I Am Jane Doe

I Am Jane Doe ★★★★

I am Jane Doe can rest assured in its assumptions that, no, sex trafficking of children in America was not on my radar as a massive problem, and, no, I hadn't even heard of Backpage.com. The film's 90 minutes is a hell of a presentation raising all sorts of questions, in particular why is child sex trafficking an under-reported crime, both legally and journalistically.

After the initial stories from a number of anonymous girls, I am Jane Doe becomes a procedural, not unlike Spotlight or Serial. It's not so much interested in showing the ins and outs of the horrors of child sex trafficking as it is how the current judicial system is ill-equipped and ill-informed to deal with the problem.

We believe the law is on our side, but the law is written to be manipulated by whoever can weaponise it most successfully. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 makes a lot of sense and it's likely we'll all have benefited from it in some way. If you've ever illegally downloaded a song or streamed something you shouldn't have (Game of Thrones is pirated beyond belief, for example), the CDA protects the website you used, providing them with legal defence as long as they weren't the uploaders of the offending material.

In a way that's good, but you can see where this is going. People are hurt financially by the aforementioned acts, and the media industry is struggling to keep up, but when it comes to hosting ads for child sex trafficking, hiding behind the CDA is morally loathsome, but, at face value, not illegal.

The morality debate is something else entirely - after repeated attempts at exposing Backpage in court, it's not like those higher up in the business are unaware of what's happening. Their inaction is despicable human behaviour, driven by wealth at the expense of childrens' lives. We know the world contains horrible people, but we shouldn't be this weak in fighting them.

Other documentaries, like The Hunting Ground, show the courts unable to appropriately deal with sexual assault cases, and I am Jane Doe combines that with a severe lack of understanding regarding the internet (Beware the Slenderman attempted to do the same, but missed the mark). Not only is the law struggling to be applied online, but old and male judges have no real idea what the internet is and how escort services are different from child sex trafficking. The law and these elderly judges have the same problem - they're out of touch.

You can sense the frustration from those involved, both the survivors and their lawyers, like they're banging their heads against the most obvious wall in the world. It's clear sex trafficking is illegal, so why isn't it going through the courts? Erik Bauer, a lawyer, is particularly adamant that he'll see the whole thing through til the end, saying he'll sell his furniture if he has to.

Narrated by Jessica Chastain and as much a piece of open-ended journalism as it is a documentary (it's conclusion is as satisfying as Serial), I am Jane Doe is a frustrating look at the state of the law, and how it's letting an unfathomably high amount of kids down when it comes to sex trafficking laws.

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