BELLA ROBINSON BIO-
From Teenaged Prostitute to Sex Workers’ Rights Advocate. Activist Bella Robinson feels victimized by laws intended to help people like her. [link]
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 10 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.
From 2012 to 2018, 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 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