Personal Accounts: Sold on Backpage

Alissa from New York sold on Backpage at 16

I WENT on a walk in Manhattan the other day with a young woman who once had to work these streets, hired out by eight pimps while she was just 16 and 17. She pointed out a McDonald’s where pimps sit while monitoring the girls outside, and a building where she had repeatedly been ordered online as if she were a pizza.

Alissa, her street name, escaped that life and is now a 24-year-old college senior planning to become a lawyer — but she will always have a scar on her cheek where a pimp gouged her with a potato peeler as a warning not to escape. “Like cattle owners brand their cattle,” she said, fingering her cheek, “he wanted to brand me in a way that I would never forget.”

After Alissa testified against her pimps, six of them went to prison for up to 25 years. Yet these days, she reserves her greatest anger not at pimps but at companies that enable them. She is particularly scathing about Backpage.com, a classified advertising Web site that is used to sell auto parts, furniture, boats — and girls. Alissa says pimps routinely peddled her on Backpage.

“You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?” she asked me. “No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.”

17 year-old Megan

“I made my pimp about over $30,000 and I got nothing out of it,” said Megan, who is just 17. “The most I’ve gotten is a pair of heels.”

Those shoes are a painful reminder of how she was coerced into selling her body for sex by an older man she hoped would become her boyfriend. Instead, she worked long hours in hotel rooms where she would service up to 20 men a night.

Megan’s pimp did not make her walk the streets, she said. Instead, he advertised her online in the adult services section of the nationwide classified website, Backpage.com.

“My first ad, I had no idea what it said. I had no idea what they put on it. All I know is that they put the pictures that I took on there, and people started calling me,” she said.

3 teen girls sold as prostitutes filed lawsuit against Backpage.com

But Erik Bauer, the victims’ lawyer, said his clients were in 7th and 9th grade when adult professional sex traffickers sold the girls as prostitutes on Backpage. The pimps knew they could run their ads anonymously, he said.

“They claim they have immunity from having pimps sell children on their website,” Bauer said. “There’s a massive amount of human sex trafficking on their website.”

While Backpage didn’t write the ads, it helps develop them in part, he said. It also gives advertisers specific instructions on what the ads should say in order to be successful, Bauer said.

Daughters sold on Backpage.com

VIOLET: “We meet Violet in a neighborhood just outside St. Paul, Minnesota. The pretty blonde married young. Her high-spirited, 14-year-old daughter later ran away and was missing for three years. Prosecutors say the girl was prostituted by a man she met at a bus stop who gave her food and a couch to sleep on and then advertised her for sex on Backpage.com to “pay him back.”…Violet, who asked we changed her name to protect her family, said, “The worst part was the torture I had to hear about. You know the torture she endured from different people along the way.”

DAWN: “Dawn, for example, knew her blue-eyed, blond-haired 15-year-old daughter had a secret, online “friend.” That friend made the teen feel good about herself, promising to buy her gifts and give her the good life. “The only thing she got is a Happy Meal,” says Dawn. The child ran away with him. In less than a week, her “friend,” a known pimp, had posted pictures of her online in Backpage.com’s adult section selling the child for sex. “He took her and beat her into submission, raping her, and then held her in prostitution,” says Dawn, who asked we change her name to protect the family. She learned details of her daughter’s ordeal by reading the criminal complaint filed against the man, who has pleaded not guilty. The case is being prosecuted by the office of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who says he has several cases against…”

2 Teens sue Backpage for selling them in MA

“A recent court case, Doe v. Backpage.com LLC, brings the issue in to astounding focus. The case filed through the Massachusetts federal court by two women details the horrifying abuses they endured as minors when they were sold for sex through ads placed on Backpage.com…”

“…All of these events lead up to the more recent aforementioned case of Doe v. Backpage.com LLC. The details are horrific. Together the two women claimed to have been sold for sex a combined 1,900 times when they were between the ages of 15-17.”

 

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