A MUM has described the harrowing moment she was forced to “buy back” her missing 13-year-old daughter after she was sex trafficked and offered “for sale” on a classifieds website.
Kubiiki Pride, 39, from Atlanta, Georgia, found her little girl – who cannot be named – on the escorts section of U.S. buy and sell website Backpage.com nine months after she’d disappeared.
She had sneaked out of the family home with friends to go to an end-of-school party in April 2009, but ended up in the hands of a female trafficker, who brought her into a “life of hell”.
The woman who trafficked Kubiiki’s daughter was caught and sentenced to five years in prison, but shockingly the Backpage advert featuring explicit photos of her remained online.
In 2011, Kubiiki sued the organisation, arguing that Backpage was facilitating child sex trafficking.
However her case was dismissed under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”, by a federal magistrate.
Kubiiki’s harrowing story has since been made into a documentary film called I Am Jane Doe, which chronicles the legal battle several mums in the U.S. are waging on behalf of their daughters who were trafficked for commercial sex and sold on the classifieds website.
She said the ordeal has “destroyed” her entire family and “broken” her daughter’s spirit.
Kubiiki admitted: “I don’t even know how to heal from that type of trauma, and I don’t have the adequate help to help her to heal from that.
“I don’t know what to do. I go day to day not knowing what to do.”
On the night she went missing, Kubiiki’s daughter, referred to in the documentary and lawsuit as MA, had snuck out to go to an end-of-school party, despite being told she was “too young” by her mum.
At the end of the night, MA accepted the help of a woman who told her she’d help her get home.
Little did she know she would become one of the 150,000 young people who are believed to fall victim to human trafficking in the U.S.
After calling the police and issuing a missing person report, Kubiiki and her family spent nine agonising months trying to find her.
It was Kubiiki’s husband who suggested looking on escort pages online, after a neighbour mentioned that missing children had been found on Craigslist.
“We went through all of the ads to see if my daughter was on that site, and she wasn’t, so we were relieved,” Kubiiki recalled.
“I use Backpage anyway, and my husband was like, they have an escort section on there too, and so I clicked on it and I went through a couple of ads, scrolled down and clicked on one that I thought was, maybe, cute – I don’t know.
“And then I opened it and there was my little girl.
“I felt heartbroken, happy, devastated; I could have died in that exact moment, but I rejoiced so much because I was so happy.”
In the advert, MA was pictured in her underwear, naked from the waist up and in provocative poses.
Kubiiki called the police, but after being referred to their cyber division she became desperately impatient and, in the end, decided to “book her” herself for $200 (£150).
She explained: “I called, and I was surprised that someone picked up.
“But I had already started so I just went ahead and asked if I could purchase her.
“I hid around the corner as I thought that the person was going to come with her.
“When I saw her step off her train I came from behind the car, and she just fell on the ground and started crying.
“She looked so different, she had lost so much weight – it had been almost a year, and she was taller, she was different.”
What is child sex trafficking?
Sex trafficking in the U.S., along with labour trafficking, is a “severe form of trafficking” under The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. Section 7102, as amended).
Child sex trafficking is defined as “a commercial sex act… in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age”.
The crime is composed of two aspects – sexual slavery and human trafficking – which represent the supply and demand side of the sex trafficking industry, respectively.
This exploitation is based on the interaction between the trafficker selling an individual who has been trafficked and sexually exploited to customers to perform sexual services.
Traffickers often use grooming techniques to gain the trust of a child, family or community.
Child trafficking is considered a “hidden crime”, so there isn’t a great deal of information about who trafficks children.
In the U.S., it’s been suggested that there could be up to 150,000 underage victims of human trafficking, many of whom could have been trafficked on Backpage.com.
When Kubiiki got her daughter home, she discovered her head had been shaved and she had cigarette burns on her back and scalp, as well as several bruises and stab wounds.
The true scale of her horror became clear when MA admitted she was addicted to drugs and had been repeatedly raped and abused.
Kubiiki said: “Everything that went on that day, even though it was very happy to get her back home, to see the damage that had been done to her physically and to know there was so much internal damage… I couldn’t even deal with the physical aspect.”
MA was in and out of hospitals for over a year and even tried to run away again several times.
Kubiiki said: “She can’t work, she has emotional breakdowns very often, and she has a hard time being around people, so school, work, things like that have not even been an option for her.
“She sleeps at odd times because she still has nightmares.”
Desperate to get justice for her daughter and get the photos of her removed from the internet, Kubiiki sought legal help.
“I called Backpage and asked them to take the photos of my daughter down, and they didn’t do so, so I got very irate and started calling, four or five times a day, I was just so angry,” she explained.
“But they stopped answering, and then I didn’t know what else to do.
“So then I got an attorney, because I wasn’t going to stop until they took those photos down.
“But they told me that I didn’t pay for the pictures; I didn’t know who posted the ad, I couldn’t give them the information they wanted for them to be able to take the ad down.”
When a court found that Backpage wasn’t liable for content its users post, Kubiiki said it broke her heart.
“If you can shut down websites for selling illegal items, why can’t you shut down this website for making millions of dollars by selling America’s children?” she asked.
Now 22, MA is still struggling to come to terms with what happened to her.
Kubiiki said: “After a year of a child being trained, being given all of these adult decisions and actions, it’s very hard for them to be a kid again.
“It’s a constant battle. I know that she’s hurting and she feels discouraged; I do too.”
I Am Jane Doe is available to watch on Netflix, or buy on DVD.
Earlier this year we told how a woman who was trafficked to Britain from Albania by her boyfriend revealed her horrific ordeal.
We also revealed that a mum and three men created a “sex trafficking gang that ferried underage schoolgirls to Travelodges and forced them into sex”.