Since news broke that Backpage.com was shutting down the “adult services” section of its website, reactions have ranged from joy to concern. These reactions prompted conversations about the effectiveness of the shutdown in preventing child sex trafficking, concerns for potential detrimental effects, and questions about next steps. We have written about our perspective on the shutdown and the report released by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” But the discussions that the news prompted are important, and to add to this dialog we are beginning a blog series featuring the voices of survivors and law Enforcement on the issue of Backpage.com and the online facilitation of sex trafficking. Tomorrow we’ll publish the last blog featuring these four survivors of sex trafficking on their perspectives on the Backpage.com debate. This is the second blog in that series. Read Part 1 here.
In this blog we interview four survivors of sex trafficking:
- Tara Madison is a published author, speaker and a full time college student whose chief aim is to educate the public on the dynamics of human trafficking.
- A Female Survivor
- Kathy Bryan–A talented speaker, mentor, and author, Kathy attributes God’s amazing mercy and grace for the wisdom, joy and freedom she’s found after surviving two years of sex trafficking as a young teen. Kathy currently serves as Program Director and National Trainer for Rebecca Bender Initiative, passionately equipping thousands across the U.S. She has mentored hundreds of women, encouraging them as they journey towards truth, identity, and worth. kathybryan.com.
- A Male Survivor
Critics of the closure of Backpage.com’s “adult services” section have voiced concern that exploitation will take place in much more dangerous conditions, such as on the street, rather than via the anonymity of the Internet. What is your perspective on that argument?
Tara Madison: This is a biased argument. The concept that illegal sexual exploitation is safer from one’s own living room than on the street is only protecting the perpetrators of these illicit acts and not the victims. Victims of sex trafficking are in grave danger, regardless of the sale conditions! The anonymity of the internet only makes it harder to recover these victims whose lives are at risk!
A Female Survivor: “Conditions more dangerous?”—no. When you are in a hotel room you don’t know who is going to walk in the door. On the street, she actually has others around that might tip her off to the danger of a “bad trick”. She will be more alert and will size up a person for danger.
Kathy Bryan: I would never negate the fact that the comfort of a motel/hotel room is far better than the street, it totally is. The truth is trafficking is incredibly dangerous wherever it occurs. The main danger is from the trafficker and buyer, who will be present no matter the location. Trafficking has been occurring since the beginning of time. Telling ourselves that Backpage.com’s advertisement services somehow makes it safer and less harmful is an illusion at best, and a travesty at worst. Yes, the victim didn’t have to go procure the buyer, which is much nicer, and could add a small measure of safety. However, nothing makes the fact that you are being raped several times a day by someone, who paid to do it, easier to live with. Not to mention, there are, unfortunately, a great number of other sites on which to advertise.
A Male Survivor: The argument is that Backpage prevents pimping under-aged youth from happening on the streets? The only analogy I can think of is methadone and in that scenario, the fact that a person is using methadone instead of heroin, doesn’t change the fact that they are still a drug addict. And to assert that Backpage makes pimping children safer, is simply outrageous. This is another argument to assert Backpage should be allowed to facilitate illegal activity because they mean well. Really? Backpage wants to continue their facilitation because they mean well and cooperate with law enforcement? It’s nothing to do with the billion dollar industry, it’s just because they care so much about the children, right?