Two weeks ago, a woman I know was driving her two children home from school when she suddenly began receiving back to back phone calls and text messages asking when she was available to meet up. In 30 minutes, she received as many calls (and many more texts and voicemails). Completely unnerved, she answered one of the calls and demanded to know what was going on. Men were on the other line. Finally one of them told her she was on Backpage.com advertising for oral sex. Terrified, she hung up, turned off her phone and went home to tell her husband someone was posting photos of her and her phone number on that website. Her husband promptly went on the site to report the listing (and to try to find out who posted it) so they could contact authorities. What he found out was, it wasn’t his wife listed there, it was a 20 year old female ‘college student’ looking to have some “fun”. The number listed to contact her was the same as his wife’s except for the area code.
Just think… all of those people who contacted her in that short of a time were the ‘johns’ who got the area code wrong. That is terrifying. As Nicholas Kristof asks “IF prostitution of children is illegal, why is it that we allow an estimated 100,000 underage girls and boys to be sold for sex in America each year — many on a single American website, Backpage.com?”.
But that justification leaves room for argument and begs the question ‘what comes first? the chicken or the egg?’ Yes, Backpage.com makes it ‘easy’ for law enforcement to locate victims and lure johns but there is no denying it’s also facilitating the exploitation. Earlier last year, Fed Up, an anti-trafficking branch of law enforcement in Central Florida, busted three major human trafficking rings. Backpage.com was implicated in all three cases. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd who oversaw the investigation said, “you’re (Backpage) going to be criminally investigated and so are the people that are in charge of the organization. It’s abundantly clear to us that they are facilitating organized prostitution. They are facilitating human trafficking,” he said, adding, “We’re not going to have that.”
So what can YOU do if something like this happens to you or someone you know? A lot.
If you find something online and been concerned a minor is being exploited, CyberTip Online is a the place to file a report and assist these children in receiving the help they need.