Village Voice: Highly-Publicized Sex Trafficking Report Is Mostly Made Up


The Village Voice posts a devastating debunking of a widely-cited report claiming that sites like are facilitating a spike in the sex trafficking of underage girls.

"An independent tracking study released today by the Women's Funding Network shows that over the past six months, the number of underage girls trafficked online has risen exponentially in three diverse states," Richardson claimed. "Michigan: a 39.2 percent increase; New York: a 20.7 percent increase; and Minnesota: a staggering 64.7 percent increase."

In the wake of this bombshell revelation, Richardson's disturbing figures found their way into some of the biggest newspapers in the country. USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press all repeated the dire statistics as gospel.

The successful assault on Craigslist was followed by a cross-country tour by Richardson and the Women's Funding Network.

None of the media that published Richardson's astonishing numbers bothered to examine the study at the heart of her claim. If they had, they would have found what we did after asking independent experts to examine the research: It's junk science.

After all, the numbers are all guesses.

The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science.

The group based its estimates on guesses of the ages of women depicted in escort service ads on sites like Craigslist and (Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, which has resisted pressure to shut down its adult services section.) And that's just how they got the raw numbers. They then magnified the error by applying those numbers in all sorts of misleading and statistically dubious ways. There wasn't an academic or statistician among the group that authored the study. This was PR.

Nevertheless, the "study" spawned hysterical media reports, outrage from indignant attorneys general, and sweet government grants for groups like the Women's Funding Network. Most astonishing is this admission from one peddler of sex panic:

"We pitch it the way we think you're going to read it and pick up on it," says Kaffie McCullough, the director of Atlanta-based anti-prostitution group A Future Not a Past. "If we give it to you with all the words and the stuff that is actually accurate—I mean, I've tried to do that with our PR firm, and they say, 'They won't read that much.'"

That about says it all.

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  1. Bring it, Lobster Girl

    I’m sorry, what were you saying?

    1. To quote Fine Young Cannibals (possibly a first on these here boards), “don’t ask me to choose . . .”

      1. The WFN needs to know we can’t build a dream on suspicious minds.

        1. Well played (with bonus points because I didn’t know they shot a video for that one).

    2. I’m disappointed. That’s the type of run-of-the-mill babe in lingerie photo you can get in 0.2 seconds of googling.

      The wonder of Lobster Girl and Pot Girl is the unusual setting.

      1. Either way, I’ll be in my bunk.

      2. Ah, but this particular photo was actually pulled from an adult services ad from D.C.’s

        So it’s not just cheesecake, it’s relevant cheesecake!

        1. That picture gets four hits on


        2. For research purposes only: How much did she run per hour?

        3. You’re just trying to get our nuts set up for the next punch.

        4. She doesn’t look underage.

        5. Backpage has really toned down their allowable escort photos over the past couple of years.

      3. The wonder of Lobster Girl and Pot Girl is the unusual setting.

        The animated gif girl of 2010’s summer beats them all.

        Remember 8/18/2010!!!

        1. Sigh. The good ol’ days day.

    3. If that’s “bring it” like in a hotness challange, I’m sorry but Lobster Girl side boob kicks your frilly underwear ass. If that’s “bring it” as in let’s have sex Lobster Girl, I’m totally with that. Let’s see those pics!

  2. Reason dudes find another reason to run a babe photo.

    1. They are not looking hard enough for MORE reasons. Lazy bastards.

    2. Sex sells? Huh.

    3. Between Sen. Scott Brown and former Congressman Christopher Lee, women have had their fair share of shirtless beefcake around these parts.

      1. I can’t speak for [any] women, but a shirtless Saruman doesn’t exactly sound like beefcake.

      2. Don’t forget about Shirtless Rep. Jeff Flake who easily has a nicer chest than any of the ladies depicted on this site. (Oil Girl was a close second.)

        Yes, I’m a straight guy. Why do you ask?

    4. Re: Alan Vanneman,

      Reason dudes find another reason to run a babe photo.

      You can file a complaint at www

      1. I think Vanneman is busy trolling Pen Island.

    5. Uh, Lobster Girl was originally posted by Katherine Mangu-Ward.

      1. I always suspected she was a little too supportive of gay marriage for it to be just a libertarian thing.

        1. I’m pretty sure Kerry Howley is the attractive girl in the kidney-stealing scam.

        2. Her husband might be surprised by that.

          1. Or totally okay with it.

    6. PEG ME!

  3. None of the media that published Richardson’s astonishing numbers bothered to examine the study at the heart of her claim.

    Print media does not bother to do fact checking. Later tonight, water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level. This and more news, at 11:00.

    1. “….Later tonight, water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level. This and more news, at 11:00.”

      Not according to the “study” we got from Citizens For the Children; they tell us it boils at 150*.
      We’re calling the A’sG to lobby for limits on natural gas usage!

  4. Thanks for making the site borderline work safe.

    Seriously though, I think this is the case with almost every study cited by newspapers. That’s not hyperbole on my part. Dig and they fall apart, or you realize what the data really says instead of what the study said it does.

    1. As long as the firm sounds credible and the research reinforces their already held assumptions, it must be true!

  5. Mmmmmm…consensual.

  6. Excuse the quick thread hijack, but you guys are gonna love this, from the ABA:

    “The impact of microinequities in the workplace”

    1. No I will not excuse it. I demand satisfaction!

    2. Also, I am microagressed upon and micro-offended.

    3. As an employment lawyer, I actually had a complaint about microinequities before.

      Yeah, I stamped it with my “DENIED” stamp.

      1. You’ve got one of those, too?

    4. It’s stunning how stupid this is.

      1. If you’re working that hard to parse discriminatory meaning, you want to be offended.

        1. Thinking that I’m looking to be offended is very offensive to me.

      2. You’re very articulate for a Mongoloid.

        1. “It’s called a complisult. Part compliment, part insult. He invented them, I coined the term. See what I just said there? That was an explainabrag.”

          1. You’re just overcompensating for your micropenis.

            1. You do such a good job for someone with a really, really small penis.

          2. I never wanted to meet Levar in person! I just wanted a picture! You can’t disappoint a picture

      3. It came from the ABA; what did you expect? It’s a cesspool of leftism.

    5. It was sponsored by the Young Lawyers Association. Don’t they have very important projects to tend to, like due diligence and doc review? Those billables won’t bill themselves.

    6. “…microinequities are subtle verbal or nonverbal slights that convey rudeness or insensitivity and demean a member of a minority group.”
      Note that there is an automation of the proper group to be offended, here. Clearly one cannot be fat, thin, bald, or otherwise the butt of some insensitivity and thus be the target of these microinequities.

  7. “Women’s Funding Network”


    1. No, WFN…

  8. Nobody bothered to look into the Greatest Literary Genius Of Our Time‘s past, why would they even bother to look into these extraordinary claims. At least the text-copying monks of old were artistic in their efforts…

  9. Special interest groups lie? Since when?

    1. October 24, 4004 BC.

      Earlier if you are not a creationist.

  10. A working girl is better than a welfare girl.


    1. Re: Gregory Smith,

      A working girl is better than a welfare girl.

      You swine, you want women to be exploited by sexually ravenous men, instead of politically ravenous government! How. Dare. You!

      1. No, I want women who CHOOSE to make make more money while working less hours to have that possibility.

        Oh wait, you were making a joke. ha ha ha.

        1. I am in complete agreement. Women and men should have the moral right to sell their sexual services in a consensual way with potential clients. There is no victim, there is no crime. The fact that some people are so obsessed with regulating the sex lives of other people just shows that they aren’t getting enough themselves.

          1. Gee, so I guess I’m not a troll today? Tell me, when am I a troll? When you disagree with me?

            1. When you engage in your poorly-veiled Team Red bullshit and blogwhore.

              1. If I like Team Red is because they like low taxes, the second amendment, and political incorrectness. Team Blue hates those things.

                Now, as to the accusation that I’m a conservative, I assure you that freerepublic has kicked me out of their site so many times that I’ve given up on them. After all, conservatives support public morality, I do not. Conservatives believe in traditional values, I find that boring. So I am not a conservative, just a politically incorrect libertarian.

      2. I would rather be exploited by a woman at $200/hour than at 50% gross annual income in perpetuity and without sex.

        1. Where’s rather? This thread cannot be allowed to go further without her!

  11. People engaging in consenting sexual activity?

    The horror!

    1. Look Mister(?),

      You might think it’s funny, but what about the poor woman who opens her vagina to a strange man?! Sure, the pleasure might be great, but we must protect her against the shame of being a slut for the rest of her life.

      1. What about the women who are very sexually active with many partners, but give it away for free? Why don’t we have laws to protect them from shame and exploitation?

        1. I’m pretty sure there’s a connection between this and organ donation.

        2. If you can’t sell it, sit on it.

      2. I just want laws to protect me from unfair competition.

        1. Is that you rather?

  12. Gee, I wonder what the probability is that the pictures posted in the ads are fake?

    1. Sounds like you need to write-up a proposal.

  13. The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science.

    With the A&F push-up bras for 8 year olds, it’s hard to get an accurate read anymore.

    1. If the girl pictured above is under 18, I’d be surprised. If she’s not past the 4th grade, this world has become stranger than I ever suspected.

      1. The miracle of GMO food…

        1. Get Ron Bailey to this thread, stat!

    2. “The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet.”

      I collect data all day long. All night too.

    3. Damn those padded bras for 8 year olds! Damn them! An 8 year old is supposed to have a delightfully flat chest!

      Won’t somebody think of the pedophiles?

  14. If there’s grass on the field, play ball.

    1. Did you just hail the 4chan Party Van?

      1. with Pedobear, the friendly mascot who looks like a bear, among other things.

    2. You said “BALL”…..huh huh…huh huh…huh huh…

    3. If the carpet’s laid, time to move in.

      1. Old enough to pee, old enough for me.

  15. Where is Sarah Palin’s head?


    2. Where is Sarah Palin’s head?

      Up her ass.

      Someone had to say it.

  16. “The group based its estimates on guesses of the ages of women depicted in escort service ads on sites like Craigslist and”

    Wel, don’t both of those websites have a rigorous screening process to ensure that the woman in the picture is the woman who will answer the ad?

  17. Balko, you magnificent bastard!

  18. Why am I reminded of the South Park episode where Ike is having sex with his teacher?

    Underage boy gets “exploited” and has sex…..Nice!
    Underage girl gets “exploited” and has sex…Teh Horror!!!

    1. That was just on the other day! “Nice…..”

      1. Niccccccccccce

  19. Frightening to know that my life and liberty depend upon the schmucks that take mass media reports at face value and the craven politicians that pander to them.

  20. Feminist Barbie says, “If we give it to you with all the words and the stuff that is actually accurate?I mean, I’ve tried to do that with our PR firm, and they say, ‘They won’t read that much.Telling the truth is HARD!

  21. Wow. This is pretty bad. Seriously, just by the photos they guessed ages? I was carded twice at the movies about a month ago. That’s for a rated R movie, you have to be 17, so they thought I looked 16. I’m…..24.

    1. Got any pictures?

      1. Why are you asking for pics of a 16-year-old?

        1. Research, obviously.

          1. Obviously.

    2. I was chatting to a chick at the bar this weekend, pretty sure she was a goofy 20 year old that happened to sneak in. Nope, turned out she was 29 and batshit crazy. I know of at least 5 women that are all in their late-20s to early 30s that don’t look a day past 21. Maybe someone out there really has discovered the fountain of youth… can’t say I have any complaints if they did.

      1. Maybe the crazy keeps you young.

        1. Out of the sample size of 5, two own multiple cats and one is a recovering Mormon. Your theory has weight, but I’m going to need to do some more research.

          1. My wife has three cats. That means I have three cats.
            That means I’m a crazy cat lady!

            1. Dude, if your wife has three cats, she also has a pussy for a husband.

              I kid because I love.

            2. No, it means you have three colleagues.

        2. It keeps my wife looking young. Almost 40, doesn’t look a day past 30, and completely nuts. She must be. She married me 😉

    3. I’m 34, with a full beard. I get carded constantly. I HATE it. The checkers just don’t want to exercise ANY discretion or judgment, and fearing the state’s retribution, they treat me like a child, and a delinquent one at that!

    4. That happened to me two years ago and I’m 28, and there was the census worker who asked me if my parents were home, I am not even going to mention how every fucking clerk stares at my ID, looks back at me, then looks back down at the ID, then looks back at me before reluctantly letting me buy cigarettes and/or booze.

      1. I have a full fucking beard, Viking style, and I was recently carded for liquor. And I’m fucking 34.

        Fuck you ID checkers. Fuck. You.

    5. I was carded at a bar last year. I was 41 and sporting a largely grey beard.

  22. A quick stroll through the backpage ads in my area makes me think that most of them are lying about their age in the opposite direction.

    Except this one. She could be 12. Walmart would turn you in for this one.

    It’s an ad for a prostitute, so it’s probably not NSFW.

    1. Next time you want to post something like this, post a chick in central California, please.

      1. Here are your area choices:

        Humboldt County
        Inland Empire
        Long Beach
        Los Angeles
        Mendocino (new)
        Palm Springs
        San Diego
        San Fernando Valley
        San Francisco
        San Gabriel Valley
        San Jose
        San Luis Obispo
        Santa Barbara
        Santa Cruz
        Santa Maria

    2. All the Cleveland hookers seem to be fat black women(?). I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

      1. What about the dudes? Are they as well?

        I am Tony’s ruptured colon.

        1. That ship sailed a long time ago, sweetie.

    3. I’m a bit confused at that ad. Do guys going to a prostitute just not care what her face looks like?

      1. I think you have to assume the face is pretty busted up. If she had a pretty face with that body she could legally prostitute herself to a husband/john.

      2. Depends on what you plan on buying.

        1. Not that I’ve done any prostitute shopping, but I just feel like I was paying she’d have to be hot.

  23. We need to declare a no fly zone over Labia.

    1. That would be fruit flies I presume?

  24. I am really disappointed in the lack of objectivity in this article. We are suppose to take your word that these women were not clearly underage. In the future, if you are interested in presenting a more balanced story, it may be best to include more pictures so we can make those judgment calls ourselves.

    1. The point.

      You missed it.

      1. Actually, I thing you were the one who missed Fire Tiger’s point:

        “it may be best to include more pictures so we can make those judgment calls ourselves.”

    2. I see what you did there.

  25. And your point is …?

  26. Isn’t that a photo of Keeley Hazell?

    1. Lindsey Strutt. or so I am told.

  27. Lawrence Taylor likes this.

  28. I would like to see a major news organization do a full report on the lies, myths and exaggerated numbers being told about sex trafficking slaves. The articles about the super bowl sex slaves, has been proved wrong many times, but news organizations still report about it.

    Official Lies About Sex-Trafficking Exposed: It’s now clear that anti-prostitution groups used fake data to deceive the media and lie to Congress. And it was all done to score free publicity and a wealth of public funding

    Village Voice media in the March 24, 2011 issue have a great story on the lies and myths of sex tafficking:

    According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.



    Politicians, women’s groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

    It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Polaris Project, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations.

    Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

    “Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.
    “In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    Brian McCarthy isn’t happy. He’s a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he’s forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

    1. How did the super bowl child sex slaves rumor get started?
    2. Who started it?
    3. Why did the public and politicians believe it so easily, when it is not based on any facts?

    I would like to see a full scale investigation into who started this and caused all this tax payer money being spent checking out this untrue rumor, and ruining the reputation of the the great sport of football because of a untrue rumor.

    These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

    In recent years, every time there has been a major international sporting event, a group of government officials, campaigning feminists, pliant journalists and NGOs have claimed that the movement of thousands of men to strange foreign countries where there will be lots of alcohol and horniness will result in the enslavement of underage sex slaves for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Obviously. And every time they have simply doubled the made-up scare figures from the last international sporting event, to make it look like this problem of sport/sex/slavery gets worse year on year. Yet each year it is proved false.

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    Brian McCarthy isn’t happy. He’s a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he’s forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

    I do not like the idea of people getting the wrong information and believing lies, no matter what the topic is. The Sex trafficking, slavery issue is one of the biggest lies being told today. It is amazing to me how people will believe such lies so easily. The media is to blame for this. I wonder why they feel such a need to report wrong stats, numbers and information about this topic without doing proper research.

    While this may happen in very rare limited situations, the media will say that millions of people are sex slaves without doing any real research on the topic. Only taking the word of special interest anti-prostitution groups which need to generate money in the form of huge government grants from taxpayers, and charities. These “non profit” group’s employees make huge salaries, therefore they need to lobby the government, and inflate and invent victims in order to get more money into their organizations. If you look into how many real kidnapped forced against their will sex slaves there are, and not just take the anti-prostitution groups word for it. You will be very surprised.
    Where are all the forced sex slaves? I would like to meet the millions of slaves and see for myself if they were kidnapped and forced against their will.

    These groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

    This is an attempt to over inflate an issue in order to get more government money to these organizations. As a tax payer, voter, and resident I don’t want the government to mislead me.

    Sex Trafficking in Sports Events links:…..ies-myths/

  29. “The Lobster girl”?, you can’t match my comment on kurtloder’s redRIDderhood tottest thing ever walked this Earth, do you?, na$gulblogger$ from Moregov… can’t do anything with all this genetical plentity at the conservative (and allied RIGHT LIBS LIKE RADIOPRINCESS JOYCECAL(my)FLAN, “ETCs”) realm (((good men too))),
    (drums): and now… a very, very important (inoccent distractions) message…:
    WONDER woman…on (shapesaver) pants…
    We conservatives entertain with ETERNAL STARS… FROM ETERNAL WORLDS…
    I apollogize… for Lyndacarter (wonder) appears not on sesamestreet, Mark, but on themuppetshow, you can youtube it for free: The Muppet Show – Orange Colored Sky … as only (braveheart) FreedoMedia can “bring you”, the magical timetunnel…:…
    This has being… an important motivating RE-VIGORIZING message…
    paid by a Teafreedomfighter… with… parabolical… words…

  30. “ma” chick(en) “bangs”, ma chick(en)s “good” (very anti-higienical sodomical herculanian “practices” “endings” (expensive: souls), ma chick(en) ‘do stuffs’ (tickets (((oneway))) to … hell) “that your chick wishes could”…
    Sodomy?, gangero culture?, acorn mind?, neolibland?
    and… help terror by promote ultrasex”liberty”?, help the “school God being “swifted” twisted, tortured into Islam?, IN TIMES OF WAR?, AND KNOWING AYERS OF $AURGOV AND BHO “WORKED” LEADING THIS?
    NA NA NA!
    “just another day impossing me a castrocoyote “by law” having me homeless, and blammed for being slaved and exposed to miamidadeCOUNTY’S PREDS?”…
    and you spect me to… just “adopt the terror logistic “actitude”?
    NA! NA! NA!

  31. ‘sure, the terrorists “love” the efforts to HATE&ATACK; (“change”) America”s “liberties”… an old neolibtikal ussr’us neolibland(and rinoliphants) cheaptrick, “fuel” for terror, like “eliminating castroembargo would change the exiled and re-distributing their possesions (AGAIN) to the people”… “who suffer 52 Ayers of “liberty” in castrocuba”…

  32. so… does she or does she not?

  33. Do you want to find cheap corsets online? If you do you won’t be the only one. Everyone is trying to cut back on what they spend these days, but most of us are reluctant to stop spending money altogether, especially when it is on something that makes us feel so good.

  34. erage girls trafficked onli

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