Sex workers who agreed to participate in A&E's docuseries "8 Minutes" -- a "reality" show that purports to help sex workers and trafficking survivors who want out of the industry -- are now charging the network with lying to them. According to multiple reports and firsthand accounts from several of the sex workers who were filmed for the series, A&E never provided any of the promised resources that would supposedly allow the women to "get out of 'the life'" -- and one of them ended up in jail, facing prostitution charges.
A sex worker identified as Kamylla shared her story on Twitter last week, claiming that A&E's alleged practice of "using prostitutes for interviews and luring them with promises of a better life" yielded none of the assistance she was promised when she agreed to participate in the series. "One day the show invited me... Promised me help," Kamylla wrote. "As far as I understood it was not the old overwhelmed resources... I trusted."
"Do not trust this show," she added. "Dont believe in their rescues [sic]... And the 'Rescue Industry' has a lot to improve. They talk a lot... Do nothing."
"8 Minutes" follows police officer-turned-pastor Kevin Brown, who surreptitiously contacts sex workers and pretends to be a client, then meets the women at hotels and tries to convince them (in 8 minutes) to leave the industry. Brown offers "resources" such as "a safe place to sleep, medical and mental health care, educational, employment, legal and rehabilitation services," according to the series.
In reality, however, the women say they were offered such "resources" prior to filming, which was arranged by the network ahead of time. According to Tits and Sass, which broke Kamylla's story, A&E production staff was elusive and unhelpful:
Kamylla received a call on her work number from the producers of the show, who immediately identified themselves as such ... She agreed to tape a segment for the show, in which she said she wanted help getting out of the business, and after the taping was told she’d soon hear back with more information and assistance.
She never heard back from them, and instead reached out herself, but no meaningful help was to come. Kamylla found herself broke and needing to work again. She posted an ad, using the same number the 8 Minutes producers had contacted her on, and was arrested in a sting. Now she was broke, frightened, and facing criminal charges, and when she reached out for help from 8 Minutes, Brown offered to pray for her.
Jazzy, another sex worker featured in the series, told BuzzFeed News that in addition to failing to help her, A&E also reneged a promise to blur her face during her segment. "My family knows about this now, and that’s bullshit," she said. "They’re full of shit."
BuzzFeed News also spoke with two other women from the series who say they were promised help, but instead received a negligible cash payoff and no additional resources. Via BuzzFeed:
Like Kamylla, Gina said she stopped doing sex work in anticipation of financial assistance from the show, but “I didn’t get a fucking thing,” she added. Gina said she was given $400: $200 for appearing on the show, and $50 each for the four friends she brought in. “Can’t compare to what they’re making,” she said.
Similarly, Donna told BuzzFeed News she wanted financial assistance for herself, her husband, and her five small children; she believed she would be given assistance after participating in the show. She said she had done sex work in the past but was not doing it at the time (a friend referred her). Nevertheless, the show gave her and her husband about $600 to be in a segment after her husband was asked to pose as her pimp, she said.
Additionally, Kamylla, Jazzy, Gina and Donna all claim they never received copies of the contracts they signed with A&E.
When Kamylla was arrested following her appearance on the show, she reached out to Dan Savage for assistance and was able to get in touch with several prominent sex worker rights advocates, who have rallied behind her and the other women allegedly exploited for "8 Minutes."
Supporters have organized crowdfunding ventures to help Kamylla avoid eviction, though two of the fundraisers -- on GoFundMe and Tilt -- were removed, likely because someone reported them as "adult services." One fundraiser is still available on Crowdrise.