A coalition of interfaith clergy's demand that an online classified site shut down its Adult services section should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that human trafficking is not just a problem found oversees, said a Christian author whose book addresses the issue.
An ad and petition against Village Voice Media's BackPage.com created by a group consisting of 36 clergy members began circulating earlier this week, according to news reports. The coalition also includes a partnership with Change.org.
The section serves as “a platform for the sex trafficking of girls and boys,” said Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
“For over a year, advocates have demanded action, but the responses they have been given are half-measures and delays. We are tired of Village Voice’s delay tactics,” Henderson said. “The only way to end the sale of minors for sex on Backpage.com is by shutting down the Adult section for good.”
Nita Belles, author of the recently published book, In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective of Human Trafficking in the United States, told The Christian Post that many people are not even aware that human trafficking exists in this country.
“What people don’t realize is that this happens right here in the U.S. It is right here in our backyard. It’s in every city, every town, in the countryside,” Belles said. “One of the ways that we are going to stop it is bringing awareness and educating people about what it looks like. Once they recognize it then they can call in law enforcement and we can stop this.”
Belles said that the majority of domestic minor sex trafficking victims “are our American born children.”
"Internet sites such as Backpage.com have become the modern-day slave auctions for selling humans for sex," she said. “Village Voice Media is a current conduit where children can be sold on the Internet and other people sold for sex and that is part of the human trafficking problem.”
“They need to shut down their adult services section because people are being sold on there not always by choice, but by force, fraud, or coercion, or as a minor who is having commercial sex acts performed,” Belles asserted. “We’ve got to stop the sale of children right here in the United States.”
Belles would like to see Christians join the movement against human trafficking in order to bring change within communities.
"Awareness is the first step in helping to eradicate this crime on our soil and we can stop it in our lifetime," she said.
Village Voice Media responded to the coalition’s claims in a letter stating that the company has spent "millions of dollars and dedicated countless resources to protecting children from those who would misuse an adult site."
The media group, which operates liberal tabloid-formatted weeklies throughout major cities in the U.S., is reported to have reached out to the coalition, requesting a private meeting.