Who is Jane Doe And Why Aren’t We Talking About Her?

Backpage.com is a suitable site to find childcare, auto parts, and until recently-minors forced into prostitution. The online marketplace is in the spotlight following the release of documentary, I Am Jane Doe, for facilitating the exchange of underage girls between costumers and sex traffickers. One Boston University Senior, Christina Smith, remarked (*names altered to respect privacy of commentators) “I’ve heard stories about this happening to girls trying to immigrate to the United States and being tricked into sex trafficking, but never about the girl next door.” The thought of sex trafficking occurring within the borders of a developed nation appears unfathomable, however, throughout the years a multitude of victims just to backpage.com alone have sought justice against the website. The families have been tackling section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which spares an Internet provider the blame of any content or information posted on their site by another- leaving CEO of ‘backpage,’ Carl Ferrer, protected to have advertisements of young girls posted throughout the site.
The story caught the attention of lawyer and filmmaker, Mary Mazzio. She created I Am Jane Doe to chronicle the tireless mothers seeking redress for their daughters and the needed amendments to outdated CDA regulations established in 1996 that no longer adhere to the advancements of modern technology. With the progression in communication and interactions made possible by the Internet in recent years, regulations must be consistently modified to correspond to its perpetually changing state. The sexual exploitation of children online is not a new phenomenon and will continue to expand with future installments if they are not properly restricted. I Am Jane Doe introduces a conversation about sex slavery and human trafficking that no one wants to talk about.
Despite the fact that females are the primary targets of this abuse, many women remain ignorant to the immense issue at hand. With a lack of sufficient media and educational coverage, young women more often then not struggle to define sexual trafficking, as one 21-year old student of Boston College, Lindsey Jones (*names altered) remarked “ I had no idea there was a difference between prostitution and sexual trafficking,” because in her opinion it is an unpopular subject to discuss: “it isn’t exactly a dinner time conversation; you don’t bring it up with your friends or parents the way you talk about a normal major news story.” Other young female students questioned proceeded to claim, in vast numbers, that their sole knowledge regarding sex trafficking derives from the popular motion picture, Taken, released in 2009, or the “occasional kidnapping story one hears ever so often, where the girl is found 18-years later,” Smith comments. There is a tendency to look the other way with regards to sexual violence against women, as Smith had thought, “rape doesn’t happen that often, especially sex slavery.”
On the contrary, girls who have had first hand experience with rape see it as a much more prominent issue then it is given credit. A victim of rape her freshman year of college, Allison Johnson (*names altered), recalled how “everyone would tell me it was my fault, even my mom” for being unable to control her alcohol intake, “I woke up the next day with blood on my sheets, so I asked my roommate what happened because I couldn’t remember a single thing from the entire night. I had little experience with boys overall and my heart stopped beating when she told me.” Years following she seeks support in trying to overcome her experience and claims, “you couldn’t imagine how many girls have fallen victim to this, chances are whether you know it or not, you have a friend who has dealt with it.” In a time where women’s rights are under political scrutiny, I Am Jane Doe is released at a critical time in history to serve as a reminder of the ongoing discussion we still need to be having about rape, sex trafficking, and violence against women and young girls.


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