Newsweek

America’s Top Brothel

Backpage.com has long been the Amazon Prime of prostitution. Now it could close for good—and some say that’s a bad thing.
Norma Manzo and Greg Reese work to set up a "date" with a person who advertised on Backpage.com. They are in a team of about a dozen people who reach out to young women engaged in the commercial sex industry.
11_18_Backpage_01 Source: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times/Getty

When Natalie ran away from home, she left behind a letter for her parents, telling them not to worry. The 15-year-old, Seattle-area native would be gone only a short while, she wrote six years ago, “long enough for me to find myself.” Her brother had just left for college, her father, Tom, says, and “Natalie was looking for attention.”

She found it, but not in the way she’d hoped. Before she left, Natalie was a prototypical American kid; she liked playing soccer and watching Harry Potter movies. She had never been away from home for more than a day. But while she was gone, she met a pimp who forced her to have sex with him. It was her first time.

After nine days, Natalie escaped to the authorities, who called up her parents and reunited them hours later in a police department parking lot. Her mother didn’t recognize her. The girl’s long brown hair was now short and dyed red. But it wasn’t just her appearance that seemed off. “Everything about her changed,” says her mother, Nacole, who asked Newsweek to use a pseudonym for her daughter and not print the family’s last name, to protect their privacy. The once gregarious teen became afraid to go out in public. “She was

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