Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who heads the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking has been called America’s “Human Trafficking Czar.” As a federal prosecutor, CdeBaca was lead council in what was the biggest human trafficking case on U.S. soil. His work has contributed to the liberation of hundreds of people.

In past weeks, CdeBaca has indicated an area of particular concern to the anti-slavery movement: the re-victimization slavery survivors by the criminal justice system.

Ambassador CdeBaca recently testified at a hearing on modern day slavery at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he said the future challenges of his office will be to get law enforcement to recognize human trafficking victims as victims—rather than “merely illegal immigrants or criminals.”

CdeBaca’s statements on this issue were picked up yesterday by the Associated Press, who ran a brief story titled “US: Trafficking victims subject to detention”

In our work, Free the Slaves has seen this happen. One of our 2010 Freedom Award winners, Tina Frundt, was trafficked into sex slavery when she was just 14 years old. When the police came knocking, they didn’t treat her as a victim. They arrested her for prostitution.
Read Tina Frundt’s testimony to Congress, urging the passage of the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (H.R. 5575)

Craigslist’s take down of their “Adult Services” ads has had a domino effect on other major classified ad outlets. The most recent ad site to remove erotic ads? The Washington Post, who announced this week they will voluntarily remove all massage parlor ads, which, critics say, encourage sex trafficking.

Earlier this month, Craigslist removed their erotic ads in the wake of criticism from human rights activists and 17 Attorneys General—who sent a joint letter to the San Francisco-based company demanding the removal of the ads, which, they argued, encouraged sex slavery of minors.

Read Free the Slaves’ letter to Craigslist demanding they also take down erotic ads from their international sites

At a recent congressional hearing on the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (H.R. 5575), Craigslist argued that the removal of their erotic ads will only make sex trafficking harder to trace and prosecute. Ads will become more cryptic, and simply move to “less socially responsible venues,” they said.

In some sense, they may be right. Craigslist broke the mold, but other sites have come under fire: Echoing earlier action taken toward Craigslist, 21 Attorneys General sent Village Voice Media a letter demanding the removal of adult ads from Backpage.com (Backpage.com has refused). And, after a blog post written by Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster—seemingly to deflect negative attention from Craigslist—eBay’s classified ads were blasted for peddling sex without adequate screening policies.

The writing is on the wall: erotic ads are bad PR. And grassroots action taken against Craigslist seem likely to be levied against even more classified sites.

So it came as no surprise yesterday when the Washington Post announced they will stop accepting massage parlor ads, which, our ATEST partners Polaris Project contend, “are often front[s] for brothels selling trafficked women.” This move was a long time coming. WaPo Omudsman Deborah Howell pointed out that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe all don’t allow massage parlor ads—and that it’s high time “The Post should join them.”