Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson

John Buffalo Mailer

Yesterday, a coalition of ministers, rabbis, and other religious leaders joined The Village Voice co-founder’s son, advocates, activists, and three New York City Council Members to present a petition from nearly a quarter of a million people demanding that Village Voice Media cease running advertisements in the Adult section of its Web site, that others have used to buy and sell minors for sex.

Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Seminary, sponsored the petition on and organized the rally outside of Village Voice Media's flagship publication The Village Voice in New York City. Village Voice Media operates 13 weeklies around the country. In October, Groundswell convened a coalition of clergy to launch a full-page advertisement in The New York Times demanding that Village Voice Media close the Adult section of

“How could we, or anyone, stand by while our nation’s leading publisher of weeklies continues to earn money from ads used to sell girls for sex? Nearly a quarter of a million people around the nation have made their position clear. Enough is enough. Village Voice Media, shut down the Adult section of your Web site,” said Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary.

John Buffalo Mailer, son of The Village Voice co-founder and celebrated journalist, the late Norman Mailer, said, "Village Voice appears to have lost its way from the days when Dan Wolfe, Ed Fancher, and my father began it. For the sake of the Village Voice brand and for the sake of the legacy of a great publication, take down the Adult section of, before another child is abused and exploited."

At the rally, Buffalo Mailer read a riveting statement from a young women trafficked by pimps, including via ads on The survivor said:

"I know first hand what happens to young girls who are sold for sex on because I was -- for over two years. At 16, I met my first pimp. He told me that I was pretty and he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I was a kid, and I believed him. Soon, he was selling me for sex every day, and I was being raped 365 days a year.Then, he sold me to other pimps, tossed back and forth between them like I was their property. They abused me, beat me, and treated me worse than an animal. Unfortunately, my story is not unique. Thousands of girls like me exist; many have not been found. Backpage needs to step in and do more to end to the sex trafficking of minors occurring through the use of its site by shutting down the Adult section. The young girls who are advertised on the site could have a chance at a better life if their pimps could no longer sell them online 24 hours a day. I hope they’ll get that chance."

“It is deeply troubling to me that Village Voice Media continues to fail in stopping the advertisements for prostitution on its online outlet The often unspoken truth is that sex trafficking happens in our City and is a form of modern day slavery,” said New York City Council Member Stephen Levin. “Legal obligations aside, it is a moral imperative that we stamp out any and all human trafficking. I am proud to join with my colleagues, Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Margaret Chin, in calling on Village Voice Media to stop providing a venue for ads that have been connected to child sex trafficking.”

"The evidence demonstrates that Backpage is being used by pimps for sex trafficking," said New York City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. "In 22 states, children have been forced into prostitution and trafficked on Backpage. I am proud to stand with faith leaders to send a message that Village Voice Media must shut down its Adult advertising section."

Nineteen United States Senators, 51 of the nation’s attorneys general, 53 anti-trafficking experts and organizations, and state lawmakers around the country, among others, have called for Village Voice Media to shut down the Adult section of, which services nearly 400 markets.

New York City Council Members Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito submitted a resolution this month making the same demand that Village Voice Media stop earning money from ads that others have used to exploit children. In Washington State, a bill primarily targeting that would hold accountable classified advertising companies that don't demand identification before allowing sex-related ads to be posted online passed both houses unanimously and is awaiting the governor's signature. Connecticut is considering similar legislation.

The attorneys general -- who in an August letter to called the site a "hub" for the trafficking of minors -- have identified at least 22 states where children have been trafficked for sex using advertisements on A recent case in New York involved a 15-year old Long Island girl who was drugged, gang-raped, and advertised on

Photos Courtey Of:Angela Jimenez/Fitzgibbon Media