How Young American Girls Are Sold Online For Sex

Natalie was just 15 years old when she ran away from home. “I wanted to get my parents’ attention,” she says.

It was a decision that changed her life forever, one she regrets more than she can say. But she was a child. “I was a scatterbrained 15-year-old,” she says as she looks back now from the age of 21.

Natalie landed in a youth shelter in Seattle, and soon met an older, street-wise “friend.” That friend introduced Natalie to the man who would rape her for the first time.

“After it happened he threw a towel at me and some carpet cleaner and told me to clean up the carpet because there was blood,” Natalie told ABC News. She had been a virgin.

Soon after, Natalie met the man who would sell her for sex online, 32-year-old Baruti Hopson. At first, he was kind to her and gave her a place to stay, but that soon ended and his real motivations became clear. Using the popular Craigslist-type classifieds site, Hopson began selling Natalie, still 15, for sex.

Before Natalie was rescued by police in a Backpage-based sting 108 days later, she says she was forced to have sex for money well over 150 times.

Natalie eventually testified against Hopson, who received a prison sentence of 26 years for his crimes.

Now, Natalie and her family, along with at least 2 other formerly trafficked underage girls and their families, are suing for allowing the ads that advertised these teens for sex to run on their site.

It is a DAUNTING task, because Backpage is protected in the United States by a law called the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Basically, the law says that sites like Backpage (and Craigslist, for example) can’t be held responsible for an ad that is posted to their site, whether it be a motorcycle for sale that turns out to be a lemon, or an ad for a “date” that is actually intended to sell a 15-year-old girl for sex.

Natalie’s mother said she could not BELIEVE what she was hearing when she found out what had happened to her daughter.

“I live in an American town, how can my kid be sold on the internet?” she said.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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