Media Coverage

Media Coverage

Legal Momentum in the Media

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  • Date: April 11, 2018 Featured In: The New York Times

    But advocates for child sex-trafficking victims pushed back against the idea that sites like Backpage could act as a third-party safeguard for users. Carol Robles-Román, the former chief executive and president of Legal Momentum, has documented more than three dozen news reports of people who were murdered after being listed on Backpage.

    Last year, Legal Momentum filed suit in Florida on behalf of a client who said she had been raped when she was in her 20s after being listed against her will on Backpage. “It was not safe for her,” said Ms. Robles-Román, who is now a legal adviser for anti-trafficking litigation and policy with the group. “To suggest that this is a safe vehicle is wrong.”

    Read the full article here.

  • Date: April 9, 2018 Featured In: El Diario NY

    La abogada de derechos civiles Carol Robles-Román, miembro de Legal Momentum, comentó que la legislación representa una nueva era de justicia para las víctimas del tráfico sexual en línea.

    “Como abogada que ha representado a personas victimizadas por Backpage, espero con interés una investigación federal exhaustiva de esta presunta actividad delictiva, y que los sobrevivientes finalmente tengan su merecido día en la corte”.

    Translation:

    "This DOJ enforcement action, long due, represents a new era of justice for victims of online sex trafficking. As a lawyer who has  represented persons victimized by Backpage, I look forward to a thorough federal investigation of this alleged criminal activity, and that survivors finally have their much deserved day in court." — Civil Rights Attorney Carol Robles-Román

  • Date: April 6, 2018 Featured In: Feminist Current

    An April 5 article on FeministCurrent.com, INTERVIEW: Marian Hatcher sets the record straight on the new U.S. anti-trafficking bill, SESTA-FOSTA, cites Legal Momentum’s research and provides an excellent explanation of why trafficking survivors and the organizations that represent them advocated for this new legislation.

    "Desiree would have celebrated her 18th birthday on March 29th. At 16-years-old, she was sold by a trafficker online — the john raped, beat her, and slashed her throat. She was one of at least 37 children and adults determined via statistics provided by Legal Momentum — a women’s defense and education fund in New York — to have been murdered due to sex ads placed online between 2011 and 2016."

     

  • Date: March 13, 2018 Featured In: The Recorder

    Karen Chesley of Boies Schiller Flexner, who is litigating a civil case against Backpage.com in Florida launched last year with the women’s advocacy group Legal Momentum, said fears about expansive new liability for tech companies are overblown. “It would be a tortured reading of the bill to say that accepting seemingly legitimate ads, without more, would create liability for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking,” she said.

    “That big picture, scary monster that this is just going to quell all free speech I think is frankly kind of silly,” said Carol Robles-Román, president and CEO of Legal Momentum.

    Read the full article.

  • Date: January 4, 2018 Featured In: San Francisco Chronicle

    Op-Ed by California State Senator Connie M. Leyva and Legal Momentum Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Becker

    Over the past several months, a loud national conversation has been taking place about sexual harassment and assault — in Hollywood, in business, the judiciary, and in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The conduct revealed is not new and all stems from the same root cause — abuse of power.

    For as long as we’ve documented history, people in power have chosen to abuse it. These abuses are perpetrated in many forms, but abusing power for sexual gratification is an age-old variety. The current national conversation, the #MeToo movement, and all of the women (and men) coming forward will change nothing without meaningful channels to report and respond to these abuses of power and sexual exploitation.

    In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB500 into law. By adding just a few words to California’s extortion statute, this law will protect Californians from “sextortion” by providing a clear path to report this abuse to law enforcement and a tool for prosecutors to seek accountability from offenders. Sextortion is where the currency demanded is not money but sex or sexual images. It is, at its very core, an abuse of power. Look at the narratives being told by victims and survivors in today’s conversation about sexual harassment — sextortion is woven throughout.

    Providing tools for law enforcement is critical, as these crimes are often too difficult and painful for victims to rely solely on civil remedies. SB500 gives prosecutors a way to bring these sexual perpetrators to justice through the criminal courts.

    The problem of sextortion has proliferated in the digital age as the Internet and social media began to drive how we interact with each other. Abusers have used technology and social media — while shielded behind computer and phone screens — to create or increase their power over countless victims. These victims, disproportionately girls and women, stripped of their sense of safety and dignity, too often have suffered in silence. The perpetrators believed they were shielded from the reach of justice. We must do more to pull them from the safe haven they have enjoyed for far too long.

    SB500, championed by the bipartisan Legislative Women’s Caucus, passed both houses of the Legislature without a single “no” vote. Abuses of power in the form of sexual harassment and assault cannot be tolerated in any facet of our society. And the ability for everyone to fully engage with society in today’s world means having full and safe access to Internet technologies and social media.

    Other states have also acted recently to close legal loopholes that allowed sextortion offenders to escape accountability. In 2017, Utah, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas passed similar legislation with bipartisan support. Bills to combat sexual extortion are pending in New York, Arizona, the District of Columbia and New Jersey, and federal legislation has also been introduced with bipartisan sponsors.

    We call upon other states to follow this lead, to build upon this momentum and to update their laws to ensure abuses of power like sexual extortion do not remain hidden or go unpunished.

    State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, authored SB500 and is vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. Jennifer M. Becker is an attorney for Legal Momentum, the oldest legal advocacy group for women in the United States.

  • Date: October 18, 2017 Featured In: Reuters

    NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The torrent of stories of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of claims about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein could help propel campaigns to make sextortion illegal, according to activists trying to change laws in the United States.

    Sextortion - a form of extortion that involves sexual acts or images as its currency - is not recognized by criminal laws in many U.S. states and victims often have little or no recourse, experts say.

    The headlines, social media and watercooler conversations prompted by the Weinstein case are "incredibly powerful" in illustrating the extent of the problem, said Jennifer Becker, senior staff attorney with Legal Momentum, The Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund, that works to combat sextortion.

    Using hashtag #MeToo, tens of thousands of women have gone to Twitter and Facebook to recount experiences of being verbally abused, groped, molested and raped by bosses, teachers and family.

    "It's an abuse of power, and so with Harvey Weinstein as an example, it's a classic age-old case of sextortion," Becker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

    A huge hurdle in making sextortion illegal is getting the public and lawmakers to understand its scope, she said.

    "It really had never been center stage," she said. "The more instances, the more narratives out there, it certainly helps lawmakers understand that it's something that they should prioritize."

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4990972/Flood-sexual-harassment-claims-seen-boosting-efforts-outlaw-sextortion.html#ixzz4vrp1EPWh 

  • Date: September 13, 2017 Featured In: The Hill

    Legal Momentum was invited to contribute an op-ed to The Hill on the Internet safety Modernization Act.

    In late June, Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced the Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017, with bipartisan support of co-sponsors Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), which aims to curb the forms of online harassment which have become colloquially known as “sextortion,” “swatting,” and “doxxing.” It updates federal criminal statutes to clearly and unambiguously prohibit these forms of online harassment and provides civil remedies for victims of these offenses. Critically necessary, it provides for collecting data on the prevalence of these forms of harassment, dedicated federal law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute these offenses, and $24 million for training law enforcement.

  • Date: August 12, 2017 Featured In: ABA News

    Lynn Hecht Schafran, senior vice president of Legal Momentum, a women’s rights group in New York, argued that the problem is rooted in stereotypes and myths about sexual assault. She cited several famous quotes and reports, from 1904 to the present, which questioned the validity of women’s rape claims.

    “The myth that false rape accusations are rampant is rampant,” Schafran said. She said research shows 2 percent to 8 percent of rape claims are false, yet a 2010 study by the National Institute of Justice found that city and campus law enforcement officers estimated that 10 percent to 95 percent of rape claims are false.

    “All too often, the people who are charged with investigating these cases and making decisions about these cases don’t know anything about sexual assault. Making it worse, they’re sure they know everything,” she said.

  • Date: July 24, 2017 Featured In: Dallas Morning News

    The development worries some advocates working to prevent the sexual exploitation of women and children, who fear Backpage’s new payment system will make it easier to sell vulnerable girls online.

    “It’s a message to traffickers: ‘Hey, we’ll protect your privacy,’” said Caitlin McCartney, a staff attorney at Legal Momentum, a national nonprofit that’s suing Backpage on behalf of a girl the group says was raped and sold five times after traffickers advertised her on Backpage.

    “Not everybody has bitcoin,” McCartney said, “but everybody has pretty easy access to gift cards.”

    Neither Backpage nor its lawyers responded to requests for comment. 

  • Date: July 22, 2017 Featured In: Blog Talk Radio: 3 Women, 3 Ways

    Host Heather Stark and Legal Momentum's Gender Justice Fellow, Seher Khawaja, discuss how poverty disproportionately impacts women and how we can better ensure women's economic security in this installment of "3 Women, 3 Ways" on Blog Talk Radio. 

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