Letters

SACRED RIGHTS

Although it is shocking to read about 11-year-old girls working as prostitutes on the streets of New York City in Loinaz's article "From the Cradle to the Street" [July 23], it is important to not sensationalize the facts. Loinaz interviewed only four young sex workers. From Our Streets With Dignity (FROST'D), a nonprofit organization that provides health and social services to New York City's street-based sex workers, talked with over 2000 workers in the past year. Their data shows an average client age of 35 and the number of clients under age 20 to be minuscule. While child prostitution is real and is shocking, the prevalent realities of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in New York City are equally horrific.

Kirsten L. Aspengren
Sex Workers and Advocates for Rights and Decriminalization (SACRD)
Brooklyn


As a member of PONY (Prostitutes of New York) and SACRD, I would like to know how Loinaz researched this article. Is the Brooklyn district attorney's office really the best source of information as to why girls become sex workers? The inaccuracy of the statement "working as a prostitute by stripping" tells me that Loinaz did not talk to sex worker rights advocates and does not have a clear overall picture of the sex industry.

That the interviewer represents four subjects as being typical is shocking, but more shocking and tragic is that, besides Covenant House, there are no shelters or drop-in centers where young people can go in New York City. Loinaz refers to Safe Space as "a nonprofit that works with street kids" but, unfortunately, does not make it clear that there is nowhere for these kids to go.

Isn't it significant that the young people have already fled group homes and foster homes? Street youth may be able to access short-term shelter, but not nonjudgmental support. Nonjudgmental support is what they need in order to determine their own futures, rather than make choices based on what outside adults (at Girls Educational and Mentoring Services or Covenant House) will approve of. Why isn't this profound lack of services and lack of respect for our city's youth the scandal? Because it wouldn't make a sexy enough cover story.

Kathë Bright
Manhattan

Alexis Loinaz replies: "From the Cradle to the Street" was the product of nine months of research, interviews, and field reporting. The piece presented the facts as they were gathered and clearly stated that no full treatment facility for prostitutes existed in New York City. While the author spoke with FROST'D, which did confirm an older client base, four other organizations—as well as two district attorney's offices, several police officers, and the girls themselves—together presented substantial evidence that prostitutes were getting younger. I also repeatedly tried to contact PONY; no one returned phone calls.


IDENTITY CRISIS

In the article "Buying Trouble" [July 30], Erik Baard states that "preferred-customer cards" are being used to determine a shopper's "terror quotient." But to do so assumes that the customer's identification is documented adequately. I currently hold at least two (perhaps three) such cards from my local grocery, having applied for additional cards when I forgot to bring the existing cards to the shop. I could easily have obtained the new cards under a false name, since the grocer's did not require any proof of my identity when it accepted the application and issued my new cards. I may be ignorant of the ways of law enforcement, but it seems to me that even when you can trust the information in such a potentially flawed database, all you can find out is who buys pizza and beer.

Jon Koppenhoefer
Springfield, Ohio


ELUSIVE ELLISON

In his informative article "Tracking the Invisible Man" [July 23], David Taylor overlooked some of Ellison's significant steps through New York. Two of these steps are noted by Ellison in the introduction to the 1972 edition of Invisible Man. There he explains that his theme, which first occurred to him in a barn in Waitsfield, Vermont, in 1945, continued to haunt him "in a converted 141st Street stable, in a one-room ground floor apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue and, most unexpectedly, in a suite otherwise occupied by jewelers located on the eighth floor of Number 608 Fifth Avenue." Taylor also fails to mention that Ellison wrote the bulk of the novel while residing at 749 St. Nicholas Avenue, as reported by Andrew S. Dolkart and Gretchen S. Sorin in Touring Historic Harlem.

Herb Boyd
Professor of African American History
College of New Rochelle Harlem


HORMONE EFFICIENCY

I found Sharon Lerner's article "Hormonal Outrage" [July 23] one-sided and frustrating. Lerner fails to mention that in the Women's Health Initiative study completed by the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of breast cancer in women on hormone replacement therapy was an additional 8 out of 10,000—a number deemed statistically insignificant by the researchers. Nor does she mention that treated women who do get breast cancer have a higher survival rate than their drug-free counterparts. She also does not recognize the therapy's positive effects on women's cognition and sexual function or its reduction of the risks for colon cancer and osteoporosis.

The treatment may not be the best option for every menopausal patient, but that does not mean that it is not a viable option for many women who suffer from the negative effects of menopause. If Lerner is going to make a statement regarding health, she should present the readers with all of the facts, so that they can make educated decisions about their health care.

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