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Opinion

She Was Sold at the age of 16

Woman: This is the central location; they’re either over on 28th and Lexington or over here working the track. They can drop their money off over at the Mcdonald’s here to him.

Kristof: I went on a walk in midtown Manhattan the other day with a young woman who used to work these streets. She was sold for sex by a succession of pimps while she was still a minor.

Woman: They’re sitting most of time in a restaurant waiting for their money and if the girl doesn’t call back when they first get on their date then they worry and if they worry then they’re gonna to beat the hell out of you when you get home.

Kristof: And how many years were you in the life? Woman: About two and a half a years.

K: She escaped that life and her testimony helped send a number of pimps to prison. One is serving a twenty-five year sentence. But these days she reserves perhaps her greatest anger not for those pimps serving time but for the companies that abetted them.

Woman: I give guarantee to you, if you have to came out late tonight in this area or at 28th and Lexington and watched, you’re gonna see a whole bunch of pimps recruiting girls. And if you listen to their pitch, their pitch is that you don’t have to walk outside anymore. I can do it so that you just stay in a hotel and travel the world. And you know how this is possible? Because of websites like Back....

K: Back... is an online, international marketplace featuring listings for nearly everything imaginable, including escorts. Back... is owned by Village Voice Media, a company that also owns the estimable Village Voice Newspaper. Village Voice Media makes 22 million dollars annually from its adult ads according to industry estimates and it’s now the premier website for human traffic in the United States according to America’s Attorney General. Village Voice Media said that it is put in place controls to try to prevent trafficking but my view is, they aren’t working.

In my office over looking the streets where she was once sold, I heard stories of how children are put at risk. If you go to Back... and you see ads for, such as, where girls say that they are eighteen in fact a lot of them are only…

Woman: Fourteen, fifteen. I know a lot of the girls who worked for that pimps that I was turned out with placed for eighteen, the younger, younger girls, the youngest girls that they could have, they put eighteen for. If they were like sixteen or seventeen, they put nineteen.

K: She told me that she began working as prostitute at sixteen after she left a broken home and crack addicted mother in Boston. Seeking shelter, she said she was preyed upon by a man she didn’t realize was a pimp.

Woman: For a while I thought that when I first met him that we were going to be boyfriend and girlfriend forever and in a sick twisted way I assumed that I would never go through this because you hear stories of girls being sexually exploited in your community but you never think that that’s going to be you.

K: She was emotionally and economically vulnerable and soon there was no escape. Woman: He would get aggressive and strangle me and physically assault me and threaten to sell me to someone who was more violent than him. Which he eventually did.

K: After dropping out of high school she said she was bought and sold by more than six pimps who took her up and down the East coast. Sometimes she worked the streets and sometimes her pimps worked the internet.

Woman: All he would have to do was go online before we left, place our ads the night before and have them say we where visiting for a certain period of time. We’d have our appointments booked so that as soon as we got to the city each of us would have dates lined up and waiting for us.

K: During our walk through Time’s Square she pointed out where some of those appointments took place.

Woman: This front one right in front of us, this bigger old building right here, the one with the Christmas lights on it. Been to this building over a dozen times, different clients each time, sometimes the same client. Back... makes it easier because men can buy whatever they need, they can buy rugs for their wives, gifts for their children, and buy a child as well.

K: There’s now a position on Change.org calling on Village Voice Media to change its ways and it’s attracted more than ninety thousand signatures. Village Voice Media, it’s your move.

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