Translating Abuse into Cash

To put it simply, the aftermath of the world’s largest child-sex ring, Backpage, has been ugly. While some of the online pimps Tony Ortega once defended as ‘expressing their First Amendment rights’ have been brought to justice for illegally trafficking exploited women and underage girls, many remain at large.

The wake of Backpage’s demise left a lot of information for investigators, however. Much of this information has come in the form of the personal stories related to authorities by the surviving victims of Backpage. Stories like those of Karla Solomon, who was trafficked twice on Backpage. Once as a child, once as an adult.

At age 12 and again at 29 Solomon was moved across states, being sold for sex by people she thought loved and cared for her. “He told me he loved me” Solomon said of her Backpage trafficker, “Pampering me, talking to me, finding out my hopes and dreams and aspirations.”

But “love” turned into control and abuse, as Solomon explained:

He takes me to a hotel and he places an ad on Backpage. I run for the door and he holds me and tells me sweet things about – (saying) he needs me and loves me – about how I just need to do it one time until he finds another girl. And I do it, but then I have to do it again and again and again. Before I know it, I have a $1,500 a day quota that I have to meet every day,”

People need to understand that I was put in a situation that I felt like I had nobody and no other choice. And that even if I left, where was I gonna go?”

As Karla Solomon herself said:

Even if I left, where was I gonna go?’ remains a question unethical operators like Tony Ortega who cashed in defending the Backpage bonanza before promptly forgetting all about the victims he left behind the moment he dropped off the map, still have no answer to. All they cared about was translating control and abuse into mountains of cash.”

Sex trafficking advocates (the very ones Tony Ortega callously tried to write off as sowing ‘a national hysteria’) have learned from victims like Solomon that the very power dynamic discovered in the world of domestic violence is actually the same one used in human trafficking. Explaining this dynamic is the first step towards helping survivors understand what pimps were doing in order to gain control over them according to Dr. Julie Strentzsch, chief program officer at a recovery center designed to assist victims of the Backpage sex trafficking syndicate.

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