J-1 Student Visa Abuse: Foreign Students Forced To Work In Strip Clubs, Eat On Floor

The Huffington Post reports this week on an investigation by the Associated Press:

Lured by unsupervised, third-party brokers with promises of steady jobs and a chance to sightsee, some foreign college students on summer work programs in the U.S. get a far different taste of life in America.

An Associated Press investigation found students forced to work in strip clubs instead of restaurants. Others take home $1 an hour or even less. Some live in apartments so crowded that they sleep in shifts because there aren’t enough beds. Others have to eat on floors…

Students routinely get threatened with deportation or eviction if they quit, or even if they just complain too loudly…

Strip clubs and adult entertainment companies openly solicit J-1 workers, even though government regulations ban students from taking jobs “that might bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute.”

…Instead of waitressing for a summer in Virginia as she’d been promised, however, Katya and another student were forced to strip at a club in Detroit. Their handler confiscated their passports and told them they had to pay $12,000 for the travel arrangements and another $10,000 for work documents, according to court records.

Katya said he eventually demanded she come up with $35,000 somehow, by dancing or other means.

“I said, ‘That’s not what I signed here for. That’s not right.’ He said, ‘Well, you owe me the money. I don’t care how I get it from you. If I have to sell you, I’ll sell you.'”

The women were told that if they refused, their families in Ukraine would be killed, Katya said…

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If stripping is such a lucrative, empowering experience for women, how come it takes fraud and coercion to get many to do it?

See also:

Valley Advocate Website Announces 2008’s “Best” Adult Entertainment Club; Holsopple’s Inside Report on Stripping (explicit language)
Women report that they have to have the right attitude to make money (Ronai 1992). This ordinarily was described as being drunk, high or numb (Forsyth and Deshotels 1997). Others feel it required tolerance. “The ability to ignore customers for just being there.”

…The women in this study condemn the men associated with stripping and the impact stripping has on them as the worst parts of stripping. Women do not like the way customers treat them (Thompson and Harred 1992). Furthermore they say they do not like talking to customers, asking men for money, and resent having to have to deal with them at all. They find customers irritating because they are drunk and have negative attitudes towards women. Women characterize customers as scum, psycho mama’s boys, rapists and child molesters, old perverted men, idiots, ass-holes, and pigs. Strippers are largely disgusted by customers and describe them as pitiful and pathetic, stupid and ignorant, sick, controlling and abusive.

The Truth About Lap Dancing: A Performer Speaks Out
Lap dancers don’t have employment rights like everyone else. They are self employed so they aren’t paid a wage, they don’t get holiday pay, sick pay, all the other things which people are entitled to in other jobs. Instead they work like prostitutes, they only get money if they get a man. And they will get as much out of each man as they can. And unlike enforcing licensing terms, when it came to the regulations enforced on the women, the management was absolute: you went on the pole or you were fined £20. You would then be called to the pole again and if you missed that you would be fined another £20. And so on…

Getting drunk was considered by many to be the aim of the night as well as making money. If you had managed to get drunk on other people’s money then you had done well…

Former Stripper Tells Easthampton Hearing about the Life: It Stinks
Harrison then told the story of her eight years working in strip bars in four states, including Massachusetts. Her story, which she said was not for the “squeamish,” included harassment by clients and management and the prevalence of venereal disease in strip bars.

A Review of Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers

A Review of Sherry Lee Short, “Making hay while the sun shines: The dynamics of rural strip clubs in the American Upper Midwest, and the community response”
…In Wahpeton, North Dakota, a town of 8,700 people, representatives from the local crisis center testified before the City Council in 1996 that since the opening of the town’s second strip club, there had been a 96.6% increase in sexual assault and domestic violence complaints. Victims often reported that the abuse happened after their male partners returned from one of the clubs. (p.316) An increase in crime in the neighborhood, including two extremely violent fights outside the clubs, also aroused public sentiment in favor of regulating the clubs more strictly…

The New Yorker: “The Countertraffickers”
Traffickers have become smarter…about recruitment, increasingly using a technique known, with some dissonance, as “happy trafficking.” (Anti-trafficking organizations object to the phrase.) Happy trafficking involves a Faustian deal. Victims who have worked off their “debts” (invented by pimps, arbitrarily increased by “fines” and alleged costs, and fully reinstated, if not increased, with each resale) are permitted to go home on the condition that they send back someone else–or two or three someone elses–to take their place. In order to make the sales pitch persuasive, they must represent their own emigration experience as having been a positive one. They may sometimes admit that it involved prostitution, but never that it was an onerous, degrading job in which, say, they were given no choice about the number of clients, what sexual services to provide, or whether condoms would be used…