know I’m not the only person in the world to live with such an injury, or even for that amount of time. I know that being able to earn the money to pay for the surgery in cash is a privilege, even though I was in constant pain. I also know that people who are stuck with American insurance as their sole source of healthcare don’t have the luxury of getting cervical disc replacement, or engaging in medical tourism. I am very thankful that things fell out the way they did because this is the best result for my health I could have hoped for.

Final step: the space is held open, artificial disc inserted, then the screws removed. You can see how the disc shows up.
Final step, the space is held open, artificial disc inserted, then the screws removed. You can see how the disc shows up.

This is something Pig could have paid for out of pocket, no problems at all. While I’m so glad I got a disc replacement and not fusion, the fact remains that I had to work my ass off to pay for surgery to fix the harm he caused me. He has not been held accountable in any way. I have to be responsible for his negligence and sociopathy.

Many people have donated and it helped, especially with basic living expenses when it was needed (thank you!!!) but the bulk of the cost I earned the old-fashioned way. This is no complaint, simply explaining how it was achieved. It has taken me longer than I wanted to fully get back on my feet.

Why did it take so long? Well, there are a lot of reasons, all of which can be laid at Pig’s doorstep. The whole first year was spent simply recovering from the plane crash, trying to assess the extent of my injuries and get treatment, getting over the emotional trauma and preparing to go into hiding. I saw only two new clients that year and one long-time regular. I was in no shape for it, physically or emotionally (my regular knew what was going on and he has been very supportive). The second year was spent living in hiding, seeing no one, and planning subsequent steps, both legal and work-related; which led into this past year, one of the main goals was getting my surgery done. That process began in January with finding a new surgeon.

I made the mistake of not returning to work soon enough and that was due to emotional trauma left by Pig and the plane crash, I’m not going to lie about it. When I did finally return, I was pretty raw and made newbie mistakes because my head wasn’t where it should be. I’m back to being a professional now but it did take some time. Had I gotten my ass back in the sling faster, I could have had my surgery six months sooner. I don’t know that it makes a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but I still place ultimate culpability for the entire situation squarely on Pig (because he is the whole reason all this happened in the first place).

Now that it is done, it’s weird that I don’t have it hanging over my head anymore. I’m free to plan new goals and any money I earn or spend isn’t all about the surgery (especially the spending part). It’s a very free feeling. The lack of pressure is strange but I think I can get used to it.

For the most part, this also frees me to start thinking about/writing about other things. Pigshit continues but unless something truly noteworthy happens, the blog goes back to my random topics (and I have several topics to chew on, of course!).

None of this changes how I feel about Pig or negates anything I said in this post. Not one single whit.

pig in the poke

Massive update…Pig’s been arrested!! You can catch Jill and me gloating on our XXBN show. If you don’t have time to listen, here’s the recap.

Pig has been sending goons to harass friends for our location, up until last week. On Sunday, Jill got the news that Pig had been arrested Thursday 2/26 on felony charges. It seems the Jordan family was able to get an arrest warrant against him on the misappropriation of the funds they gave him to disburse to their children’s trust. By “misappropriation” I mean that Pig simply used the money as his own. No doubt he spent some of those funds last spring to have Jill beaten and to pass his threatening and disjointed messages to me. Whatever he did with the funds, it seems the Jordan family has proof the funds are gone.

Pig may be losing his influence!
Pig may be losing his influence!

I’m hoping that Pig finally loses his law license. One would think; but then again, he seems to have the State Bar well in his rapidly-diminishing pocket. He paid his $250,000 bail and was re-arrested on the same day: 3/2, which is just hilarious to me. If you’d like to sympathize with Pig, his Harris County inmate number is SPN02781148. Here is a PDF summary of his arrest and bond.

Pig had a really bad week last week. His divorce was finalized just a couple days before his arrest. I don’t know the details but I hope she got a lot. She did get a permanent restraining order against him. Based on the questions “reporter” Craig Malisow was asking about Jill, it seems that Pig hired someone to beat his ex-wife (and Malisow idiotically thought Jill did it because Pig said so). Sounds like Pig’s tactic for every woman who doesn’t do what he says. Now perhaps people will believe that he did what we claim he did?

Sunday evening Jill and I went out for a celebratory glass of champagne. (I had two glasses, Jill only had one because of the threat of an alcohol-induced stroke — one of Pig’s many gifts to us.) We watched the sun go down over the clear ocean on a breezy cliff overlooking the surf washing over the rocks and beach below. Pig was spending the exact same moment in a smelly concrete box, probably rooming with someone named Bubba Lee.

We have waited over 2.5yrs and gone through hell for this moment. It was very, very good. The memory is one I will savor for the rest of my life. Jill said she is glad that she has lived long enough to see it happen.

This isn’t the endgame but it is certainly the start of the burning of his little kingdom. We like to think we helped it along. 🙂

coda

In my excitement, a few things I forgot to add.

The Jordan family apparently is concerned about violence from Pig. In one of the documents we found, there was a notation about this very issue. The family may have been granted a restraining order. Would have to look that up again. If anyone cares to look, just do a Criminal Search at the Harris County Court Clerk’s website.

I tried to get a copy of his mugshot but because I’m not a member of the media, I could not. If you are a member of the media and would like to get it, please contact me. The process is simple and done via email.

All this really gives me faith in the power of positive thinking. Back in July 2012, sitting in our lawyer J’s office, signing the representation agreement, Jill and I both in pain from our injuries (which we didn’t know the extent of at that time), I said that I wanted Pig’s pilot’s license, his law license, his marriage and his money. I was specific that I wanted him to lose those things, but not specific in how (I hoped to be the catalyst for these losses but again, it was an open-ended desire). I never lost sight of that goal, no matter what, even when it seemed impossible. I don’t know what he has in his bank account but he must be feeling a bit of a pinch, at the very least. And he still has his law license but considering that his felony arrest was for crimes committed while he was acting as an attorney…he might not have it for much longer.

updates

10/21/15 — We finally got some information on what Pig has done to the Godwin family and it’s Pig being Pig. Basically, he created a trust for a young man who was in an accident. The trust was funded by insurance settlement money. The young man needs lifelong medical care for his injuries. Guess who wiped out the account, and requested even more money to cover his expenses? This began on October 2012. So, if you’re an escort who saw Pig after that date, chances are he paid you by stealing from a fund to take care of a permanently injured person. It makes me wonder just where the money he paid me was coming from. (I also assume the Godwin trust funded the crew in January 2013 who came to Dallas expressly to beat and kill Jill.)

11/13/15 — Pig also stole a dead man’s money. Nice. Classy. (Document to be uploaded when I can, but this info is available in Harris County.) We found this out due to the lien against Pig’s house, an effort to force repayment of the funds he stole, all of which I find very amusing.

Jill and I have finally been able to get a restraining order against Pig, after one of his goons admitted to planning on killing Jill via email. Some of these emails are public, some are not. It is nice, after three years, to finally get some legal support. How loud do we have to scream to be heard? Pig is not a good person, he is not honorable, he is not anything he purports to be. He is a thief and wannabe-murderer. But still a practicing lawyer in Texas. Texas is a fucked-up state.

11/29/15 — One of Pig’s goons mentioned on the restraining order went ahead and broke it by harassing Jill’s family. He was arrested, then released on a $25 bail. It was reasoned that since he was a former police officer turned PI, he just got carried away “defending” his client. Pigs helping Pigs.

life, death, and trust

This is the far more spectacular story I once promised to tell.

I began this history in mid-May, when Jill received her terminal diagnosis. Jill has read this fully and contributed. To the disappointment of many, she hasn’t yet dropped dead. But we have both decided it is time to make public the true story of why and how she is dying. This story started as something else. Not a eulogy, not a memorial, a written memento mori of incidents and echoes.

If there is purpose in all of this, I leave it to someone else to find.

This is what Jill wants to be said, what I want to say, for now, so that it is said.

The history begins and ends with Jill.

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