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. This is the last blog featuring these four survivors of sex trafficking about their perspectives on the Backpage.com debate. This was the third blog in this series. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here. Watch for a 4th blog in this series next week featuring an interview with a law enforcement officer on Backpage.com.
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
In your opinion, what impact does the shutdown of Backpage.com’s “adult services” section have on the sex trafficking of minors?
Tara Madison: The statistics are clear that minors were being sold for “adult services” on Backpage.com. Shutting down these services could potentially save hundreds and thousands of minors from being sold online for sex, but deleting these web pages does not mean the abolishment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. There will be new sites selling these same services that could potentially have stronger encryption and tougher access for law enforcement and governmental agencies.
The shutdown of Backpage.com’s adult services is a means to an end. To quote Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” In this country we must continue to do everything in our power to end this horrific violation of human rights.
A Female Survivor: Absolutely none. There are others who will step in to fill that void. When I was being trafficked there was no Backpage.com and child sex trafficking thrived. Shutdown was good for publicity of the issue itself, but that’s about it.
Kathy Bryan: Sadly, very little. We must not be fooled into thinking shuttering Backpage.com adult ads will somehow stop or lessen human trafficking. It simply forces the criminals to use other ways to ply their trade, most of which already exist. Assuming a trafficker has only one victim, and that victim generates a minimum of $1,000 daily, or $365,000 per year, we’d be foolish to think they wouldn’t quickly find another way to keep that income flowing. There’s no way they will throw their hands in the air, and decide they should just go get a job!
The internet did not exist when I was being trafficked in residences as a teenager. However, there was never a shortage of buyers. My point is, those who participate in this crime will find it regardless of internet sites. It flourished when I was sold in the early 80’s, and it flourishes now. This is a heart condition. The hearts of people who are consumed with greed, power, and lust fuel this crime. We can mitigate circumstances, make and enforce laws, and educate on the reality of slavery, however it will never end without a heart change both in the individual and as a society. In the meantime, turning a blind eye to a legal corporation whose coffers grow fatter daily from sales of human flesh is unconscionable. I applaud our Senate for all they are doing in this matter.
A Male Survivor: The sex trafficking of minors is a national and international scourge on humanity. At times it feels impossible to completely stop, but that is a defeatist perspective and one devoid of hope. I can’t help but think of the starfish story – the person on the beach tossing one of thousands of starfish on the beach back into the ocean – will one person save all the starfish, no, but it matters to that one starfish that is saved. There are plenty of examples of other illegal websites being shut down (Napster, Silk Road) – ask any law enforcement officer whether they believe shutting down one website eliminates the problem – the answer is no, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to save one more child. It was the latest website caught facilitating crime and its time has come to an end. The fact that the Backpage owner is wealthy and thought he was above the law just adds to the repulsiveness of their self-serving, ignorant arguments in support of their facilitating criminal acts against children. Good riddance.