Kirk, Dart Continue to Lead Charge to Crack Down on Child Prostitution

Backpage.com Continues to Sell Children Online for Sex; The SAVE Act Criminalizes Advertisements That Involve Minors; Legislation Protects Good Faith Advertisers

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–June 30, 2014.  U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart today announced their recent efforts to combat online advertisers like Backpage.com in their fight to end the exploitation and selling of children online for sex. Last week, Senators Kirk and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (S.2536), which targets websites like Backpage.com that contribute to the online selling of children nationwide.

The Feinstein-Kirk SAVE Act makes it unlawful for a person or business entity to use the Internet with reckless disregard to sell, commercially promote, or maintain adult advertisements with subjects under the age of 18. Backpage.com provides for a majority of this type of advertising, earning more than $30 million a year off of their illicit ads, and contributing to the selling and exploitation of minors. Current law unfairly protects Backpage.com from prosecution simply because they exist online. 

“We have the power to protect many of the 16,000 children who are prostituted against their will every year in Chicagoland by aggressively stopping those who we know are selling our children for sex,” Senator Kirk said. “Last week’s arrests in Chicago as part of the FBI’s nationwide crackdown of 281 sex traffickers shows the true depth of this problem.”

Every year, more than 100,000 children are at risk of being commercially sexually exploited in the United States. Following the FBI’s recent completion of “Operation Cross Country VIII,” in which law enforcement agencies arrested 281 pimps nationwide for trafficking and saved nearly 170 children, it is clear that more needs to be done to prevent the sale of children for profit online. 

The SAVE Act would create a new section under federal criminal code (Title 18) and prohibit the commercial promotion of advertisements that are in reckless disregard of the fact that the subject of the advertisement is the sale of a child for sex. The punishment under law would be that for each violation, the individual will be fined or imprisoned for up to ten years. Additionally, the SAVE Act would require web sites that promote adult advertising to keep records of the identity and age of the persons placing the adult advertisements and the persons depicted in the adult advertisements.

Marian Hatcher, Project Manager and Human Traffic Coordinator for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office—and herself a survivor of human trafficking and forced prostitution—spoke on the importance of the work being done by Senator Kirk and Sheriff Dart.  Hatcher was once forced into the same life she now helps women and girls escape. “When I meet a trafficking victim, I look her in the eye,” Hatcher said.  “And I tell her, ‘You’re looking in a mirror. I am you. I’ve been where you’ve been.’ That kind of lets them breathe.” 

Sheriff Dart’s office has made 618 arrest off of Backpage.com stings since 2009. One hundred percent (100%) of all “massage therapists” or “dates” set up through Backpage.com for the purposes of these stings were in reality thinly veiled fronts for prostitution, often child prostitution. The Cook County Sheriff’s Police Vice Unit has made 42 arrests for involuntary servitude, human trafficking, or promoting prostitution since 2007, with many of these investigations originating from Backpage.com advertisements. Many of these arrests involve victims as young as 15 years old, and in one recent arrest, the victim was a 12 year old girl.

Source: kirk.senate.gov