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Evelina Giobbe

I've known vaguely that there was a scandal wherein Evelina Giobbe, a luminary of the anti-prostitution movement, allegedly sexually assaulted one of the women she supposedly helped to rescue from prostitution. (Does anyone know whether she was found guilty?) I'd seen tiny snippets of the court documents, such as this:

Kelly Holsopple, Plaintiff, vs. WHISPER, Inc., Evelina Giobbe, and Mary Madden, Defendants; complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court June 26, 1997. Plaintiff states and alleges as follows:

[...] Defendant WHISPER [Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt] provides community education on prostitution as a form of systematic violence against women and children, and assists women in escaping systems of prostitution by providing social services to them.

[...] Plaintiff Kelly Holsopple is a former prostitute and stripper. She first became a client of WHISPER when she attended a Radical Education and Support Group facilitated by Evelina Giobbe in the fall of 1992.

[...] Plaintiff quit stripping on Sept. 21, 1994. Her motivation to quit included her admiration of Defendant Giobbe’s work for prostitutes, her desire to do similar work, and Defendant Giobbe’s promise to be a mentor and teacher to her.

[…] Exploiting Plaintiff’s admiration and affection, as well as her vulnerability and trust in WHISPER, Defendant Giobbe engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with Plaintiff while she was a client and former client of WHISPER, as well as an employee. Among other actions, Defendant Giobbe: Invited her to an intimate party at her apartment; told Plaintiff she loved her; told her she was bisexual; drank and danced with her at bars and clubs; asked her to stay overnight at her apartment; partially and fully disrobed in her presence; told Plaintiff she was sexually attracted to her; commented seductively on her physical beauty and energy; slept with Plaintiff; and physically touched and assaulted her including hugging, kissing, putting her head in Plaintiff’s lap, circling Plaintiff’s arms around her, and touching and biting her breasts…

[...] In April of 1996, Defendant Giobbe sexually assaulted Plaintiff. She partially disrobed Plaintiff in her car, bit her breast, kissed and slapped her, asking, “Whose pussy is this?” Defendant Giobbe had previously told Plaintiff that her pimp had used that question and had demanded that she respond with his name. The only way that Plaintiff could get Giobbe to stop slapping her was by saying “It’s Evelina’s pussy.”

[...] In early 1996, WHISPER’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors received complaints by two employees against Defendant Giobbe, stating that she engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with clients and employees and harassed and intimidated clients and staff members.

[...] In mid-September 1996, staff members were informed that the Board of Directors had voted to dissolve WHISPER.

But I didn't know much more than those rather creepy snippets. Jill Brenneman, however, knew the people involved, and has this to say about it:
Evelina and WHISPER, Women Hurt and Systems of Prostitution Engaging in Resistance settled out of court with a gag order as a result of what Evelina perpetrated, which as you read below was sexual assault against a one time client who became an employee of WHISPER. WHISPER folded. Kelly Holsopple’s allegations were supported by other clients of WHISPER. Google Evelina Giobbe/Kelly Holsopple for more information. See below the legal notice from Minneapolis Newspaper “City Pages” Yet Evelina’s “work” is prominently featured on Farley and many other radical feminist websites. Was their outcry against Evelina in the radical feminist community? Only from a few, virtually none of which are in radical feminism anymore, either driven out as heretics or no longer able to stomach that movement’s ethical breaches. Evelina committed acts very similar to those of Kyle Payne. Yet that fact was swept under the carpet by Farley and others. Why? I don’t know. Apparently Evelina’s “work” is more valuable than human beings and thus her actions of sexual harassment/sexual assault are forgivable. Or if not forgiven, at least conveniently forgotten.

Evelina is different from Kyle Payne how? Did radical feminism care a whole lot about Kelly Holsopple? Or was her victimization and that of others buried to save the movement from having one of it’s leaders exposed?

....When radical feminists use terms such as pro prostitution, pro porn, pro pimp lobby, it is important to consider the context. Which occurred to me may not be fully understood other than by those of us that were part of the rad fem/anti movement until we couldn’t deal with the hypocrisy. Which the blowback from breaking with that movement is to put it mildy intense. There is a movement that has a very harsh penalty for heresy. Heresy often being daring to question the ethics of the movement upper hierarchy. In radical feminism anti activism, it is often fine to have huge ethical breaches as long as one doesn’t transgress policy or embarrass the leadership. Back to Evelina. Her “work” remains idolized by radical feminism. Forget what she did to Kelly Holsopple and others. Forget or be ejected from the movement for questioning why Evelina isn’t being called on her actions and why she is considered a role model.

....Kelly Holsopple is a friend. I haven’t forgotten. For the record, In 1998 when found about what happened to Kelly, and went to the courthouse and got all the legal paperwork on the case which made it clear that Kelly experienced what she stated she did, not that I ever doubted her, I didn’t, but I wanted my ducks in a row before I made my case. Evelina contacted me and tried very hard to use intimidation and threats to tell me to shut my fucking mouth. Others like Donna Hughes quickly jumped in to the fray to advise that maybe it was best for the movement if this wasn’t discussed. I’ll give Farley credit on that one. She was silent about my statements. Although that was because she didn’t want to give me credibility by admitting I existed after she had spent so much time and effort trying to convince people that I was actually Carol Leigh.
I think this is very important to know about and remember. Not because I think many anti-porn or anti-prostitution feminists support this kind of hushing up violence for the sake of the cause (see this excellent post by Debi if you want to know why I am not, as Jill is, using the term "radical feminists" here). Not even because I think a lot of people support Farley. There are definitely those who do out there, and she's definitely a mover and shaker in the anti-prostitution movement. But I've also met more than a few people who will at the very least call her on things when she's being ridiculous (anyone remember the "Kink.com is just like Abu Ghraib" nonsense a year or so ago? Whatever you think of SM pornography, however wrong you feel it might be, JUST NO.)

I think it's important to know and remember because this sort of thing happens. Movements get favorite sons or daughters, and those people are so famous and so important, their work so new and exciting, that they get canonized and can suddenly do no wrong. Farley is a big name. Farley continuously does questionable things like reproduce Giobbe's articles without the slightest mention that she may have raped and seriously abused a woman she was mentoring (and intentionally talked like the woman's ex-pimp when she did it), like insinuate that death from SM is widespread but hushed up (my response to that is here; I can't read about her reaction to leatherwomen's peaceful protest of exclusion without seething), like drawing parallels between commercial pornography and government-sanctioned torture, like do methodologically flawed research that supposedly proves the evils of prostitution once and for all... and somehow still, people link to her and cite her and think of her as a revolutionary.

And I also think it's important because I see a lot of "we're better than porn consumers and producers" and "we would never treat people the way a john or pimp does" in anti-porn and anti-prostitution feminism. And... well, I've seen it happen far too often that when someone is spending large chunks of her life and her time preening about how he or she would never, could never, do THAT sort of thing, she's hiding something.

Which is not to say that anyone who says "I'm appalled by the behavior of many johns and I can't believe anyone would do that and I'm sure I never would" is actually Evelina Giobbe. No... if that were the case I'd be admitting guilt here. It's more that, well, there's being appalled and wanting to do something -- including wanting to abolish the sex industry, which I don't agree with but do understand -- and then there's

"I... AM SO... AP-PALLED. DO YOU HEAR HOW AP-PALLED I AM? I AM... AP-PALLLLLED. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! I LOVE WOMEN! AND... THEREFORE! I AM... AP-PALLED! now honey just you move that spotlight a little, everyone needs to see my tears..."

And... that's a Giobbe. Or a Payne. Or someone who's selfish and a git, but not quite a rapist. But someone who is more interested in using her indignation for gain than in really helping women.

And I do think there are more than a few of the latter out there in anti-porn and anti-prostitution-land. No, NOT EVERYONE, of course. But enough that I do find myself leery of many people. Both of people who seem to me to behave similarly, and of people who cite and listen to and profess to admire those people without bothering to ever critique them or even seem to notice that apparently not everyone's history is so rosy.

A position like abolition is one that seems extreme. And I do think that sometimes radical positions (and by this I mean "extreme" rather than "radical feminist") attract people who are more interested in that radicality (is that a word?), in being a part of a movement that says something intense and extreme, than in the cause itself.

And yes, for the record, I think that's true of some "sex-possies" too. I do think there are some people -- NOT MANY, in my experience, but I could name a few -- who seem to think of this whole thing as "people who like sex" vs "people who hate it" and who defend sex in ways that don't acknowledge that there could be any issues whatsoever with sexism, compulsory heterosexuality, people (usually men) assuming consent when it's not given, people being pressured into sex or into "acting sexy", etc.

But the thing is, if you just want something radical to be a part of... you're not saying or doing ANYTHING. If you can't take a good look at who your allies are, at who you cite, at who you admire... then you're probably upholding something or someone, somewhere along the line, who doesn't deserve your support.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Wow - this is a great post. You make some really good points, and I agree 100% with you on all of them. Brilliant stuff - I'm off to look up all the links now...xx
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much, Debi. :)
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this important post.

Was reading something on hypocrisy yesterday, about how people with high ideals are hypocrites by definition, because we're trying to live more ethical lives than we have so far managed to. I can buy that that applies to environmentalists who occasionally forget their reusable takeout containers and have to go plastic for a day. But it's quite a different matter when it's people who try so hard to reject forms of sexuality that they associate with degradation and then end up sexually assaulting and degrading someone.

I had never heard of Eveline Giobbe. It leads me to wonder if anti-pro people commonly dehumanize sex workers because of their objection to sex work, just the way they claim that the sex industry itself dehumanizes women, and if that sometimes makes it seem okay to participate in exactly the same sexual violence they deplore in others. I mean there's "I didn't live up to my ideals this time, but I'll try harder next time" and there's "my high ideals justify my preposterously unethical acts, making them somehow not at all preposterously unethical". I think there's a difference of kind as well as of degree.
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Was reading something on hypocrisy yesterday, about how people with high ideals are hypocrites by definition, because we're trying to live more ethical lives than we have so far managed to. I can buy that that applies to environmentalists who occasionally forget their reusable takeout containers and have to go plastic for a day. But it's quite a different matter when it's people who try so hard to reject forms of sexuality that they associate with degradation and then end up sexually assaulting and degrading someone.

Aug. 8th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
As far as not hearing much about it goes, though, that I can kind of understand, as it did happen eleven years ago. I happened to find out about it because someone mentioned it in some flamewar, and had tried since then to learn more about it or find out more about what became of WHISPER, without very much success. Today I saw that Jill over at Bound Not Gagged had posted about it, and decided to post this.

But it's Jill that really needs thanking, I think, for coming forward with it and having the guts to say "Hey, I knew the woman Giobbe did this to. She was my friend."
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
I have a theory that's not really developed in depth yet, but one of its factors is that people seem to be drawn particularly strongly to radicalism *against* something or other. I speculate that it has to do in part with how making something apart from yourself Wrong implies that you are to some extent Right and hence "better". Whereas coming out in favor of something in a positive fashion requires more courage, because you open *yourself* up to being made Wrong... Anyway, that's why I think "sex-positiveness" is less likely to attract those who enjoy wallowing in blaming and hating and negativity, because it's much less a crusade against something or other.

If the goal behind the radicality is to make "them" Wrong and by extension "us" Right, if we derive a sense of superiority from being in the Right camp, then it is to be expected that we absolutely won't want to know about one of "us" doing Wrong...
Jul. 31st, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
Giobbe agreed to a settlement
To my knowledge Giobbe opted to settle this rather than continue to maintain her innocence. Given my knowledge of the situation and study of the court transcripts, along with testimony of the victim, Holsopple, Giobbe is totally guilty.
Feb. 10th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
Evelina Giobbe
Evelina is currently the Executive Director of United Way in Steele County and continues to bully, harass, and intimidate others. Yet United Way chooses to do nothing about it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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