BELLA ROBINSON BIO
Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) is a national grassroots social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities and focuses on ending violence and stigma through education, community building, and advocacy. Founded in 1973, COYOTE looked to improve the lives of sex workers, end the criminalization of sex work, and erase the stigma associated with sex work and these goals remain pressing over four decades later. COYOTE RI is the Rhode Island chapter of this nationwide organization and is committed to the safety, autonomy, and human rights of people in the sex trade. COYOTE RI stands in solidarity with the many social justice movements intersectional to our own, including but not limited to Black Lives Matter, disability rights, criminal justice reform, the undocumented, the homeless, gender equality and the LGBTQ movement, and the rights of the working class. COYOTE RI recognizes that many people choose to do sex work due to limited options in other sectors, often due to marginalization and discrimination along the lines of race, gender, ability, sexuality, and immigration status and that those who do choose to engage with the sex industry should not be further criminalized. As an organization, COYOTE RI has existed for 8 years to support sex workers in crisis, serve as an advocate for sex workers in the political sector, and provided education on the reality of sex workers and how best to be an ally to sex workers in the New England area.
Bella Robinson is a sex worker’s rights activist who has worked in the sex industry for over thirty years. She founded the Rhode Island Chapter of Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE RI) in 2009 and has served as the executive director since. As the director of COYOTE RI, Bella looks to build and strengthen support networks for sex workers in Rhode Island and she works in close collaboration with activists nationwide. Bella is a strong proponent of centering the voices of sex workers in policies that affect our population. In the late 90’s she was formerly incarcerated for five years at Lowell Correctional Institute in Florida, and during incarceration experienced sexual assault at the hands of the state. It is with this perspective that she advocates for sex worker rights as a solution to policies that seek carceral redress for sex trafficking crimes. Her personal experiences with the criminal justice system over the past four decades give her unparalleled expertise in the areas of sex trafficking and sex worker rights.
Bella serves as a board member of the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), a California based non-profit supporting the decriminalization of prostitution. ESPU envisions sex workers gaining agency through the model of industrial organizing for legal, occupational, social and economic rights. Bella also serves as a board member and secretary of The Erotic Service Providers Union Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP), a diverse community-based erotic service provider-led group which seeks to empower the erotic community and advances sexual privacy rights through legal advocacy, education, and research. In our legal advocacy, we seek to create change through a combination of impact litigation, policy statements, and voicing our concerns for our community in political arenas. Through educational training and outreach, we will empower and capacity builds to address discrimination of erotic service providers and the greater erotic community. Lastly, we strive to archive and rate much of the research which has been done by and of the sex worker community, and build on this history with research which seeks to be increasingly inclusive, respectful, and ultimately, relevant to the erotic service providers and the larger erotic community.
Bella is also on the advisory committee of the Sex Worker Outreach Project Behind Bars (SWOP Behind Bars), an organization that supports incarcerated sex workers. With SWOP Behind bars, Bella works to send over 1,000 incarcerated sex workers a newsletter every month. Incarcerated sex workers are also supported through a pen pal programs, a book program and 6 paralegal correspondence courses every year. SWOP Behind Bars and COYOTE also act as case managers and help those being released to access reentry services. Most importantly, Bella works to create community among sex workers and advocate for their collective rights.
Through COYOTE, Bella also networks with several other sex worker rights organizations nationally and internationally. Through these networks, she is able to rally around people within the sex workers community who have been victims of physical violence as well as state-sponsored violence. Bella has worked to support many youths who have engaged in survival sex and the criminal justice system refused to acknowledge their status as a domestic sex trafficking victim. Bella works with activists from other organization to educate public defenders offices county by county, so they better understand how to best defend people with prostitution-related charges.
Bella has also upheld COYOTE’s history of advocating for more just sex work policy nationwide. In 1976, COYOTE sued the Rhode Island Attorney General, in the landmark case COYOTE vs. Roberts, regarding the constitutionality of the state’s prostitution laws, resulting in the decriminalization of indoor sex work between consenting adults. In 2009 indoor sex work was recriminalized and since then Bella has undertaken research projects within the state to better understand how this policy change impacted sex workers directly. Bella is a vocal advocate for the rights of sex workers and the creation and implementation of a policy that protects the safety and autonomy of sex workers.
Bella was also featured in the 2013 award-winning film American Courtesans as Gina Robinson. Bella is now known around the world as an authentic activist and advocate with a lifetime of lived experience in the sex industry.
BELLA ROBINSON / ACTIVIST EDUCATION
December 10th 2012 Bella and Christina Parreira presented on “Sex Worker Rights” for Vicky J Wysoczanska’s Human Sexuality Class at Rutgers University
July 2013 Bella and Maxine Doogan presented on ESPLER v GASCON and the Erotic Service Providers Union at the 5th Annual Desiree Alliance conference
November 4th, 2013 Bella presents on “Sex Workers’ Rights, the trafficking narrative and the effects of criminalization” at the University of New Hampshire for Dr. Ryan’s class, After a screening of the 2012 award winning Film “American Courtesans” which featured Bella as Gina Robinson
December 11th, 2013 Bella presented on “Sex Worker Rights” for Vicky J Wysoczanska’s Human Sexuality Class at Rutgers University
May 5th- May 11th, 2014 Bella and Miss R, both members of ESPU (The Erotic Service Providers Union) attend the Regina v Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference
July 26 -July 31st, 2014 Bella attends the 39TH Annual Northeast Regional Summer School for Union Women at Queen’s University
October 2014 Bella is certified in “Human Trafficking” by Ohio University in affiliation with Coursera Online learning, becoming more acquainted with the many flaws of conflating trafficking with sex work.
November 5th, 2014 Bella presents on Sex Workers’ Rights at the University of New Hampshire for Dr Ryans class.
August- November 2014 Bella participated in a weekly study group by phone conference with members of several sex workers rights organizations in the US, and they studied the book “Taking the Crime Out of Sex Work, New Zealand Sex Workers Fight To Decriminalization”
March 12th, 2015 Bella attended an alumni event at Brown University and confronted Katherine Chon the co-founder of Emerita Polaris Project regarding Polaris Project publishing false statistics on trafficking. This resulted in Polaris Project taking down the page on their website that said the average age of entry was 13.
April 27th, 2015 Bella presented on the “policing identities panel” at Brown University.
April 30th, 2015 Bella and Professor Shih attended a conference “R.I. task force developing protocols on handling sex-trafficking cases”
November 10th, 2015 Bella presented at Southern Connecticut State University for DR Alan Brown, Assistant Professor of Criminology
July 26th-30th 2015 Bella and M Dante who are members of ESPU (The Erotic Service Providers Union) attended the 40th Annual Northeast Regional Summer School for Union Women at Penn State University
September 19th, 2015 Bella was a keynote speaker at The Libertarian Party of Connecticut 2015 convention
November 18, 2015, Bella hosted Alaskan native Tara Burns for a class “Community Action Research Methods: Policing and Sex Trafficking Alaska” which is the work we mimicked the RI survey after.
December 6th, 2017 Bella meets with Chris Sowa to organize activists nationwide to participate in a podcast called ““Fighting the Trafficking Narrative from Alaska to Rhode Island” Episode 26
December 17th, 2015 Bella organizes and hosts Providence’s first “International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers” event at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center
January 21st- 23rd, 2016 Bella attended a 10-hour training to be a volunteer at local domestic violence shelter called Sojourner House (Bella went on to volunteer one Saturday a month for the next 10 months)
January 30th 2016 Bella, Rachel West of “US Pros” and Phoebe Jones of “All Global Women’s Strike” testified to the NH Criminal Justice and Safety committee in support of HB 1614 which was the first bill to repeal prohibition on prostitution and to oppose HB 1613 which was the (Nordic model) a bill to criminalize the clients of sex workers.
February 19th, 2016 Bella presented “Addressing Justice: Ensuring the Human Rights of Sex Workers by Decriminalizing Adult Prostitution” at Liberty Forum in Manchester NH
March 2st 2016 Bella, Professor Shih, and students from Brown University attended CSEC: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children at Day One RI
March 19th, 2016 Bella attended a “No to HPV Mandate” training at East Greenwich Library
March 19th, 2016- Bella presented on “The Anti-Trafficking Industrial Complex” for Professor Shih’s class.
March 24th, 2016 Bella meets with Brown University students to work on their film projects.
April 5th, 2016 Bella and Sharmila Parmanand of the “Philippines Sex Worker Collective” presented at UNH for a class discussion on “The Global Sex Industry for DR Joelle Ruby Ryan. Bella Robinson – COYOTE RI – Presenting on sex worker rights
April 19th, 2016 Bella lectures on sex worker rights and the trafficking narrative at Wesleyan College for Assistant Professor of Sociology Kerwin Kayes class
May 17th, 2016 Bella did a phone interview about the upcoming Desiree Alliance Conference with Laura Helen who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Tulane University in New Orleans
July 10th – 15th, 2016 Bella Robinson, and Professor Shih attended and presented the finding on the RI sex worker survey, at the 6th national Desiree Alliance Conference. Bella also facilitated workshops on “Falling Into Activism” “The Age Caucus”. Bella also represented ESPU (Erotic Service Providers Union) and facilitated an exercise for “The Labor Caucus”
July 29th, 2016 Bella, and New England escort Mollie Minx presented to Professor Shih’s summer trafficking class school at Brown University
August 4th, 2016 Bella co-lectured with Professor Shih’s for the summer trafficking class
September 30th, 2016 Bella, and Professor Shih attend a fundraiser-yoga class for Dayone RI to learn more about the effects of local rescue attempts
October 14th, 2016 Bella, and Professor Shih met with Kelly Henry Director of Residential Advocacy; of Sojourner House regarding the new trafficking shelter, Coyote RI offered Sojourner House free training on “Best Practices for Connecting “People Involved in the Sex Industry” with Services.
November 21st, 2016 Bella, and Professor Shih presented to “Students against slavery” at Connecticut College.
November 8th, 2016 Bella presented on sex work and trafficking at URI for a class taught by Christine Zozula who is in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology
November 18th, 2016 Bella and Cris Sardina, director of Desiree Alliance, presented on sex work and trafficking for students at “The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) at Brown University
December 1s,t 2016 Bella presented to students at Alpert Medical School at Brown University, on the effects stigma has in creating more barriers for sex workers to access medical services.
March 8th, 2017 Bella presented on Sexual Violence at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center at Brown University
March 22st, 2017 Bella presented on sex work and sex trafficking for Professor Janice Gallagher’s students at Rutgers University
March 23rd, 2017 Bella presented on Sexual Health for Sex Week BROWN SHEEC (Sexual Health Educational and Empowerment Council)
March 28th, 2017 Bella presented on the sexual health of sex workers and barriers in access health services to nursing students at RI college
April 1st, 2017 Bella, and Professor Shih presented our findings on the RI sex work survey at the Boston Labor Conference
April 6th, 2017 Bella, Professor Shih, and students presented our findings on the RI sex worker survey at the American Association of Geographers 2017
April 9th, 2017 Bella and Alex Andrews of Swop Behind Bars facilitated a workshop on sexual health service barriers for marginalized populations at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference
April 10th, 2017 Bella and Alex Andrews of Swop Behind Bars presented “Making space for Incarcerated sex workers” at CSSJ- Brown University
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 Bella and other members of the AMOR network presented on marginalized populations to Providence college students at PrYsm (Providence Youth Student movement)
April 28th, Bella started a 10-week class titled “Want to learn more about white privilege” taught by Sophia Wright of DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality)
May 30th-May 31st, 2017 Bella attended and completed a Qualified Professional Test Counselor training at Brown Professional Development Center and she received her certification.
June -August 2017 Bella met with 3 Brown University students who did a summer internship with Coyote on a weekly basis, to launch the 145 question survey and collect data from 1520 sex workers, former sex workers, and trafficking victims
June 3rd, – June 4th, 2017, Bella attended the Kingein nonviolent direct action training at FANG’s office
June 15th, 2017, Bella attended Allied Media Conference 2017 and she presented on the “No Perfect Victims” “Survived and Punished Panel”
June 22rd,2017 Bella and Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason Magazine, presented on a sex work panel at Porcfest in NH
June 30th, 2017, Bella co-lectured with Professor Shih for her summer trafficking class and we workshopped the questions for the US sex worker survey.
August 25th, 2017 Bella facilitated a training with House of Hope case managers and outreach workers
Sept 5th, 2017 Bella and Professor Ryan of UNH, testified to the NH criminal justice and safety committee in support of HB 287, which would form a study committee to study the effects of decriminalizing consensual adult prostitution in NH.
September 27th, 2017 Bella presented on sex work and sex trafficking for Professor Shih’s trafficking class at Brown University
November 17th, 2017 Bella Skyped in to present on sex work, the effects of criminalization and how we can help support incarcerated sex workers for Dr. Jill McCracken’s class