“Nearly two-thirds of children sold for sex in the U.S. are trafficked online” is an astounding fact that the new documentary, “I Am Jane Doe,” directed by Mary Mazzio and narrated by Jessica Chastain, reveals with the power of a heart-wrenching drama.
The film investigates what was, until recently, the dark side of esteemed tabloid The Village Voice: BackPage.com. The film follows the mothers of middle-school girls who were rescued from sex trafficking via the adult classifieds section of The Village Voice. As the mothers and daughters file lawsuits they come up against “judges, special interest groups, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, an internet freedom law that provides a safe haven for website publishers to advertise underage girls for sex” according to the film’s website.
“I Am Jane Doe” is an exceedingly difficult film to watch. The impunity with which BackPage.com is allowed to function even as the outcry by mothers rises, as voiced through mostly failed lawsuits, will enrage any person of good will. It is a moral imperative for audiences to act so that the buying and selling of young girls or sex via a website in the United States will be criminalized and laws changed to protect our children.
At least two attorneys have dedicated their time and efforts to helping the mothers and daughters pursue the owners (even as BackPage.com changes hands) and a few members of Congress have set hearings requiring owners to testify — which they have refused to do. Former editors of The Village Voice and retired FBI officers who are interviewed join the above in telling this nefarious tale that still awaits justice. The profit made from sex trafficking in young girls only makes actions of the profit mongering owners disgusting and repelling.
Although the story is not pretty, don’t miss this important film. Our children are at stake and being sacrificed on the altar of profit.
It makes you wonder how many other classifieds on the dark side of the web exist.
The film opens Feb. 10 in select cities. It is not yet rated, but the website recommends PG-13.
[Sr. Rose Pacatte, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, is the director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles.]