Selling the Girl Next Door
Selling the Girl Next Door is about sex trafficking of American underage girls, a business which has moved off the street and onto the Internet. The sex services of girls as young as eleven are being advertised in the Adult Services section of Backpage.com. They were being sold on Craig’s List until CNN journalist Amber Lyon confronted owner Craig Newmark as part of her investigation.
Obviously no online marketplace is going to accept an ad for prostitution. The girls are listed as “escorts,” with revealing photos and coded language (eg “young,” “fresh,” “innocent”) to indicate they’re underage.
When you look at the millions of dollars the federal government spent on shutting down Silk Road for selling recreational drugs (see Was Silk Road Founder Framed?), it’s ironic – and frankly sickening – that they continue to allow sites like Backpage.com to traffic in underage girls.
Lyon interviews Las Vegas girls convicted for underage prostitution in Clark County juvenile detention center, as well as men who have used their services and judges, lawyers and probation officers who work with them. She also profiles one particular thirteen-year-old, interviewing her mom and going to court with her.
Blaming the Victim
The pimps who run underage girls are always on the lookout for runaways. They use the promise of affection to lure them in and violence to keep them as virtual sex slaves. In most US cities, underage girls arrested for prostitution are locked up in juvenile prisons. City and county authorities claim they have no other way to keep them off the street.
One Las Vegas judge is fronting an initiative to build a safe house for underage victims of sex trafficking as an alternative to prison. He’s being blocked by county authorities – they refuse to cough up $700,000 for probation officers to run it. Federal funding appropriated to combat sex trafficking, only goes to help foreign victims.
In the course of the CNN investigation, the threat of unwanted publicity led Newmark to shut down the Adult Services section of Craig’s List. Backpage.com, the second most popular online marketplace, immediately saw their income spike by billions of dollars. They’re owned by Village Voice Media, who refused to be interviewed by CNN.