Friday, July 15, 2011

Village Voice Media, Seattle Weekly's parent company, is on the wrong side of child sexual exploitation

Seattle Weekly is on the wrong side of child sexual exploitation. It's that simple.

[this is a long story for a blog page, get over it]
From the mayor:
News Releases

7/15/2011  
Mayor Mike McGinn meets with Village Voice Media to discuss underage sex trafficking
Asks Backpage.com to pull down their ads until they put stronger
safeguards in place

SEATTLE - Mayor Mike McGinn, Councilmember Tim Burgess, and Assistant Chief Jim Pugel of the Seattle Police Department met today with representatives of Village Voice Media, which owns the Seattle Weekly and Backpage.com, to impress upon them the seriousness of underage sex trafficking and the need for them to act now.

"We specifically asked them to pull down all their adult ads until they have safeguards in place against underage trafficking. That should include a model presenting photo ID in person showing that they are of legal age, said Mayor Mike McGinn. "They were not prepared to agree to that request immediately, they indicated that they were taking that request seriously and would respond within 1-2 weeks. We have made our position clear and we expect them to take the actions we requested immediately. They need to clean up their act."

Underage sex trafficking is a serious problem in Seattle. A City of Seattle Human Services Department report published in 2008 estimated there are 300 to 500 children being exploited for commercial sex each year. In the last 12 months, 185 cases of underage sex trafficking were identified in King County.

Backpage.com is a well-known accelerant of underage sex trafficking. Since the beginning of 2010, 22 children advertised on Backpage.com were recovered by the Seattle Police Department. No juveniles were discovered on any other sites in that time - that includes ads on craigslist, The Stranger, and other adult sites. The problem is specific to Backpage.com. The Aim Group estimated that Backpage made $2.1 million in revenue off of erotic services since January 2011.

# # #

Office of the Mayor
And this, from Seattle Councilman Tim Burgess:
7/14/2011
More Facts on the Sexual Exploitation of Seattle Children

I acknowledge, this is not a pretty subject, nor is it one we enjoy talking about.  Many would rather never deal with it.  We certainly don't want to acknowledge that it occurs in our city. But the facts are irrefuteable. 

Some children in Seattle and King County are forced into street and Internet prostitution.  It is an ugly, violent and totally degrading experience for the victims of the predatory men who use and abuse these kids.  And this terrible crime is being facilitated by a company that claims it is only defending the First Amendment: Village Voice Media/Backpage.com.

Over the past three years, 18 criminal investigations, all resulting in criminal charges being filed in King County Superior Court, have produced evidence that Village Voice Media/Backpage.com has been used as a vehicle in the prostitution of  children.  Five of these cases have resulted in trial convictions. Seven resulted in plea convictions.  Six are pending trial.

First, some background.  I’ve been deeply involved in the issue of prostituted children since the beginning of my Council term back in 2008.  We know the facts. (You can read all of my earlier posts on this topic here.)
And because we do know the facts, we are intensely focused on rescuing these kids and protecting them and caring for them.

Our police officers in Seattle have shifted from their traditional approach; now they view these kids as victims, not criminals.  Their effectiveness is evident.  For each of the past three years, we have led the nation in the number of children rescued from prostitution as reported by the FBI. 

Village Voice Media/Backpage.com may want to debate the scope of the problem, but that’s nothing but a massive distraction.  We know the facts, the reality on the street.  We’re not debating whether it’s a problem or not, we’re working hard to stop it and help these kids.

In fact, 13 months ago, Seattle became just the fourth city in the United States to establish a safe-haven, a residential facility run by YouthCare where these children can receive the care, therapy, education and love they need. 

And the need for all of us to stay engaged and united on this topic continues. Over the past 13 months, YouthCare has engaged with 185 children—some referred to YouthCare by police and other organizations, others identified by YouthCare staff involved in outreach efforts—who acknowledged being commercially sexually exploited through prostitution.  Of this total, 119 enrolled in a YouthCare program and 23 of these reported being prostituted through Village Voice Media/Backpage.com. 

So Village Voice Media/BackPage.com can try to minimize the problem if they want, but we know the facts.  Mayor McGinn knows the facts.  My Council colleagues know the facts.  The detectives who work in our High Risk Victims Unit know the facts.  I know the facts. City government is united and resolute.  We will act to protect our children and we will speak the truth about those who assist and facilitate harm upon our children. The facts compell this reponse.

Village Voice Media/Backpage.com knows the facts, too!  

Everyone can see the facts because they are held in the case files in the King County Superior Court.  They are clear and irrefutable. In case after case over the past three years, Dan Satterberg's prosecutors have established that Village Voice Media/Backpage.com is used to assist and facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. 

It doesn't have to continue. Village Voice Media/Backpage.com could chose to follow the very simple steps that other publishers follow that would make it almost impossible for this exploitation of children to take place.  Their corporate irresponsibility is harming our community; it’s harming our children.  That’s a fact.

I have headline news feeds on the right hand side of my web page, Seattle Weekly is no longer one of the sites listed. I encourage you to be on the correct side of child exploitation, and not support businesses that choose to minimize and deflect. Newspapers are a reflection of community standards, I am counting on the community to have higher standards.

It's that simple.

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