About twenty-five years ago, a young woman scheduled a job interview at a photo studio. She was a skilled retoucher who could make decent money fixing portraits with a graphite pencil and a sable brush. The studio was where the downtown Pawtucket pedestrian mall used to be, and right on the bus line.
When she arrived for the interview, she found herself in a room with two men who gave off an unwholesome vibe, and as they discussed business she formed a quick escape plan in her mind, but fortunately did not need to book it out the door. When she got up to leave, the conversation went like this–
“We’ll give you a ride home.”
“No, that’s fine, I don’t need a ride.”
We’ll take you home.”
By this time she did not want to be in a car with these guys, or let them see her house. The men were insistent beyond politeness, but she kept saying no, and finally got out of there, vowing to avoid the place and regretting that they had her resume with her address.
To paraphrase Mark Patinkin, I was that girl.
I never heard from them again, and would have forgotten the episode if the studio owner had not been arrested some time later for sexual assault.
The story in the paper as I recall it was that the photographer had enticed an underage girl to pose for him, promising to shoot a model portfolio and make her rich and famous. He persuaded her to take off her clothes, then told her that he would show the pictures to her mother unless she let him have sex with her. The crime was discovered when the girl went to Planned Parenthood, fearing she was pregnant. She told her story to a counselor, who reported it to the police.
This happened in 1984. The Providence Journal did not put its archives online until 1986, and the only way to find a citation for this story was to go to the Providence Public Library, search through index cards and look at microfilm.
I couldn’t remember which year this happened, but I had help from some people who used to work for the Pawtucket Times. The story was a minor local scandal, and the photographer was ‘a character’ who used to hang out at Tom’s Diner. Not a scary guy at all unless you were a fifteen-year-old girl he was extorting. I found only one reference in the card catalogue, and one article–
Providence Journal May 25, 1984 p.C9
‘Pawtucket businessman charged for coercing teenager into sex’
PAWTUCKET– A Pawtucket man was arraigned in District Court yesterday on a charge of first-degree sexual assault on a girl, 15, and Judge Anthony J. Dennis set bail at $100,000 with surety pending a grand jury hearing.
———–is charged with coercing a minor to have sexual relations by threatening to distribute nude photographs of her.
Capt. John Tomlinson, prosecution officer, said the girl said she answered a newspaper ad for girls interested in a modeling career.
The rest of the article says that Capt. Tomlinson wanted the bail set at $200,000. It sounds like the police thought he was a real bad guy.
I can’t find the article that cites Planned Parenthood, I’m still looking.
The photographer paid $10,000 surety, and the records posted online at ri.gov show many hearings and court dates ending in a plea of no contest to a lesser charge of 3rd degree sexual assault. I’m not a lawyer, sounds like a plea bargain to me.
This assault was a felony crime then, and now we are even less tolerant of child pornographers and child molesters. The use of coercion means the crime fits the definition of human trafficking, even though the girl was not taken out of state.
I’m not naming the offender, I’m told he has died and he’s not the point of the story. The point is that Planned Parenthood is accessible health care and advocacy for women who have few other options. The staff at Planned Parenthood are bound to confidentiality. They have been targeted on trumped up charges of aiding human trafficking when in fact they are an agency where women can find help and advocacy.
Contraception is under political attack, and if women’s health is collateral damage, it’s the poor and the young who will suffer the most. Many of us can remember a time when Planned Parenthood was the only medical provider we could afford. Planned Parenthood saves lives.
Feministe lists some of the services the House of Representatives voted to de-fund…
One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood’s services. The vast majority of care — more than 90% — offered at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventative. Every year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer — screenings which save lives. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses give more than 830,000 breast exams — exams which save lives. Every year, nearly 2.5 million patients receive contraception from Planned Parenthood — a service which prevents enormous numbers of unintended pregnancies and, by extension, an enormous number of abortions. Every year, Planned Parenthood administers nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV — tests and treatments which save lives, extend lives, preserve fertility, and maintain reproductive health.
Reproductive health is not a luxury, it’s an essential part of women’s health. Politicians want to score points by playing with women’s lives. We won’t let them.