“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”
National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is winding down, but the actual work of preventing human trafficking continues. Two terrific posts yesterday – one national, one local – demonstrate the need for action and offer ways to meet that need.
Abolitionist and New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof, calls out Backpage.com for helping pimps trafficking girls. That’s not a euphemism, I mean girls. As the quote above from Lauren Hersh, “the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there,” demonstrates.
Kristof tells the story of a 13 year-old, whom he calls Babyface, who managed to escape from her pimp (read: trafficker). But not before “she was bleeding vaginally…her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.”
Why does Backpage need to shut down its adult services section?
Babyface had run away from home in September. Kendale Judge [the man who became her pimp] allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add. (emphasis added)
Further Kristof writes, Backpage “is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.”
It was that line that caught Kristin Claes’ attention over at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE):
That’s not the first time we’ve heard that comparison, and [Kristof’s] sadly very right: When Rachel Durchslag, CAASE’s executive director, interviewed 113 johns in Chicago, one purchaser said: “I usually call for a girl, you know, like a pizza.” There are so many disturbing things happening there–a girl being a commodity, available to order–it’s important to know that johns are a driving force as much as pimps are.
I know it’s easier to avert our eyes from this sort of atrocity. But we must not. Girls like Babyface aren’t just in New York or Mumbai. They are here too. Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad:
we [in the Chicago area] are fortunate locally that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart are embracing the End Demand approach. We’ve seen signs of progress in Illinois, with local stings that led to the arrests of more than 10 traffickers and 27 johns.
Want a different option? Come to Woodridge United Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00pm as we screen and discuss the anti-trafficking documentary Call + Response. The event is free, we have plenty of parking, we’ll provide some snacks, and child care is available.
Whatever else you do, be a modern-day abolitionist.