Human Trafficking Awareness Day – Backpage.com Removes Adult Content but Whines “Victim”

Over 400 cases of child sex trafficking have been reported in 47 states, all with connection to the website Backpage.com.

Child sex trafficking increased over 800% in last 5 years, and vast majority of reports included Backpage.com.

When asked for ads by the law, content was “sanitized” by Backpage before being given to the police.

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Natalie, sold on Backpage, “Continuously. All day, every day. 24/7.”

Yesterday, I watched the senate hearing against Backpage live online, typing as I listened…

This is happening live right now and I’m listening to the Senate questioning these Backpage bigwigs, who have refused to answer any question about having code words on their site like “little girl” “teen” “rape” and even “Amber Alert.” They’re being told stats like over 400 cases of child trafficking, where the vast majority of reports involved their site, and sit back in their chairs with cold glances and wooden-voiced non-responses.

I actually pulled up another window and looked up Backpage.com. Today, all their adult sites have red letter “censored” on them, and if you click any of them, they say the government has unconstitutionally censored their content and gives links to big long impressive-sounding stuff, with quotes from people supposedly fighting trafficking saying this shutdown is terrible because now the police can’t get on Backpage to find the trafficked victims and it’s going to be harder to fight child trafficking now. Makes me sick.

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The 2nd panel is about to start, witnesses by parents and survivors advertised on Backpage. The large part of me doesn’t want to listen to this, but I know I need to. I train churches and schools and other groups on fighting human trafficking, and I often say I don’t want to tell people what I know, but if we don’t know, we can’t do anything about it.

So here they are, and I need to listen…though it should be noted that those Backpage bigwigs all left the room before these victims and their families entered. None of them stayed to hear the true stories of what their website did to young girls and their families.

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Nacole,  a mother, spoke first, “hoping that what you hear today makes a difference.” She had 3 children in a “close family,” each honor roll students. Their youngest, Natalie, was the most energetic, “so full of life and promise.” Natalie wanted to experience everything. “All we saw was an exceptional young lady doing exceptional things,” but their daughter was struggling. Natalie ran away at 15, leaving a 5-page letter saying how wonderful her family was, and she loved them, but needed to find herself, and they should not worry. She went to Seattle and was targeted by a 22-year-old trafficker posing as a teen.

She was trafficked, used, sold, raped, all while being advertised for sex on Backpage.com.

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Video on Natalie’s story at ABCNews: http://abcnews.go.com/US/daughters-sale-young-american-girls-sold-online/story?id=39350838

When the mother finally saw her, she was so changed. “Our Natalie was gone.” They began a quest for justice, that young girls should not be sold online, and bought as easily as one can buy a product on amazon. “For people who purchase children for sex, any semblance of risk has been taken from the process. All the dark street corners have been replaced…and these men make their transactions from the safety of their own home.”

As for Backpage, “They feel that same level of immunity as the purchaser of child sex sitting behind their computer screens, because they also feel protected…hiding behind the mantra that any action on the internet is free speech…while children like our daughter are repeated raped day after day. They claim 1st amendment rights while they allow girls like my daughter to be offered as a weekend special.”

“It is time to admit the truth to ourselves, that this was never about protecting the constitution. This is about protecting greed and gain no matter the consequence.” As for the CEO, “He is just another pimp.”

“How long?” she asks. “How long until the changes are made? It’s been 6 years….Just a few words to end online child sex trafficking in our country…so that we can say that we live in the land of the free.”

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The 2nd witness was a ordinary-looking man, clearly uncomfortable and battling emotion, who said he got involved because of his wife and daughter, but he is not optimistic like his wife is. He says, “During this 6-year nightmare, two things have struck me. First, that somehow, children have become a bargaining chip” in a “David and Goliath” battle about internet freedom, and they are just “collateral damage” in this huge argument over internet rights. “Second,” he continues, “I’ve been disgusted and shocked by the commitment and stance that Backpage has taken. That Backpage somehow thinks it has the right to sell my child….They’re shouting this argument from every court in the country. I can’t believe the contempt and the lack of humanity they’ve taken….How can it be that we are even debating this today?”

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“In my mind it’s simple,” he says, and I want to reach into the video and give this poor man a hug. “What happened to every child sold on Backpage.com is criminal. Children are not acceptable collateral damage. They are our hope…” He chokes up, and I do, too. “Our future. America’s conscience. Now that I know you’ve heard our story, I know you can do something to prevent any more children from paying this horrible price.” He looks at the panel of American leaders. “Thank you.”

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Kubiiki’s daughter ran away at 14 and disappeared. She found her months later advertised on Backpage. “Backpage was aware of the explicit and pornographic photos” of her daughter on their site, advertising her 14-year-old for sex with adults. She called Backpage many times, telling them her daughter was trafficking and being abused.

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“I begged for them to remove the photos,” she says, but they did not take the ads down for a month. “What she went through on a daily basis is still unimaginable to me,” Kubiiki says of her daughter. “But right now, eight years later, the pain is so intense. There has been no true healing.”

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I sit here in my nice, comfortable home, listening to horrors from a world I often speak of but don’t truly know. I’m overwhelmed with the vastness of this evil, the complete lack of remorse I saw on those Backpage representative’s faces, the pain I saw in the eyes of those parents. I honestly don’t have much hope in the system changing things that much. Laws can make change, and change can be good, but we all know more companies will come, more ways will be created to work around the system. I cry out to God, the God who loves justice (Isaiah 61:8), the God who hears the cries of the helpless and oppressed. I do pray that the Senate shuts Backpage down completely and for good, but I also pray that God will deliver the captives and send help for their full healing and freedom (Luke 4:18). He might want to do that through you and I (Proverbs 31:8), so let’s be ready.

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Here’s the link if you want to watch/listen: Senate Hearing for Backpage’s Criminal Connection with Human Trafficking

Another ABCNews video and article about Backpage’s claim the shutdown is unconstitutional: Backpage Defends Ads

 

 

 

 

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