Dec 17 Phila Organizer, Melanie Dante pictured here
Today a day that honors women who have been violated and killed while in the line of sex work. This day called “Violence Against Sex Workers” Dec 17 is a day where we come together to bring light and commemorate those women across the world who went unnoticed and lived a life that perhaps wasn’t a choice. Today as we honor many, I want to bring memory to my first cousin Donna Gentile a Philadelphia native who was one of those girls to go. To go to a place called “murder” to go to a place of death, to go to a place of being killed, to go to a place of strangulation, to go to a place of fear ,to go to a place of silence, to go to a place of missing, to go to a place of nobody cares.
But today we collectively and consciously bring forth the care, compassion and love of these devastated human beings that put their lives on the line which has given us women standing here today an empowerment and they have given us the opportunity to cultivate strength and togetherness for all women who have been killed, afraid, hurt and demoralized.
Donna; a spirit of horses. A vulnerable soul who became the voice for her horse where she found love and safety in the silence of this spiritual connection. The presence and strength of any animal is like a big open heart that envelopes life and grounds our souls to embodiment.
Let’s together embody the souls of Donna and all of those beautiful women that went missing and opened a pathway of consciousness for us all. I extend apologies for those women who are no longer with us; and collectively the openness of our hearts is the memory and blessing of their souls alive. May we lift our spirits and their souls to a place of sovereignty and light.
Anita DeFrancesco, M.A. December 17, 2017
YOUTUBE FILM CREDIT: Professor Jerry Kathleen Limberg of San Diego California State University
“It matters that she was a human being, it matters that she died a brutal murder regardless of who committed the crime”. Professor Jerry Limberg
SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Prostitute Donna Gentile’s autopsy will remain sealed, even though it’s been more than 30 years since the police informant’s high-profile murder.
Gentile, 22, was found naked, beaten and strangled off Sunrise Highway in 1985, five weeks after she implicated two San Diego Police officers in a prostitution scandal.
Reports that the killer had stuffed gravel in Gentile’s mouth led some to wonder if she was murdered because she talked.
In her May 1985 testimony before the Civil Service Commission, Gentile said that SDPD officer Larry Avrech had been to her apartment on several occasions, and that the two had sexual contact.
Avrech, at the time age 32, denied having sex with Gentile but he was fired from the police department nonetheless for giving Gentile inside information on vice raids.
Gentile also testified about traveling to the Colorado River with SDPD Lieutenant Carl Black and another SDPD officer. Black was demoted to sergeant for contacting Gentile’s probation officer on her behalf.
In December 2015, CBS News 8 requested the San Diego County Medical Examiner release Gentile’s autopsy under the California Public Records Act.
The agency issued a denial letter, which said the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department wants to keep the autopsy sealed:
Until this directive is rescinded by the investigating agency, we are unable to release any information or provide any copies of our reports regarding this case… The public interest in the release of these reports and the information contained within does not outweigh the public’s interest to withhold this information as it may interfere with law enforcement’s investigation and/or a successful prosecution.
NHI Billboard Artist Credit: Deborah Small, Scott Kessler, Elizabeth Sisco,Carla Kirkwood, & Louis Hock
NHI is an acronym for “No Humans Involved”: In the 1980s of America, police in LA used to refer to the murders of prostitutes, gang members, and drugs addicts (majority black and in poverty) as NHI, “No Humans Involved.” This attitude is still prevalent today.
The “NHI” — No Humans Involved — movement resulted from activists coming together to show the power of women and to expose the truth of how “marginal” people are treated. The project was unveiled on February 19, 1992, with two billboards that faced both the county administration center and the San Diego Police headquarters, bearing the picture of Donna and the logo “NHI.” The goal of the NHI project was to pay tribute to the murdered women, raise public awareness about the series of murders and the botched police investigation, and relate the local reaction to the crimes to larger social attitudes toward general violence. The purpose of NHI was to humanize the victims and demonstrate that violence against any woman is unacceptable.
About two dozen activists gathered at Center City’s Thomas Paine Plaza on Sunday to mark the 14th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers with a grim recital of 2017 murder victims and new hope that local officials are finally taking seriously their pleas to decriminalize sex work.
“This day is a day where we come together to bring light and commemorate these women across the world who went unnoticed – and lived a life that perhaps wasn’t a choice,” said the vigil’s main speaker, Anita DeFrancesco, a local activist whose cousin Donna Marie Gentile was a sex worker who went missing and was found murdered in San Diego in 1985.
DeFrancesco and the event organizers hoped their yearly vigil – which has drawn little attention in past years – could rally support for their goals of keeping sex workers out of jail, as well as encouraging more local support to end violence against the community.
The vigil organizers were encouraged by the attendance of a surrogate for Philadelphia district attorney-elect Larry Krasner, T.J. Ghose, an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Ghose said the incoming DA had pledged during his campaign to drastically reduce criminal prosecutions of sex workers as part of his goal to reduce the number of women of color behind bars.
“Sex work is a gateway,” said Ghose, who has worked with a 70,000-member union of sex workers in India. “If we’re going to end mass incarceration, prosecuting sex workers has to stop.”
Under an initiative known as LEAD, for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, law enforcement and prosecutors working under outgoing District Attorney Kelley Hodge have already made strides in diverting women who once might have been charged with prostitution into social-service programs, Ghose said.
Melanie Dante, one of the vigil organizers, said the event has drawn support from an array of nonprofit community groups since the first one in 2012, but had never before received an endorsement from a prominent politician. “The stigma of sex work proved too controversial to be identified with,” she said, “which greatly saddens and disappoints us.”
The global anti-violence event was launched in 2003 in response to the Green River serial killings of sex workers in the Pacific Northwest; its founder was a Philadelphia native, a well-known sex educator and adult performer who goes by the name Annie Sprinkle. Sunday’s attendees gathered in a tight circle under a steely-gray December sky as shoppers bound for the nearby Christmas Village strolled past.
When the vigil was initially planned, organizers said they would read the names of 31 sex workers murdered across the United States in 2017, but then the number grew to 34 with three additional killings just this week. Dante said the problem fails to draw attention from the news media or public officials, even though studies show sex workers face a risk of violence on the job as much as 400 times the average person on the job.
One of the vigil attendees – Carl Henkle, 43, a nurse-practitioner from Lancaster County who has worked in correctional facilities there – said he wanted to show that supporting sex workers “is sort of a humanitarian issue, because when sex workers are criminalized and need health-care services, they’re shut out.”
“It’s a community of people who are literally not allowed to speak up when they’re being victimized or attacked, which is a human-rights violation,” said co-organizer Eris Vayle, 32, of Philadelphia. She explained that the risky legal status for sex workers leaves them exposed to predatory behavior by law enforcement officers.
Phoebe Jones, coordinator of the Crossroads Women’s Center in Germantown, agreed that criminalizing sex work makes women much less likely to report violence, and thus leaves them more vulnerable.
Many of those who rallied to show support on Sunday were men, such as Ethan Jacobi, 32, a hospital data analyst and a local podcaster who tried to produce a program about sex workers and said he found their myriad problems to be overwhelming.