This is part 2 of Tuesday’s post, on the topic of john schools. I visited Ian Mitchell, who runs the prostitution offender program from the John Howard Society, and asked him some questions about his work. Read part 1 here.
Embarrassment, shame – whether its shame of what they were doing or because they got caught, is hard to say. I insist on them taking responsibility before I let them into the program. Some hard cases don’t. I remember one very religious guy, driving a semi, parked it on the Kingsway, went to get a girl, and is in denial that he was doing that. In the interview, at the arrest, he sat through an 8 hours school, still saying that was not what he was doing. But you look at the police file and that was definitely what he was doing. Hard for him to admit because of his religious background. Total denial.
Some argue that john schools are not effective. What do you think?
UBC did research on our first 500 people, came up with statistically significant attitude change. We haven’t done any recitivism studies but judging from the information we get back from the police, I would say recitivism is about 1%. Now we don’t know, they might go to massage parlours (hide it better) or escort services. For me it is not just about recitivism, but actually getting information to these guys that (a) they have chosen to deny or (b) it is new info to them.
Our approach toward the guys is this: We recognize you come into this room with your own sense of morals and values. This school is not about us trying to find out what they are, it is not about us telling you they should be different, or talking down to you telling you our morals are better than yours. All we are going to do is give you information of the realities of the sex trade, things that you’ve possibly denied or not known, and at the end of the day we simply ask you: given who I am and what my morals and values are, does it still fit for me to continue this behaviour knowing what I know now?
The Vancouver john school is in a bit of a strange phase right now. Can you tell me more about that?
Support for the school has declined. Some feel that prostitution simply cannot be dealt with, and this attitude permeates. But I’ve just had four referrals from Vancouver Crown, this is huge. I just got a call from a probation officer recently, and will have a guy coming in today who only speaks Japanese so the interview will require a translator. We are trying to restructure the program.
Stings are harder because most complaints now are about bawdy houses. One police officer said that probably every apartment building in the West end has at least one bawdy house in it. It is harder to catch.
We have to raise our men and our women differently. From what I understand we seem to be back to a pre-feminist society as far as young women are concerned. They have to dress for men, undress for men, be sexy for men…and then the amount of sexual content not only on the web but advertising – how do you in a free speech society tone that down? How do we raise our young men differently?
What we are doing is not going to get rid of prostitution. What I am hoping for is that it will have a small effect. Hopefully convincing that guy, and to convince his buddies and kids. The John Howard Society deals with guys coming out of prison, how do we reduce the prison population? You go right back to birth almost! A bunch of social issues are at play – drug abuse, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, addictions, gambling, drugs, alcohol, social capital, being born born into subsidized housing or a third generation welfare family. That is a lot to consider.
Thanks Ian for the work that you and for being willing to let me drill you with questions!
Now I ask our readers this: do you think it is possible to change men’s attitudes about prostitution? Anything else strike you as interesting in this interview? Â How do you raise your boys to respect women? Let me know your thoughts below. Check out part on of the interview here.