Bimbos, ‘bottom girls’ and misogyny in our courts

A “bimbo” who engaged in transactional sex, whose fear was faked, and who now lies to make herself look better.

That’s how Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer recently described California’s First Lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom, arguably one of the state’s most prominent women to testify in the coming weeks, that she was raped by the despicable former mogul in a hotel room during a high. about his dominance in Hollywood.

If there is any doubt that misogyny is rampant and pervasive in our justice system, let the hate of this portrayal sink.

Regardless of what the #MeToo movement has done to society at large, when victims of sexual assault enter the courtroom, they are still tarnished as predators and perpetrators responsible for the violence inflicted upon them.

If the treatment of Siebel Newsom is shocking—though sadly expected—let me tell you about Allison, a poor Latina woman in Northern California who faces prison after being brutally trafficked.

Portrait of Allison, a victim of sex trafficking.

A portrait of Allison, a sex-trafficking victim who doesn’t want her real name used, in a park in San Jose.

(Josie Lepe / For The Times)

Allison is not her real name because she is too afraid to reveal it. Like Siebel, Newsom is headed to court soon — Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to plead with a judge to let her change her plea in a federal felony case from guilty to not guilty so she can at least tell her side of the story. .

“I want [people] to know everything I’ve been through,” she told me last week, her 11-month-old baby stumbling in the background. “I believe this is the only way he will understand everything.

Allison pleaded guilty in 2016 to a single count of conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking, facing a mandatory 10-year prison term if she fails to do so. Prosecutors, who are now seeking a two-year prison sentence, say she helped San Jose tattoo artist/pimp Ariel “Shy” Guizar-Cuellar run a commercial sex ring that involved underage teens. She says she was also one of Shy’s victims and never did him any favors or willingly helped him.

Ariel Guizar Cuellar was sentenced in September 2022 to 38 years in federal prison.

Ariel Guizar-Cuellar was sentenced in September to 38 years in federal prison on charges related to trafficking minors for sex.

(Orange County District Attorney’s Office)

Her ordeal with Shy began the day before Easter in 2015, when Allison, then 20, made the mistake of letting herself be dropped off at his San Jose store looking for help, or at least some understanding. It was a former fling who first reached out to her on Instagram. He once lent her a few hundred dollars when her boyfriend’s car was impounded. He then threatened to release the sex tape he made of her when she didn’t have the money to pay him back.

Allison made some bad decisions.

But in reality, as in many cases of sex trafficking of vulnerable women and girls, the decisions that brought her into Shy’s business were not always her own. Maybe her grandfather molesting her when she was 3 years old had something to do with it. Perhaps the fact that she was raped by her half-brother at the age of 14, the day before she started high school, played a role. Maybe it was her mother who always kicked her out of the house, called her a “harassment whore” and then reported her to the police as a runaway, leaving her distrustful and damaged.

She was spiraling downward that night and Shy saw an opportunity. Allison had a child at age 16 and another shortly after. The children’s father was abusive and took the children away a few months ago. There was no custody agreement and the police told her there was nothing they could do.

Allison with her children in a park in San Jose.

Allison with her children in a park in San Jose.

(Josie Lepe / For The Times)

The children “glued my heart together” after her childhood trauma, she said. Shy promised to help her get them back – help her earn enough money to hire a lawyer. All she had to do was go on “dates,” he told her, with men who wanted companionship, not sex.

“Now I’m like, ‘Why were you so stupid?'” she told me.

Within days, she was on her first date in the back room of a tattoo shop with a man who wasted no time unzipping his pants and raping her. She was so shocked and panicked that she froze, she told me. “I didn’t feel like I could say no,” she said.

Within days, she was one of a handful of women that Shy traded daily.

“I kept thinking about the kids and wanting to get them back,” Allison explained. “Even though it was so horrible, I thought, ‘There will be light at the end of the tunnel.’

But of course there was no light. The shy one kept the money. He began plying her with drugs like Adderall and meth to keep her awake — refusing to let her sleep or eat until she made him $1,000 a day. He made her dance in clubs from 9pm to 2am most nights, cash that didn’t count towards his quota. He connected her phone to his iCloud account and monitored her texts.

He became violent and promises of help turned into threats – that he would kill her children if she tried to leave. He put Allison and two other women against the wall and beat them with electrical cables, swearing to make it worse, they would flinch. He burned her with hot meth, heated it in a pipe and threw it at her. Once he smashed Allison’s face into the outside corner of the wall – the pointy part – when she was about to leave.

“I can’t even explain the feeling,” she said of the attack. “I kind of died right there inside like, ‘OK, I’m here.’

But there was something about Allison that wouldn’t give up.

One night in early July, about three months after Shy first began sexually abusing her, he gave her and two other women $100 and told them to rent a room and not come back until they earned the money. They tried several seedy motels but couldn’t find one cheap enough. With the clock ticking, Allison’s desperation turned to boldness. She suggested they drive to her mother’s house a few hours away. They could eat and rest and then come up with a plan, she told them. For reasons she still doesn’t understand, Shy says it’s okay.

Allison remembers how dawn broke when she arrived on the Central Coast, “and I knew that once I got to my mother, I was free,” she said. “I remember the sun was coming up and I felt like I did it, I did it.

Allison thought that was the end of Shy in her life, despite his constant threats, and it was—until May 2016, when she was arrested while driving to Taco Bell on a warrant she knew nothing about. Prosecutors from the US Department of Justice never even bothered to interview her before charging her. Seven months pregnant at the time, she sat in a police station and screamed as she watched the officers arrest her as if they had pulled a hardened criminal off the streets.

Later, Allison found out the details of her alleged crimes. The three girls Shy trafficked were minors. Allison was accused of facilitating the deal with one of them — a Modesto teenager identified in court documents as BM.

Here’s what the office of Stephanie M. Hinds, United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, says Allison did: She photographed BM and herself for Internet ads. Make an appointment with the “dates” from these ads. Rental of motel rooms. And the worst: posting a video online of BM having sex. Since BM was 17 at the time, this is distribution of child pornography.

Allison said she posted the video at Shy’s behest. In the social media post, she can be heard calling BM derogatory terms — comments that were at the center of prosecutors’ claims that Allison was a willing accomplice.

“When he told me to do something, I did it because I wanted to avoid him hitting me,” Allison told me. She knows it was wrong to post the video, but at the time she was just trying to survive. She did not know that BM was a minor. No excuse. Just a fact. But BM committed suicide last year, making Allison’s actions all the more tragic and devastating.

While most of us are familiar with the fight or flight response to danger, there is also freeze and fawn – the latter a response to appeasement and appeasement in the hope of mercy.

Like many sexual assault survivors, Siebel Newsom described being frozen when she met Weinstein, just as Allison was when she first met him in the back of a tattoo shop. But pandering was always Allison’s go-to method of dealing with it, giving her tormentors what they wanted, whether it was Shy or the accusers, and hoping for the best.

Government prosecutors seem to acknowledge in court documents that Allison was a victim, but they also don’t seem to care.

Prosecutors wrote in a press release and in Shy’s sentencing recommendation that he “subjected the child victims and his co-defendants to physical and sexual abuse,” which earned him a 38-year prison sentence from a federal judge in San Jose last month.

Yet in court documents, prosecutors describe Allison as a “bottom girl,” a pejorative and derogatory term meant to imply that she benefited from and acquiesced in her own exploitation — working with Shy to keep the other women he trafficked in harmony instead of being abused. into submission alone.

That the prosecutors would resort to this kind of shaming and suggestive language really says a lot about the case and their mindset. And who they didn’t charge in this conspiracy says even more about women and justice.

Shy’s “apprentice,” a man who witnesses say was often present and involved, was not charged. Motel owners and officials were not charged, despite repeatedly renting out rooms and seeing sex buyers come and go. Hotel chains that allowed their brands to be used to traffic children were not charged.

No one has been charged at the tattoo shop, despite its facilities being used for prostitution. Not a single John was named in the plot, although there were probably hundreds of them. Websites that posted child pornography ads? Those federal prosecutors were also not indicted, even though other state and federal prosecutors succeeded in shutting down backpage.com, one of the worst offenders — a major use of state power.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Instead, our tax dollars are being used to keep Allison incarcerated, which could mean three of her children end up in foster care, perpetuating the cycle of generational trauma that started this whole mess.

The government opposes Allison’s request to change her plea because it “looks and smells like acting” to them, and not jailing her “undermines the deterrent effect of this prosecution,” according to court documents.

I expect defense attorneys, including the one representing Weinstein, will resort to this kind of bottom feeding. I expect better from the federal prosecutors, even if it means their publication-worthy conspiracy case isn’t as tidy as they’d like.

That this prosecution comes from an office led by a woman (and where the plaintiffs in the courtroom are also women) is just troubling. Like racism, misogyny in our justice system is systemic.

The only thing this prosecution is holding back is Allison’s ability to move on with her life. She is in therapy, raising children, and taking the courses necessary to become a registered nurse. From my perspective, it looks like Allison has gone from blonde to combat. And prosecutors just don’t like that.

A minimum of fair justice requires that she be allowed to plead guilty and tell this story in the courtroom.

Anything less will just be more of the same—courts blaming women for violence against them and their all-too-human responses, whether it’s the privileged first mate of California or the battered Latina of Gilroy.

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