Sexual Slavery by Web
On Jan 25 the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristoff titled “How Pimps Use the Web to Sell Girls” (see the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/opinion/how-pimps-use-the-web-to-sell-girls.html ). He opens with a chilling description of a frightened 13-year-old girl banging on the an apartment door and begging the occupant to use the phone, then calling he mom and 911 to report that she’d be held captive and used as a sex-slave. The police arrived and arrested her 21-year-old pimp who had brought her to the building and sent her up to a john’s apartment while he waited downstairs. A runaway, she explained to police that she was bleeding vaginally and had recently been kicked down the stairs for trying to escape a daily routine of being raped by 8 or 9 “customers”, and being beaten with a belt if she didn’t bring her captor enough money.
The article explained that a website called backdoor.com, owned by the parent company of the Village Voice newspaper in New York was a haven for pimps who deliver prostitutes, often very much underage, like pizza to the johns who order them online. There are other sites like this, and craislist was once famous for the same thing until a public and judicial backlash forced them to shut down that section of the site.
Crimes of this nature continue to happen around the world every day, far more commonly than one might believe, often just out of sight. These predators use a variety of means to lure and keep their victims, and those who patronize them frequently prefer very young girls. As with most crimes, the poor are the easiest targets, and with the media slow to report missing children and teenagers of color (who are more often poor than their white counterparts) young girls and women of color make for a more appealing target. Many of them are runaways, or from homes so broken as to be unable to protect them. The most common approach is to offer these lost children food, shelter, kindness, then use physical threats and emotional manipulation to steer them into sexual slavery.
Even though this is illegal, and police departments are increasingly dedicating staff to work exclusively on these cases, the anonymity provided by the web has allowed these crimes to continue and perhaps to escalate. We should all remain alert for situations that don’t look or feel right where young people seem to be in harm’s way. I think that if there’s a doubt, one should call the police anyway. If the situation is innocent, that should be easy enough to clear up. But if your instincts are right and you act, you will likely have saved one of our children from a fate some would consider no different from the kinds of slavery practiced here centuries ago.