Working as a therapist who deals with problematic sexual behavior, I don’t often see common topics of conversation in my office on the front page of the newspaper. When I sat down to have my morning coffee and read The Wall Street Journal, it happened. Backpage was on the front page of the WSJ. Not something I ever thought I would see.
So what is Backpage? Backpage started out as part of the Village Voice newspapers and now is an online classified site. Many people are more familiar with Craig’s List which is a similar service (Craig’s List no longer has an adult section). Though Backpage.com does offer legitimate services on its classified site, in my field, it is most well known as a way to find an escort and pay for sex.
Backpage.com made it to the front page of The Wall Street Journal due to its association with escort services. More importantly, through its association with the sex trafficking of minors. Many of the minors who are recruited by sex traffickers (this is more common than you think) are advertised on sites like Backpage.com. Someone who is looking to have sex with a minor, will know what key words to look for in these ads. The traffickers can use these types of sites to travel throughout the country and easily advertise and find customers to have sex with the minors.
The main focus of the story in the WSJ was on the fight for freedom on the internet. Several rescued victims of sex trafficking are suing Backpage.com for hosting these ads on their site. Backpage states that they cooperate with law enforcement and try to help them catch traffickers. They also do monitor some key words and take down ads that use those words.
While I appreciate the WSJ taking on this topic, I would have liked to see the article focus more on sex trafficking. This topic is not talked about enough in the media. Sex traffickers target vulnerable boys and girls (often run aways or children from conflicted homes) and sell them for sex. Luckily, some of these children get rescued by police or other organizations that are trying to fight sex trafficking.
As a community member, I would ask that you don’t turn a blind eye to this problem. Know your area resources that help these children and support the men and women who are fighting the problem of sex trafficking minors. In my area, we have a great organization, VAST, who is working to combat the problem.