Melanie Thompson is a sex trafficking survivor who helped pass laws aimed at protecting trafficking victims from being sold online.
“I was kidnapped at the age of 12. And I was brought into the sex trade, locked in an abandoned house behind a closet and forced to do everything from street prostitution to underground strip clubbing and then eventually the internet,” she explained. “For years, maybe up until this point, I struggled with feeling like I was less than, you know, dehumanized. I always lived in this constant victim state and state of paranoia and state of feeling like I didn’t amount to, you know, a lot of the people that were around me.”
75% of sex trafficking survivors since 2004 report being sold online. 90% of the revenue from classified ad website Backpage.com, which also advertised prostitution until it was seized, came from adult ads.
Thompson has successfully helped pass two bills that hold websites like Backpage.com accountable for hosting ads for sex work: SESTA, which stands for Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, and FOSTA; Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.
“It’s definitely a victory on a personal level,” said Thompson. “I’m so happy that the website that exploited me for all of these years is now eradicated.”