A woman who says she was exploited for years starting at age 12 by a sex trafficker who used the shuttered website Backpage.com to sell her is suing the founders of the site under New York‘s Child Victims Act, which loosened the statute of limitations for child sex abuse.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in state court in Manhattan by Melanie Thompson, now 23, charges that the men who ran Backpage advertised her for sex even though they knew she was a minor, masking her age in the ads to keep law enforcers at bay.
Thompson is being represented by the Seattle-based law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, which won a settlement against Backpage in Washington state in 2017 on behalf of three women who said they were sold for sex on the site as teens.
Jason Amala, one of Thompson’s attorneys, said New York’s restrictive statute of limitations for sex abuse made it difficult for Backpage victims to file lawsuits in the state before the Child Victims Act was enacted last year. Under the act, people who were sexually abused as minors can file civil lawsuits up until the age of 55. Prior to the passage of the act, they had to file their complaints before turning 23, Amala said.
Amala said Thompson’s lawsuit should inspire other New Yorkers who were victimized by Backpage to follow suit. “I think she’s hoping that other people will come forward, particularly in New York, because the statute was so conservative,” he said.