I can’t seem to get out of my head the fact that child prostitution goes on every day in our country. It’s as normal as the grocery store lights turning on at 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s as rhythmic as the garbage truck that comes to my street on Wednesdays at 7:30am. We usually hear the human trafficking stories from overseas, in India where it seems out of reach from Americans. On the contrary, the every day buying and selling of the unconsenting sexual peformance of children is as normal as a Craigslist transaction in Buckeye, Ohio. In fact, that’s exactly what it is on the website known as Backpage.com. Every day people sell household items, used cars, furniture, tickets, anything you want to list for free on the internet to make some pocket change. Although these transactions are more than coins in one’s pocket or even a $20 bill, this is a $150 million dollar a year industry that continues to escalate. Children are being posted and elicited within seconds. The numbers aren’t accurate because the demand and interaction is fast and sneaky. The amount of homeless children can’t be calculated because these babies are quickly scooped up by the greedy, deceptive, and destructive hands of pimps in order to keep up with the demand.
Netflix released last summer the documentary I am Jane Doe. Sex trafficking is one just one the avenues women, children, and sometimes men are trafficked. It’s termed modern-day slavery, as consistent and moving as the Circle-K on your nearest major street corner. What I didn’t know is children are being listed as easily as a microwave on a site that makes up 80% of the sex advertisement industry. How can this be? The Communication Decency Act was passed in 1996 to regulate pornographic material on the internet. The CDA’s Article 320 (read about it here) is the wide-open backdoor for Backpage to shuffle in broad daylight these innocent victims in and out of perverted patrons’ reach. Watch the documentary. I’m no lawyer, but what I know that something is wrong with our country if we have laws that cover the backside of sketchy websites like Backpage who claim it’s not their responsibility when the exchange, ease of access, and no-risk opportunity is the base of their platform. I’ll skip you down to the ending and give you the answer to why these companies get to live the American Dream and ruin hundreds of thousands children’s lives and traumatize their families. Money. Power. Control. America, can we really stand and watch while these children are raped up to 20 times a day all in the name of freedom of speech and privacy? We should be willing to do whatever it takes, say turn off the internet, to end the suffering and grotesque normalization of sexual exploitation. We have to fight for the end of websites like Backpage getting off on other people’s addictions for the lousiest reasons of money & power.
This isn’t a censorship issue, this is a security issue. Senators Rob Portman (Ohio) and Richard Bluementhal (Conn.) think so, with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act S.1693 (SESTA). This bill would amend section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Let’s support these senators who are narrowing in on these abhorrent crimes and shut one of the many doors of human trafficking.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What are some small ways to help create momentum to end modern-day slavery?
1. Watch I am Jane Doe, available on Netflix, and spread awareness.
2. Ask yourself, “Who made my clothes?” Research the factories that produce the shirt on your back. Hold companies accountable for posting a selfie with the hashtag #whomademyclothes ? (fashion revolution.org)
3. Contribute to A21 or many other companies who are not overseas rescuing women and children daily from human trafficking.
4. Follow #SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act S.1693), support it, and spread the word.
5. See something, say something! If you sense someone may be a victim of human trafficking, here is a good source for how to dialogue and help them: If you are in the U.S. and you believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, report any suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 and National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888