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2012 Archives

Backpage in Our Backyard


The following commentary ran on the June 26, 2012, edition of the Huffington Post. Patricia Davis, author, is the associate director of the SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program.

July 3, 2012

Selling or procuring minors for sex is against federal and state law -- and any moral person's code of ethics. Yet, there is no denying that each day and night, dozens of our own children are being bought and sold right here in Dallas. Nor is there any disagreement that the pimps and traffickers who sell these children are being assisted by a Dallas corporate "neighbor," Adding irony to insult and injury, Backpage's national headquarters are located in The Observer building on Oak Lawn Avenue -- across the street from The Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.

Backpage, which is owned by Village Voice Media, nets more than $22 million a year from its business of providing an online and print "adult" marketplace for female bodies -- alongside ads for cars, rental properties and childcare services. Although Backpage purports to market to and for adults, law enforcement agencies across the metroplex have repeatedly found ads selling Dallas-area children on Backpage's sites.

How does this business work? First, vulnerable girls are targeted, lured, tricked, courted, groomed, branded and literally held in captivity in secret by traffickers and pimps. Then, incredibly, their bodies are offered for sale in living rooms and offices across the country -- via the Internet and in magazines also owned by VVM, including The Dallas Observer.

Craigslist, another Internet marketplace, recently bowed to national pressure to close its "adult" section. Many of Craigslist's "adult" advertisers migrated quickly and directly to Backpage. Backpage's typical responses to attacks on its business involve First Amendment rights and the claim that if it weren't selling children's bodies, someone else, possibly someone less "responsible," would be....