Content warning—the following contains descriptions of extreme injuries and rape suffered by two sex workers due to a campaign of violence by an abusive client, as well as an account of child abuse.
Jill Brenneman and Amanda Brooks are veterans and heroines of the sex workers’ rights movement. As a teen, Brenneman suffered years of of brutal abuse in which she was coerced into working as a professional submissive. In the early aughts, Jill made an amazing conversion from membership in the prohibitionist movement to sex workers’ rights activism. She set up SWOP-EAST from the remains of an anti sex work organization she’d led. SWOP-EAST grew to be one of the most vital sex workers’ rights organizations of the era. Brenneman was also a frequent contributor to early sex workers’ rights blogs like Bound Not Gagged.
Amanda Brooks is the acclaimed author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook series, the first one of which she published in 2006. They served as an important resource for escorts advertising online back when there were few other how-to sources on the topic. She was also one of the earliest escort bloggers starting in 2005, writing entries brimming with eloquence and common sense at After Hours.
The two fell off the map recently.
When they returned, we were shocked to read Brooks’ blog post about what they’d endured: a campaign of terror by one of Brooks’ clients, affluent lawyer Percy LaWayne Isgitt. Isgitt—Brenneman and Brooks call him “Pig”—caused both Brenneman and Brooks severe brain injuries when his arrogance and negligence piloting a plane the three of them were in led to a catastrophic “hard landing.” Despite the fact that Brooks was clearly incapacitated and near death, Brenneman had to browbeat Pig into taking her to the hospital the next day. Once Brooks was checked in, Pig fraudulently signed in as her relative and attempted to control her treatment. Despite her still severely injured state, Brooks continued to see Pig as a client for two sessions after her hospitalization, in desperate need of money to pay for medical bills. When she finally tried to break ties with him, he hired people to make threatening phone calls to both women. In response, Brooks went into hiding, so Pig sent men to stalk, rape, and beat Brenneman on a number of occasions, trying to discover Brooks’ location. Neither the police, nor the many medical facilities that misdiagnosed them along the way, nor the personal injury lawyer they hired were any help to the two women against a deranged, abusive man with wealth and social capital.
The injuries Brenneman suffered from the plane crash combined with the injuries she sustained from the attacks led to the fatal exacerbation of her previous medical conditions. Her doctors have told her she has very little time left to live.
This story illustrates the insidious way institutions empower abusers to commit violence against sex workers. The only people they can often rely on in these situations are other sex workers. You can read the original account here and donate to their Giftrocket account using this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations will be shared equally between them to cover their respective medical costs.
Amanda, you write in your blog post, in reference to Jill’s past abuse:
To those who doubt, her stories are true. They’re things only men would think up and most of the time, it’s the mundane details that stand out the most to both of us. I’ve read stories from so-called trafficking victims who describe ridiculous “Satanic” rituals or elaborate set-ups. The truth is, the men who were Bruce’s [Jill’s captor’s] clients weren’t very bright, in my opinion, and they had a lot of the same stupid fantasies and beliefs that most vanilla clients do—only much darker and violent.
This factor plays into your story of how Pig hurt you both, too. There’s a voyeuristic undertone to the way people listen to stories of abuse. People expect the “elaborate set-ups,” and yet abuse is usually no different than other misbehavior in kind, if not in degree—abusers do it because they want to feel big, or because they care about themselves a lot more than they care about anyone else. How do you think the fact that often stories of abuse are mundane and banal makes it harder for victims to get help?
Jill Brenneman: People don’t want to believe the mundane stories, they want to believe the exotic stories. Like a wife who gets hit. Unless she’s put in the hospital, no one cares. Or she returns home because she has children. But the trafficking victim imported from Estonia gets all the attention.
Amanda Brooks: Because they’re too believable or not dramatic enough. [Pig] raped me twice, yet it’s not something most people acknowledge as rape. It even took me a while to realize that it was rape, despite how I felt about it. People like to parse situations down to the point where the only way it’s “real” is if it’s outlandish.
Jill, you were held captive by a sadist for three years in your teens, and forced to endure unimaginable abuse. As an adult you returned to sex work voluntarily to make a living, and then you went through this ordeal with Amanda at Pig’s hands. What unusual problems have you faced as a sex working abuse survivor? What can we do as a movement to make things better for the abuse survivors among us?
Jill: The ordeal that Amanda went through made me livid and still does.
Working as an abuse survivor led me to more abuse. I learned from [my captor and abuser] Bruce in the 80’s. Bruce was a cliche master sadist. There was never a sense of love or affection between him and I. I was an object. I did what I was was told. I was taught how to relate to clients. I overapplied this training as an adult. I willingly went back to work as a professional submissive. This was a place that I did not belong. Despite there being a 19 year gap between [my captivity and going back to] sex work, I did not belong in sex work —especially as a professional submissive. I needed the money to pay for very expensive subcutaneous blood thinners because of a clotting disorder. I needed to pay the rent, the car payment, food, care for the dog, etc. I took the work that came. I started off with two old pictures of myself, no website, no reviews, and took some pro-sub clients to make money when it was tight. I did not belong in sex work. I was still far too impacted from previous abuse to be doing it but I had no choice, I needed the money.
The most important thing the movement needs to do is work on decriminalization so that we have options.
Amanda: The movement truly doesn’t have the power to deal with this, unfortunately. Until the laws are changed, we never will.
How did you meet Pig?
Jill: I met Pig, who was introduced to me by Amanda and championing an idea to decriminalize prostitution. I dragged out meeting him as long as I could as I wasn’t really looking for a return to activism. We finally had a phone call which was typical Pig. He did all the talking. His presentation was fatuous with occasional good ideas intertwined. I was stunned when he told me that his plan was to find a recently arrested girl (which he stated as having found), he would rescue her from jail, and in return she would involuntarily be the voice of the project. I questioned him about finding involuntary subjects to be the face of the project. I wondered why not get someone who wants to do it but he disagreed. He also referenced an alleged call in which a young girl asked him to “please bring my mom home.” This resonated with me. Why not use that as the slogan of the project? “Bring My Mom Home.” He immediately had Amanda buy the domain.
Amanda: I met him at the end of March 2012, as a client. He remained a client until mid-July 2012, when I told him to back off and he responded by cutting ties with me (which was fine as far as I was concerned).
What does Pig want from Amanda?
Jill: The first time, at the beach house [after the plane crash], he twice said he was going to rape her and leave her to die. It was his intent, but I stopped it only by getting into a physical confrontation with him. Had I called 911, he was going to hit me. At which point, I would have used my training and dropped him on his face. If he had persisted I would have disabled his ability to breathe and solved the problem.
Seven days after Amanda was in the ER, she had to get all dolled up for Pig. I stayed in the car, mad, and sick with my own injuries. It should not have happened. He was responsible for the crash and our injuries. He should have paid the medical bills without a quid pro quo. It made me physically sick to drive Amanda to these appointments and drop her off to that terrible ghoul. Truthfully, I wish I could have switched places with Amanda so she could have rested.
The second time he raped Amanda, I hated that she was there, I hated him forcing himself on me under the pretext of a “greeting.” As Amanda walked away and snatched her hand from Pig’s, I nearly walked with him and got her away from Pig. I should have.
Amanda’s suffered cognitive damage that she’s never recovered [from] because of having to spend time entertaining Pig to get her medical bills paid.
Today— I think that he plans on kidnapping Amanda, isolating and trapping her until he’s done with her, then he’ll kill her.
Amanda: Pig saw me as a possession, I think. I wasn’t and am not. I agree with Jill that the goons this spring wanted my location to kidnap me for Pig. I have no illusions of what would happen to me if I get caught by Pig’s goons.
What do you suspect Pig planned to do by signing in as your relative at the hospital?
Jill: Because I was far more awake and coherent as I was less injured, I can answer this because he said it. His goal was to get Amanda to his hometown of Houston, TX where she would be seen by “his doctors” and live in an apartment that he set up and was owned by his mafia client. This way he could come and “comfort” her often. “Comfort” meaning rape her. His goal was complete control. He probably would have “postponed” the decrim project for Amanda’s “health” so that he could have her all to himself.
He told me at some point during the ER encounter that he had acquired medical power of attorney and I was livid and demanded to see it. I did not believe Amanda would give him this. He and I argued this as he would not show me the paperwork granting [power of attorney].
He constantly interfered with the doctors, attempting to sell them on a story of a 1000-foot drop on a commercial airline as the cause of her injury. As a retired flight attendant, I had never witnessed a passenger suffer these symptoms as a result of a 1000-foot drop and I did not believe a healthy 30-something woman would be the first. This was the result of his crashing the Cessna 1982 that he was flying.
Amanda: It’s a control thing, that’s for sure. His fantasy was to fully invade and take over my entire life. He thought he had bought me—ironic since he made such a big deal about rescuing supposed sex slaves. Oh, for the record, he did not have medical POA, he simply lied about having it. At the time, neither of us knew he’d signed in as my relative.
Why do you think the medical professionals responsible for your care were oblivious to Pig’s abuse? What should they have done differently? Do you think it was a lack of training, whorephobia, or misogyny that were responsible? Or all three?
Amanda: At the hospital, I never got a second alone with anyone to talk to them. Pig was there the whole time controlling the situation.
In this whole experience, which covers two and a half years so far, everyone caves in in the face of a rich old white man who is a lawyer. We’re women and don’t count. I honestly don’t even think being sex workers has much to do with it, or maybe I’m fooling myself.
Jill: They should have spoken directly to Amanda, and ejected Pig and me from the room. They should have believed Amanda’s account of what happened, instead of Pig’s or anyone else. In hindsight, they should have been made aware that Pig was a client and had no business being there. They were happy to take the word of an old man over the woman who was actually injured.
What do you think would have happened had you two been forthright with the police? How would that have complicated your problems?
Jill: The police should have been notified that Pig was a client and ejected from Amanda’s ER room.
[But in every other instance,] there was no value in calling the police whatsoever. My reports from my spring attacks are “missing” and I had a captain apologize, telling me that this sort of thing happens all too often. Best case, if we asked nicely, the police would [have] do[ne] nothing. Even if the original officers wished to do something it would likely be rejected because [Pig] is a high profile, wealthy attorney from a very wealthy family. At best, [the case] would be filed away. At worst, officers familiar with him and friendly toward him would retaliate on his behalf.
Amanda: The only time we did not call the police was Jill’s January 2013 attack. Jill would have been arrested as she was working at the time and it’s doubtful they would have fully investigated the attack, instead focusing on Jill’s arrest. When Jill was attacked this past spring, the police were called both times (and once when the goons were harassing Jill outside of her apartment). Reports were taken and now they’ve all mysteriously “disappeared.”
The only way this complicates things is that it’s clear Pig has the power to do what he wants and get away with it. Cops are crooked — that’s not news. Pig is working hard to bury evidence of what he’s done, presumably so he can continue to do these things in the future.
Jill, you were recently finally able to retire from sex work. Can you tell us a bit about that and how you feel about it?
Jill: I[t] feel[s] bittersweet. I didn’t want to return to sex work. It had to happen entirely for financial and medical reasons. While many sex workers enjoy their work and their clients, I didn’t. I was able to qualify for disability due to a clotting disorder. This is a positive in that the clotting disorder has caused me to bloat and appear fat when I am not, [and] caused me to be very weak. Truthfully, I can’t do the work. But this isn’t retirement because I am moving on to something better. This is retirement because one way or another the clotting disorder is fatal.
I would ask readers to please not suggest doctors or treatments. While meant well, it doesn’t help. I have seen ten doctors. All ten feel it is a fatal illness. All ten have explained why it is fatal. I have read the medical reports. While the disability is saving me from being homeless and on the street now, [I am] simply waiting to die either from another clot or a complication The latest doctor as of yesterday gave me six months at best from today.
I hate that Pig is likely to outlive me and continue to be a threat to Amanda. Amanda has publicly stated that I am the only person who has her back. I don’t fear death. In many ways I will be glad for it as it will end this whole ordeal, but I agonize every day about leaving Amanda behind and alone to fight Pig. [That] is usually the thought I wake with and the thought I go to bed with.
What communities have been supportive to you?
Jill: The community that supported me [were the people] who raised money for me that got me out of Raleigh and to safety. Those who set up the fundraiser and those who donated were great help.
As for other communities offerings support: The rape crisis center, Interact in Raleigh, had no real answer as the situation was unfamiliar to anything they had dealt with in the past. Their suggestion was [to] find a friend and hide. The Texas Bar Association allegedly investigating ethics violation is a sick joke. Twenty five year friendships have been ended via text message over this. My family is threatening to file suit to find out who the executor of my tiny estate is to see if they can get any money out of it. A few friends have been wonderful. The vast majority of others, especially [activist] organizations have been horrible.
Amanda: During this? No one. I can’t even trust my own mother, I certainly wasn’t going to try and trust a “community” with problems of this magnitude. I still don’t. Going public with this means showing weakness, which draws predators. People who don’t like us are coming out of the woodwork. Decent people stay away in droves, afraid of any of this shit sticking to them.
I couldn’t even join a brain injury support group. I tried. It was like a bad joke.
How can T&S readers help you?
Jill: Tits and Sass readers can help me by believing. While a story of a plane crash and abruptly hiding from a powerful man and the Lebanese mafia seems Hollywood, it is all true. These men have the ability to violently harm us, to get away with it, to make police records disappear, to attack with impunity, and we have no resources. Please, believe us, retell the story as only exposure will stop these disgusting men. Please stand with us.
I have heard so many people say that they don’t know if they could withstand the beating to protect the location of a friend as I had done with Amanda. Yes, ultimately standing up for Amanda and protecting her location led to collateral effects that are fatal for me but what would have happened to Amanda had I broken? I would have inflicted what was happening to me on her, or worse. I can’t live with that. Neither should you.
Sometimes we have to face very difficult choices but there is only one answer. I negotiated with terrorists once, and it blew up in my face and in Amanda’s face. You don’t negotiate with terrorists—ever.
Stop being an “activist” and start helping us. It’s great to address issues on a macro level but the problems exist on the micro level. That is where you can really create change. Micro level activism is real help with little reward; macro level activism is just for kudos.
Amanda: As Jill says, believe us. Our lives are ruined and we live in fear. I’m in survival sex work mode and live every day in pain (on a one to 10 pain scale work ranges from a four to a 10). Donations would help a lot —obviously. So would standing with us and spreading this story. This is all real and documented (minus the “missing” police reports). Hiding in silence hasn’t spared us any violence, so speaking out is the only thing to do. It’s the one thing Pig seems to fear.
And finally, change the laws. Criminalization only empowers men like Pig.