LONDON, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The
hard-hitting documentary "I Am Jane Doe" is opening people's
eyes to online child sex trafficking in the United States that
until now they assumed only happened elsewhere, the filmmaker
said at its British premiere on Monday.
Open in the United States for a month, the film has prompted
calls from around the country and helped unleash a wave of
action against Backpage.com, a huge classified advertising
website accused of promoting trafficking in its ads, director
Mary Mazzio told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"I Am Jane Doe" tells the stories of sex-trafficked teens
and their lengthy legal battles against Backpage.com, which
earlier this year shut its "adult" section, where abused minors
were being sold as "escorts."
"People that see the movie are just blown away that they
never knew about it," Mazzio said.
Each year, some 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of
being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States,
according to the Department of Justice.
Given the speed of technology, "this can happen anywhere to
any child that is in a state of distress. Rich, poor, black
white, it doesn't matter," she said.
Backpage.com has been hit by a series of lawsuits saying it
promotes trafficking by rewriting ads offering children for
"I'm so delighted that the film has been able to help
catalyze that tidal wave," Mazzio said.
The film premiered in Britain at the launch of the Thomson
Reuters Foundation Action Circle, a new philanthropic network.
The director said she was particularly pleased about media
coverage of her documentary that is helping destroy stereotypes
about sex trafficking.
"To have the popular press weigh in is a cultural awakening
that this isn't 'Pretty Woman,' that this is not the world's
oldest profession, that this is not consensual," she said.
"We're fighting a cultural stereotype and a lack of
Spreading awareness, the film can help children who do not
even know they are being trafficked or what that really means.
She is getting calls, she said, from communities across the
United States saying: "We need your movie."
(Reporting by Ed Upright, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please
credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)