Backpage: A Grieving Mother’s Story

On the subject of Backpage tragedies, a heartbreaking story came across our desks this morning. This one was a bit of a departure for us as it deals with the grief and chaos inflicted on the families of those who were trafficked by Backpage.

This is the story of Jennifer Holleman, whose daughter was sold for sex by the Backpage crime family. She has spent more than four years speaking out against human trafficking. She’s talked openly about her personal anguish in countless appearances, testified before a standing committee, and even travelled to the United Kingdom in her ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the disturbing events that preceded her daughter’s death. As she puts it:

It’s a horrible story and I never thought it would wind up being her legacy, but I know how many young women have been helped because of her story… When it happened to Maddison, it was like something out of the movies. I watch true crime shows and you know it happens, but I don’t know how it could have happened to her.””

Maddison Fraser was 21 when she was killed in a 2015 car crash in Alberta, Canada.  The grieving mother is still putting together the pieces of how her smart, capable daughter came to live and die while working in the sex trade, entangled in a Backpage sex trafficking ring.

Jennifer Holleman’s words pack a punch as she shares the story of a daughter hardened by the unimaginable life she came to know. Maddison was a fighter – a two-time Canadian champion boxer.

On her phone there’s a haunting image of this young fighter beaten beyond recognition, with her eyes swollen shut. But it had nothing to do with boxing.

When Holleman recovered Maddison’s personal belongings and unlocked her phone, she saw evidence that indicated that her daughter was working in the sex trade: screenshots of personal ads placed on Backpage. She said Maddison was with a man who was believed to be a client when she died as a result of a crash in Edmonton.

Jennifer Holleman learned her daughter had been burned with cigarettes. She’d been abused. She was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions. And, at least once, her hair was set on fire.

Maddison was tortured by those who used and abused her on Backpage.

Tony Ortega may have the audacity to lie to our faces and tell us this is all just media driven panic; that the Backpage sex trafficking operation he provided “journalistic” cover for wasn’t as big a deal as the media was making it out to be. But like so much of what comes out of Tony Ortega’s mouth, it is not to be believed.

Ortega’s lies might work on the naive, likeminded bigots who frequent his blog but they quickly fall apart the moment those most affected by the evils of Backpage are allowed to tell their stories.

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