BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Hawaii’s attorney general joined 45 other attorneys general across the nation to ask Village Voice Media to stop publishing classified advertisements that promote child trafficking and sex trafficking on BackPage.com back in August.
Now teachers across the nation are joining at least 60,000 others on Change.org in a related campaign that has attracted support from parents and grandparents in all 50 states.
“I am a high school teacher and know what this does to the lives of impressionable young people,” said Brooklyn teacher and father Martin Haber. “It’s not hip or cool, it’s a betrayal of our youth. I have an 18-year old daughter who noticed the graphic nature of Backpage.com the other day. She asked, ‘How is it even legal?’”
“I am a retired teacher and child care worker,” said California resident William Boosinger. “I spent most of my career trying to heal children who had been violated in this foul manner. It’s time to shut down this web site.”
They are asking for more people to long onto Change.org to join the campaign to pressure law enforcement to step up its efforts and for the company to stop publishing the ads.
The 46 attorneys generals had ordered Village Voice Media, the owner of the site, to prove it is preventing children from getting trafficked through its classified advertisements. After a delay, Village Voice responded by saying the company is actively weeding out illegal activity that may have been publicized on its web site, and there has been no information released by law enforcement since.
Backpage.com openly promises to connect its clients with everything from escorts, body rubs, strippers, strip clubs, and domination and fetish to transsexuals, male escorts, and pornographic web sites its adult services section.
Investigators in Washington state, Missouri and Connecticut say they have uncovered hundreds of ads on its regional sites for illegal services. And they have documented more than 50 cases in 22 states that involve the trafficking of minors.
Hawaii Attorney General David Louie called the site a “beacon for human traffickers.”
Specifically the letter sent on August 31 asks that the company “substantiate the claim that the company enforces policies to prevent illegal activity, describe its understanding of what constitutes illegal activity, and clarify whether advertisements for prostitution fall into that category.”
States signing on to the letter include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming and the territory of Guam.
Authorities in Arizona are already raiding one so called “temple” advertising on Backpage.com.
On September 9, law enforcement officials arrest 30 people at the “Phoenix Goddess Temple” in what they are calling the largest prostitution bust since 2008.
The 10,000 square-foot alleged brothel claimed to offer religious services in exchange for donations, the police told ABC News.
ABC News reports: “Temple Goddess employees had been trained to use evasive vocabulary… teachings were described as ‘body centric’ … . The homepage “invites” customers to ‘relax deeply’ in a ‘candle-lit Transformation Chamber,’ and ‘feel the magnetic polarity between men and women’ … ‘sessions’ claim to heal sexual blockages … the ‘temple’ offered Friday night sex-ed classes, featuring such topics as ‘Tantra 101’ and ‘Toys for Big Girls and Boys.'”
After multiple ads for sex trafficking victims were identified on Backpage.com, Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Theological Seminary, said it convened a coalition of leading clergy and religious leaders to launch Change.org. They say the campaign has attracted support from teachers, parents and grandparents in all 50 states.
“By joining this campaign, teachers like Martin and William are using the power of technology to stand up for their values – that boys and girls shouldn’t be sold for sex on Backpage.com,” said Change.org Director of Organizing Amanda Kloer. “Change.org seeks to empower people to take action on the issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch these teachers advocate for kids.”
Live signature totals from the Groundswell’s campaign:
For more information on Groundswell, please visit: