Friday, April 27, 2012

Ads Selling Sex With Minors Must Not Be Tolerated


Since the Hartford Courant and its subsidiary publication, the Hartford Advocate, will not act to prevent sex trafficking in Connecticut by refusing “escort” advertising, Connecticut legislators must intervene to end this open practice of modern day slavery.

The 2012 General Assembly has the opportunity to seriously address sex trafficking in Connecticut by passing H.B. 5504 “An Act Concerning Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.” On Monday, April 3, 2012, the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of the Bill and now it waits approval from the House, Senate and Governor. The law will make advertisers “guilty of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor” if they run “escort” ads involving anyone under the age of 18. It is aimed directly at “escort” advertisements like those carried regularly in the AdvocateNewspapers, Kensington based Extreme New EnglandMagazine, and on websites like Backpage.com. These “escort” agencies have proven to be nothing but a front for those who are often guilty of human trafficking crimes, also known as modern day slavery.

What about “legitimate” escort agencies? There aren’t any. The very idea is absurd. It is common knowledge among law enforcement, the “johns” paying to have sex with women, and the pimps who are selling them that “escort” advertisements are thinly veiled promotions for prostitution. And frequently within the world of prostitution hides the crime of trafficking in humans. This is certainly the case in Connecticut where the truth about the Hartford Advocate’s “escort” ads was revealed by Federal prosecutors during the 2007 trial of Dennis Paris.

Paris, a pimp who operated out of motels south of Hartford on the Silas Deane Highway and the Berlin Turnpike, was convicted of “sex trafficking of a minor,” among other crimes, and is now serving a 30 year sentence in federal prison. During the trial, Jeremiah Donovan, his defense attorney, asked Paris a key question about his so called “escort” business. It dealt with how Paris advertised one of his victims, Marianne, to men in Connecticut.

“How did it come about that you had people who wanted to go out on dates with Marianne?”
“They would call numbers that I advertised,” Paris explained.
“And where would you advertise?” Donovan asked.
Hartford Advocate. It’s like a local, I don’t want to say trade paper, but it’s a free paper. They have an escort section.”
“Now, the Hartford Advocate has never been charged so far as you know with promoting prostitution, right?” Donovan asked.
“Not yet,” Paris replied.
Nearly five years after the trial in which the Advocate was cited over 60 times as Paris’s exclusive channel for selling his girls, has the publication stopped running these advertisements?

Like the pimp said, “not yet.”

The paper’s publisher, Joshua Mamis, brushed off the paper’s complicity by stating in part, “We routinely examine our advertising standards and practices, including advertising relating to adult businesses, to ensure that we meet the needs of the community that we serve.”

Translation: The ads won’t stop. Not yet.

What kind of “escort” advertisements do the Advocate’s “standards and practices” allow? One  recent example from the paper reads: “Sasha & Milani 2 GIRL Specials Petite & Busty Come indulge in all your Fetishes And Desires GFE & GREEK AVAIL NO RUSH IN/OUT 24/7 TOYS AVAILABLE 860-xxx-xxxx.”

The new legislation is an important first step in motivating the Advocate to change its policies and permanently remove is “escort” advertisements. Yet, the Advocate is in not alone in the marketing of flesh in Connecticut. Backpage.com, a website owned by Village Voice Media, began running online “escort” ads in Connecticut last November. Days later, SimsburySchedule police made the first reported prostitution arrest in the town’s 300 year history. The two people arrested had placed their ad on Backpage.com. One had a previous arrest for promoting prostitution of a girl under 11 years old.
Backpage.com’s complicity in sex trafficking is so profound that Goldman Sachs recently sold their 16% ownership in the company citing the “escort” ads as the singular reason for dumping the stock.

All those in Connecticut who continue to profit from “escort” ads selling trafficking victims can say, “not yet.” Dennis Paris, a Connecticut pimp convicted of “sex trafficking of a minor,” can say, “not yet.”

Connecticut lawmakers do not have the option to join the others in saying, “not yet.” They must take action now. They must say, “never.”

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