Both Victim and Victimizer

Latesha Clay

We’ve gotten a lot of questions in the wake of a story we recently ran about Latesha Clay, the 15-year-old girl recently sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for getting caught up in the Backpage scam Tony Ortega for so long championed in his editorial pages.

This was yet another in the growing list of tragic Backpage stories, only this time the young girl in question was both manipulated anad manipulating others. Much in the same way Tony Ortega was manipulated by his greed in order to manipulate others for the financial gain of his bosses. Victim and victimizer.

Kate D’Adamo, an advocate for trafficking victims at New York’s Sex Workers Project, clarifies the what it means to charge a victim/victimizer in the Latesha Clay case:

“The problem with charging is the challenge between federal and state law. Under federal law, yes, she is a victim of trafficking, and probably under state law as well. That said, under state law she is also criminalized by prostitution (and proxy) laws. So while we recognize that criminalization isn’t what those trading sex underage need, it’s the laws that we choose to police which impact people.” 

Those underage kids who were sex trafficked by Backpage and its allies, find themselves as a result in a terrifying contradiction — if the state is calling children and teens “victims” with one hand while sentencing them as “criminals” with the other, the message is as confusing as it is enraging.

As confusing and enraging as it was for those of us who saw through Tony Ortega’s lies while he willfully misled the public on what Backpage was up to.

In most states in the U.S., laws and policies are designed to maximize prostitution arrests and prosecutions, rather than to identify and assist people who have been trafficked. As a result many trafficking victims, including children under 18, frequently first come into contact with authorities when they are arrested and prosecuted for prostitution and other related crimes. Criminal arrests are traumatic experiences that reinforce fear and distrust of police and authorities instilled by traffickers.

This is the upside down world of Tony Ortega ethics on the Backpage issue. His lies about Backpage and the horrors of the underage sex trafficking it engaged in continue to do harm. Let this serve as a warning to everyone buying into Tony Ortega’s propaganda, swallowing his lies or parroting his twisted rhetoric – by doing so Tony Ortega is turning you into both victim and victimizer, too.

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