‘I am Jane Doe’ screening sparks human trafficking discussion

In partnership with Annie Wright Schools, The Grand Cinema screened “I am Jane Doe” as part of their Night Out @ The Grand film series. A deep discussion about child sex trafficking on both a local and national level was held after the screening with Erik Bau­er, the lawyer who represented the sur­vivors in the film.

“I am Jane Doe” follows the extreme battle that the mothers of sex trafficked victims waged on the infamous Backpage.com, a website almost explicitly known for sex trade. Backpage.com and its team of lawyers won nearly every lawsuit prior to Jane Doe’s. They hid behind the First Amendment and other laws that protect free media. The mothers and their lawyers fought to prove that Backpage.com holds at least some responsibility for the children being trafficked. After several years of fighting, they finally won. The film is truly an exceptional represen­tation of the plight trafficked children and their families face and just how hard it is to change laws even when that change would protect children.

Erik Bauer is a practicing lawyer in Tacoma; he dedicates much of his time to helping human trafficking survivors. In “I am Jane Doe,” Bauer agrees to help Jane Doe’s mother take on Backpage.com after several lawyers turned down such a seemingly unwinnable case.

“Last Friday, the U.S. government seized Backpage.com and all their af­filiated websites, so that’s pretty awe­some,” Bauer said. “And as of right now there is an 87 percent drop in online sex trafficking ads.”

Washington state and the Puget Sound region specifically, is one of the leaders in the fight against human traf­ficking. The best way to get involved locally is by supporting organizations such as Washington Trafficking Preven­tion, Pierce County Coalition against Trafficking, Destiny House Restoration Center and Rebuilding Hope: Sexual Assault Center.

Although some laws have been changed to better protect victims of sex trafficking, Bauer calls for a change in our culture and the way people think about human trafficking survivors.

“Instead of taking a child who has been raped 1,000 times and throwing her in jail and calling her a prostitute, we are starting to treat her like a child who is a victim,” Bauer said. “They’re not whores or sluts, because what seventh grade kid wants to be raped 20 times a day — it’s bullshit and horrible stuff that needs to stop.”

PHOTO BY ALEX ALDERMAN

Alex Alderman

Alex is studying sustainable urban development. She loves going to events around Tacoma and telling people about them. Her goal is to use her degree to make cities more sustainable.

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