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Outraged at Sandusky findings? Then get outraged about Backpage.com

Dallas, TX|Sex-Trafficking Minors|Add Comment
By: Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News
Backpage Evil

Former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report on Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse escapades makes one basic point: Officials at Penn State knew it was happening and were in a position to stop it before more boys were abused and their lives ruined. Instead, they essentially looked the other way.

According to the organization Children at Risk, Texas is a hub for international and domestic human trafficking. Eighty percent of the 800,000 people trafficked globally each year are women and children. Sex slavery drives this business. And so does Backpage.com, the Village Voice Media company whose corporate offices are right here in Dallas, in the same building where The Observer’s staff goes to work each day (and at least one staffer writes with outrage about the Freeh report findings). Check out Backpage’s hundreds of ads for thinly disguised prostitution services, and you’ll see no shortage of ads that specifically lure customers with photos of young girls, some in pigtails. It’s sickening. It’s also sickeningly blatant.

The Houston Chronicle ran a column Tuesday by Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, detailing why Houston is such a popular venue for child sex traffickers, and how Backpage.com caters to the business.

“In July 2011, a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim was rescued from a Houston-area hotel on the Katy Freeway. A 25-year-old madam posted her pictures on backpage.com. The now-closed hotel was well within the 610 loop and exemplifies how close to home this issue is to Houstonians. Flip through the back pages of any Village Voice publication or peruse the adult section of Houston’s backpage.com to see a number of ads salaciously offering services ranging from ‘table showers’ to ’4-hands massage.’ It is easy to see through the façade. These services are little more than fronts for prostitution, some of which undoubtedly exploit minors.”

Not so amazingly, the exact same phrases are being used in ads for these same services here in Dallas, Frisco and Plano. In May 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas won the conviction of Clint Eugene Wilson, a.k.a. “Greedy,” a man who used Backpage.com to advertise the sexual services of a 16-year-old girl out of his Pleasant Grove home:

According to the factual resume filed in the case, Wilson met “B.J.,” a minor, at a convenience store in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas in October 2009. He invited her to a party later that evening and after the party, he asked her to move into his duplex with him. Wilson moved B.J. and her belongings into his residence in Pleasant Grove. Because of their sexual relationship, B.J. believed that Wilson was her boyfriend as opposed to just her “pimp.” Wilson commonly referred to B.J. as “young,” and ultimately convinced her to be an “escort” for him. He hinted to B.J. that being an escort involved more than just accompanying men on dates and later caused her to perform sexual acts for money.

Wilson took B.J. to the “track,” an area where prostitutes walk the street looking for customers, instructed her to prostitute, and forced her to turn over all the proceeds of her prostitution to him. Wilson also rented hotel rooms in the Dallas area where B.J., who had just reached age 16, was forced to perform prostitution “incalls.” Wilson posted prostitution advertisements on the Internet site, Backpage.com, depicting B.J. and offering commercial sex services.

On multiple occasions, Wilson, who has been previously convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, threatened and physically assaulted B.J., causing her to fear him. He kept an assault rifle in the utility room of his residence. Two weeks after she began working for Wilson, he forced B.J. to get a tattoo, which operated as a “brand” to show that she belonged to him. The tattoo referenced Wilson’s nickname of “Greedy,” and read “Boss Bitch” and “Eat Greedy.”

Folks, there are more than 150 documented cases where Backpage.com has advertised such services around the country involving minors. Backpage.com serves the same role as Penn State did for Sandusky. It looks the other way, keeps quiet, and tries to wash its hands of responsibility while effectively facilitating sexual abuse. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed at the commenters who will read these words and then post lame defenses of The Observer for its role in this. They’ll refer to The Observer’s writers as heroes for standing up to The Dallas Morning News and covering the things we fail to cover. And these commenters will totally ignore everything I’ve written above.

The reporters and columnists at The Observer do a lot of great work. But they know what their employer is doing, and they are doing nothing to stop it. When are they going to speak out? Or are they going to be like Joe Paterno and the Penn State officials who hid their heads in the sand?

While they’re deciding, they might consider a few more statistics from International Crisis Aid:

  • – In 2005, the Department of Justice reported there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S. since 2001.
  • – In 2009, a University of Pennsylvania study estimated nearly 300,000 youth in the United States were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses – “most of them runaways or thrown-aways,” said Ernie Allen, president of the NCMEC.
  • – Almost 300,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Dept of State)
  • – There are girls as young as 5 and 6 years old in the U.S. that are forced to do sexual acts for economic gain by their pimp (USDOJ)

Addendum: It just so happens that the Sandusky affair has caught the attention of one gun-toting staffer at The Observer, who wrote an entire column about it today. Everywhere you see “Sandusky” or “football” or “Paterno,” just sub “Observer” or “Backpage.com.” Everywhere you see “locker room,” just think “hotel room,” and see if the substance of it reads any differently:

“There is some kind of failure of dimension here. Lots of people have programs and institutions, egos, ambitions, dreams and fortunes of which they are extremely protective. But how many of them have the picture in their heads of Jerry Sandusky down there in their own locker room week after week raping kids from poor families?

There’s a greater evil here. It’s way beyond PR and football. Paterno’s son is right when he says that explanation is inadequate. His mistake is in not looking behind that rock to a much greater, more frightening depravity and bestiality lurking beyond.

Where is the Christian right on this, by the way? I have been watching and listening. Where are the people who want the government to stick digital probes up the vaginas of women undergoing abortions and then lecture them about their decisions? I just don’t hear anything from them. The silence howls.

These were children. This has something to do with authority and the objectification of human beings. It has something to do with the kind of dehumanization that prepares the bloody ground for slaughter. I can’t work that part of the puzzle, but I know it’s there. How else does one live with the picture?

Step Three should have been revulsion and anger. Why wasn’t there revulsion and anger? Is raping kids in the locker room pretty bad but not that bad? Is it something we can regret but live with?

Why can we live with it? That’s the real question.”

Comments on this column can be made here: http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2012/07/outraged-at-sandusky-findings-then-get-outraged-about-backpage-com.html/

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