I Am Jane Doe Premiere
On Monday, May 15th, the Desmond Tutu Center premiered the film I Am Jane Doe at the Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University. This heart-wrenching story of social injustice chronicles the struggle of several American mothers representing their sexually trafficked middle-school aged children in a legal system that repeatedly chose to protect the multimillion-dollar enterprise Backpage.com over the child victims. Backpage.com is an online classifieds section belonging to the Village Voice that aided in the sexual exploitation of minors. Many audience members were brought to tears by the sheer proximity of the child sex trafficking industry, and the realization that the atrocities shared by the young women, referred to as Jane Does in the film, continue to happen everyday to families just like them. In short, the emotionally charged film brought the audience to tears with one stunning realization: we are all Jane Doe.
The audience was shocked to learn that eight of every ten dollars spent on human sexual trafficking flows through Backpage.com. Through this process, the United States legal system is methodically choosing dollar signs over American children. Tears were met by cries of outrage as the owners of Backpage.com defeated the legal representation of the young girls trafficked on the site in court again and again by hiding behind the First Amendment and section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which stated that a company could not be held accountable for information posted by an outside party. Meanwhile, Backpage.com enjoyed ever rising profits of hundreds of millions of dollars by providing pimps with revised guidelines to use the site with impunity.
Courageously, the Jane Does and their families along with their legal counsels continue to fight against Backpage.com. The case is now backed by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Investigations that will take place on May 22nd. After the screening, Meghan McGuire Executive Director of Ascent 21, an organization dedicated to aiding survivors of sexual trafficking and raising awareness, answered questions posed by the audience. One member of the audience asked if sexual trafficking was an issue in the Indianapolis area, and was surprised to learn that a major “sugar shack”, a hub of sexual trafficking, was recently uncovered mere miles away. McGuire was also grateful for the opportunity to respond to a question asking if the issue of sexual trafficking exclusively affects females. Men are affected by sexual trafficking as well, and are even less likely to report the crime due to social stigma.
This program was sponsored in partnership between Ascent 21, the Desmond Tutu Center, and Butler University in order to engage the Indy community and bring awareness to the pervasive social injustice brought on by the industry of human sexual trafficking.
By: Corbin Panturad