By Faiza Mathon-Matheiu, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations
For the past 16 years, Backpage.com has been the leading website in the online sex trafficking of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 73% of all reports of child sex trafficking occur on Backpage.com. Thanks in large part to a newly launched effort, advocates, survivors, and lawmakers are fighting back and joining together to force the company to be held accountable for facilitating the sexual abuse of children. A new documentary, I Am Jane Doe, which opens in 6 cities, including New York City, today, is mobilizing stakeholders across the country.The powerful film focuses on the battle being waged by American mothers on behalf of their middle-school age daughters who were victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com. The film follows their gut-wrenching fight as these families attempt to hold Backpage.com responsible through the legal system for its part in this horrific form of abuse.
The film is already generating conversation among lawmakers. At a screening in D.C., members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) discussed the Committee’s groundbreaking investigation that uncovered the extent to which Backpage.com has engaged in the online sex trafficking of children. The following day, ECPAT-USA, Shared Hope International, and My Life My Choice in coordination with and Congressman Ted Poe held a Congressional briefing where panelists included two powerful mothers whose daughters were sold for sex on Backpage. They shared their stories about the impact it has had on their girls and their families. Now the two are at a forefront of the movement, turning their anger into activism and speaking out across the country about what needs to be done to prevent other families from experiencing the tragedies they have experienced. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Ann Wagner, and Representative Chris Smith also gave remarks about the need to amend the federal Communications Decency Act so that companies like Backpage cannot continue to make millions of dollars a year from the abuse of young children.
The week started with the Second Annual Human Trafficking Symposium hosted by the McCain Institute. The Institute is a leader in convening multiple power sectors to brainstorm on policies and program to end trafficking. ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director moderated the Legislative Road Ahead panel with federal legislators in the fight against human trafficking – Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Each member of Congress discussed their recent success and accomplishments as well as the legislative path forward. As we look forward to the reauthorization of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act this year, strong partnerships with members of Congress will ensure that the package will strengthen the U.S. commitment to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, gave a moving opening statement about the commitment of his company. He called it a movement, not a cause, and spoke passionately about the need for companies like his to do their part.
He is so right. Training of airline employees is crucial. As I was greeting Delta employees who were filing into the giant gathering room, within 5 minutes two people told me they had identified and reported cases of potential child trafficking. Two employees in five minutes! Every U.S. airline should be considering the same steps. Who knows how many more children would be saved.
– Carol Smolenski
ECPAT-USA is proud to announce a partnership with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) – the first airport to sign The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code).
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Before the month is over, do at least one of these things to make your mark against the trafficking of children:
Read up here on child trafficking so you are aware and informed. Tell your friends what you learned.
Write a letter to your member of Congress supporting laws that protect children. Here’s one about a law that calls on companies to take steps to let us all know how they are helping child trafficking victims.
Buy our fair-trade products that support women in Thailand who are at risk for being trafficked.
Sign up for one of our Advocacy Journeys to learn about child trafficking on the ground in other countries.
Sign up for the ECPAT-Athletes team in the New York City TD 5 Boro Bike Ride or for the TCS New York City Marathon by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot!
View our 20-minute video called What I Have Been Through is Not Who I Am. It has been used by law enforcement agencies and child protective service agencies across the country as a training tool.
Host a screening of the blockbuster film SOLD, starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette, to raise awareness and benefit ECPAT-USA. Go to www.ecpatusa.org/SOLD to request your screening guide.
An Uber driver’s call to police lead to the rescue of a 16 year old girl from being trafficked in a California hotel. The Uber driver, Keith Avila, picked up on the situation that was taking place and knew he had to take action.
Sponsored by leaders in the travel sector including HRS Global Hotel Solutions, The Parking Spot, Delta Air Lines, Marriott International, and the The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE, the event will align the Los Angeles community to put an end to child sex trafficking. Celebrities, government officials, the private sector, and the public will unite for the cause, raising funds and support for ECPAT-USA’s mission to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex.
On Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 ECPAT-USA celebrated its 25th Anniversary of fighting for freedom. The soireé was held at the elegant Pace Gallery in New York City and was filled with over 200 generous friends of ECPAT-USA who support a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex. Thank you to everyone who donated to our evening – we well surpassed our fundraising goal!