The readers’ forum

Close down exploiters’ access to girls

 

In the midst of the recent government shutdown, U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rosa DeLauro put forth a bipartisan effort to focus on a crisis unfolding in our country — the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

On Oct. 22, a bipartisan group of 79 House members co-sponsored a House resolution titled, “Our Daughters Are Not For Sale.” The resolution condemns child trafficking and encourages law-enforcement agencies and others to eradicate these practices and to help victims.

It not only represents a growing concern and political advocacy on behalf of the issue, it also demonstrates collaborative efforts that help counter many Americans’ view that elected officials acted like spoiled children during the shutdown.

The legislation proposes to educate local communities on child trafficking, provides support for survivors, offers the same protections to victims of sex trafficking that child-abuse victims get, urges law enforcement and prosecutors to treat the trafficked girls as victims and not criminals and supports an end to the demand for girls to be used in child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

As a social worker dealing with commercially sexually exploited children, I support the two congresswomen’s efforts. However, I must ask: “What exactly are the elected officials doing to support the end of demand for child trafficking and sexual exploitation?”

The Internet is a popular vehicle for pimps and johns to sell and buy underage girls for sex all over the country. According to the CNN documentary Selling the Girl Next Door, Backpage.com charges $5 per escort ad and was projected to earn more than $20 million from its adult ads alone in 2010.

Backpage is owned by the Village Voice, which presented a new policy on adult advertising in December 2012 stating that its publishers were “implementing stricter standards across the entire Voice Media Group chain, to make sure that our advertising is as ethical as possible.” In the new policy, ads were to contain only headshots and no suggestive language. Yet, the adult ads contain body shots and have explicit enticing language.

Closing down Backpage’s escort section would be a tremendous stride in the nation’s efforts to end the demand for child trafficking and sexual exploitation, as it would eliminate the accessibility to purchase underage girls.

Jacquelin Escobar, Miami

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