A national organization devoted to stopping child sex trafficking has identified an effective way to thwart the industry — but says it needs the help of everyday citizens to do it.
Child sex traffickers have been known to use Backpage.com — an online classified web site for goods and services, run by Village Voice Media, which advertises in print publications in cities across the nation.
According to Shared Hope International, a Virginia-based ministry, ads sold for Backpage.com’s “Adult” section are expected to pull in $25.4 million for Village Voice Media this year.
When Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn became aware that children were being sold for sex through the site, he asked Village Voice Media either to remove the Adult Services section from Backpage.com, or explain how it ensures that women and children aren’t illegally sold for sex through those ads.
When Backpage.com didn’t respond, McGinn pulled all the advertising out of the weekly publication Village Voice Media runs in Seattle.
Earlier this year, Shared Hope International asked 54 mayors nationwide to follow McGinn’s example, even providing a sample letter to send Backpage.com, asking it to remove its “Adult” section.
Now, the group is turning to the mayors’ constituents, asking them to use their influence with their own elected officials, and in turn, “asking them to get a hold of Village Voice Media and tell them that they will not tolerate children being sold online and men being directed to buy those children in their cities,” said Shared Hope International President Linda Smith.
The problem of children being bought and sold for sex here in America is bigger than most people realize, she said.
“There’s over 100,000 children that go missing every year and fall into commercial sex (who are) under 18,” Smith pointed out. “The average age that children go into commercial sex and being sold to men around the United States is 13.”
Though the campaign won’t kick off for another week, Shared Hope International has sample letters available for both mayors and constituents to use in their respective lobbying efforts.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Shared Hope International.
Read the sample letter mayors were asked to send Backpage.com.
Read a sample letter you can send to your mayor, asking him to use his influence with Backpage.com.