Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Backpage.com Connected to Murders in Detroit

Last week, the Detroit Free Press and CNN revealed the staggering earnings of websites like Backpage.com that are fueling prostitution and sex trafficking. In the story, it’s estimated that Backpage.com sold about $24 million in escort ads in the past year. These ads were linked by police to the recent murders of prostituted women in Detroit.

Four women's bodies were found in the trunks of cars after they had apparently been solicited via the internet and murdered. These women had been advertised on Backpage.com and other websites as "escorts." Backpage is, by its own admission, a “middle man” helping to facilitate the sale of sex through its ads. There's more in a video from CNN at the end of this post.

You might ask: What’s the difference between escort services and street level prostitution? Isn’t being an escort something glamorous, more akin to Pretty Woman than to life on the street? The gruesome details of this story and so many others involving prostituted women reveal just how much violence and risk prostituted people endure, whether they are sold on the street or on the internet.

Local research here in Chicago by Jody Raphael found that the safety of women in prostitution is threatened at similar levels in both indoor and outdoor venues. No matter whether the women were escorts, worked in strip clubs or hotels or on the street, they experienced violence at the hands of customers and their pimps. Most prostituted people are forced to turn over some or all of their money to a pimp, and it’s often that pimp who places the ads with Backpage.com and other websites. When someone else is profiting from the sale of another’s body for sex, it is trafficking.

People who buy sex—those who surf through these ads and decide where to buy and with whom—are the ones driving the trade. If we want to end the violence of the sex trade, we have to start by stopping people who create demand. We applaud efforts to shut down Backpage.com’s escort ads and support local law enforcement initiatives that hold pimps, johns and traffickers accountable for the harm they cause.
To learn more about our End Demand Illinois campaign, visit www.enddemandillinois.org

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