Teenagers Stand Up to Backpage

Some brave girls who say they were sold for sex on Backpage.com are fighting back in lawsuits that could have far-reaching implications for sex trafficking in America.
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One of the many ugly characteristics of our pleasure seeking society, is using our children.....either by direct exploitation, or indirectly, by offering no support or parenting when they are in trouble. Why do we not see that they are a reflection of us, their parents, grandparents, teachers, clergymen and coaches? I pray for the legal authorities and the young people who are doing their best to stay out of trouble, get an education and cope with an indifferent and self centered older generation, bent on casting them off when they are perceived as worthless and troubled.
I heard a woman carp at a young sales clerk at the grocery store. She was merciless as she commanded that her bags be packed in a certain way.....the young man tried to do his job as he was trained to do it, but that did not matter. She kept hacking away at his every move. This is where confidence ends and fears begin. Why do we not see the value in young people.
I pray for these young people who are fighting back, and for all those who will truly help them.

8 2017-05-07 10:41:37 - Patricia Allan

Yeah, good reasons - they had more money.

1 2017-03-24 12:02:19 - Francis

They're not "children" they're biological adults, most would have been married with their own children in the recent past. Laws and cultural norms created to perversely take away indepence to "protect" young adults from working and from getting married "too young" force many of them into disreputable situations

2 2017-03-16 05:35:54 - Jim

It is so sad that the same tools that enrich the lives of so many children are destroying the lives of others. The freedom of speech does not extend to brutalizing children by enabling their use in prostitution and pornography. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could redirect the law enforcement resources used to frisk minorities on the streets and prosecute people for using marijuana to the indictment and conviction of people who profit from the abuse of children?

I must observe that if people with evil intent can use backpage to find children being offered for sex, and if the people offering the children can arrange through backpage to receive their pay, why can law enforcement not find them? The girl who reported her plight from the hotel room also knew the room she was supposed to visit. Was the John arrested as well as the pimp? Was it not determined how he used backpage to make the illegal arrangements?

Backpage's "successful business model" involves providing a relatively safe and effective way for people who buy and sell children for sex to conduct business. Even if law enforcement cannot directly prosecute backpage for its role in this debauchery it could use its resources to make the illegal transactions so risky that backpage loses its customers.

41 2017-03-06 00:19:39 - Ken H.

Why can't these girls be rescued?

4 2017-02-14 08:34:37 - Christian Miller

The solution to this problem is legalization and regulation. In a black market, there are no controls. If we accept the proposition that sex work is not going away - a fair assumption I would think (they don't call it the oldest trade in the world for nothing) - then the best thing to do is ensure that minors don't enter into it and everyone is consenting. If the only place where these transactions take place is the black market then you can't do that. If every sex worker were registered by the state, required to submit proof of age, and to get regular STD testing, would this increase or decrease the number of young girls forced into the sex trade? And would it make it easier or harder for law enforcement to focus on those cases rather than wide sweeps for what is essentially adults engaging in a consensual business transaction?

26 2017-02-04 08:36:05 - Ben

I hope the legal cleverness of Backpage will have met its match, and that a result will be achieved so that it can no longer facilitate what's been going on.

10 2016-12-31 14:05:48 - Diana Moses

What can NYTimes readers do to help? Who, besides Backpage, profits from this activity? Backpage's Landlord? Their Banker? Their credit card processor? Backpage's employees? Who are these people and how can we put pressure on them?

12 2016-12-09 13:29:28 - Mary Lynn

While jailing prostitutes is definitely criminalizing the wrong party in this transaction, do you imagine any young girl saying "when I grow up, I want to be a hooker"? It ludicrous to suggest that women would choose this profession without coersion or a history of abuse - as children and/or adults.
As many other commenters have said - follow the money and you'll find the men at both ends of the transaction and they should be the ones who are prosecuted.

3 2016-10-23 21:44:49 - John Lunn

Thank you for this, Nicholas, and I hope that a way is found to shut this down completely, and imprison for life whoever is behind it.

6 2016-10-05 17:59:46 - jerry309

You mention a girl who says she was raped a thousand times. That's three times a day for a year, or once a day for three years. Mr. Kristof, could you please explain the actual details of this claim? Where was she? Why did she stay there? How is this possible?

I've never heard of this website and I am willing to believe you that it's horrible. But raped a thousand times? You owe us an explanation to go with the outrage.

5 2016-09-27 08:51:31 - Comment reader

"Attorney Generals from 48 states have written a joint letter to Backpage, pleading with it to stop exploiting children."

Prostitution at any age is illegal. The Attorney General should not allow any form of human sex selling. Where is the FBI with the sting operation? Why haven't they interviewed victims and brought appropriate charges, if founded, against Backpage?

I think we could come at them with more than a letter.

14 2016-08-23 05:43:03 - KH

Anita - the only way politicians will "care" is if the voting age is reduced to that of these young women.

1 2016-08-10 08:42:05 - John
Backpage.com was created and owned by the Village Voice, the liberal New York weekly newspaper. After intense criticism of the Voice, Backpage was spun off in 2012 into a separate company but it is unclear if there are still behind-the-scenes financial ties between the two firms. Backpage profited mightily by Craigslist's exit from the online sex business after intense criticism of its role there. Craigslist has now quietly resumed some its involvement in that category of advertising.
7 2016-08-08 17:55:39 - Charles

This smells like a shakedown to me. Underage prostitution and statutory rape are very severe crimes which carry very severe punishment. If it as a prevalent as this article pretends it is, if it is advertised so openly, then let law enforcement and prosecutors have at it. Easy pickens, right? Of course it is not. This is simply an attempt to grab money.

7 2016-08-05 17:59:06 - Robert

Mr. Kristof doesn't cite the origin of his opening stat. The bogus 100,000 number originally came out of a study seeking to understand the number children and youth *at risk* of sexual exploitation. Doubtless that number has only grown. Since then however, crusaders less interested in truth than in pushing their favored ideology or moral campaigns have seen fit to drop the *at risk* bit, because it serves their agenda better this way. "So what if the actual numbers are 5-10 % of this figure, that's still horrendous, right?" Yes! But the reason I get angry at exploiters of moral outrage like Mr. Kristof, who want to play whackamole with Backpage or whoever the latest target is, is because it will do not a whit to tackle the real and complex problems of the 100,000, nor even protect the smaller group actually involved. It is putting a bandaid on an Ebola patient. At best they will use any of the many other forums available for such purposes; worse, it could drive more onto the streets.

16 2016-07-30 22:04:06 - sybaritic7

@Mark, justice in America is driven by three impulses. 1) bureaucracy, 2) DA ambition and 3) mob mentality. Perhaps there isn't enough advocacy by high profile cases to demand justice. Sweeping the innocent and defenseless under the rug is nothing new. All the while minor characters are hounded to the end of the world because they are a convenient scapegoat

2 2016-07-21 05:03:58 - Bos

This is so clearly a misrepresentation of free speech that it defies logic. Why is not one senator standing up in Congress to denounce this and pass meaningful legislation about protection of our children. I always believe when the obvious is not done, profit is involved. In this case, follow the money.

16 2016-07-20 14:01:15 - Anthony Mazzucca

I find it unfortunate and telling that it is our children who have to stand up to these people. What does this say about us?

4 2016-07-10 20:05:26 - Anita

Yes, it is high time to stop exploiting children, a seeming lucrative abuse that goes unpunished, with Backpage one of the culprits peddling immunity. How do you stop a crime so heinous when solicitations for sex trafficking are so common? Screening software is a start. More attention paid by police a must. Family problems, illegal drugs, even poverty, are powerful inducements for maintaining the status quo of this shameful practice.

28 2016-07-09 08:04:05 - manfred marcus

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