Leading Members of Congress, Survivors, and Advocates Declare There’s “No Such Thing” as a Child Prostitute
Group calls for end to arrest of child sex trafficking victims and releases letter to leading media outlets asking them to follow AP’s lead in ending use of phrase “child prostitute.”
Washington, D.C. — June 22, 2016 — Urging an end to the arrest of children who are trafficked for sex, leading Members of Congress, sex trafficking survivors and anti-trafficking advocates declared at a Capitol Hill press conference today that there is “no such thing as a child prostitute.”
The group called on law enforcement to stop arresting and prosecuting minors for prostitution and released a letter from Rights4Girls, a leading anti-trafficking advocacy group, to major news outlets asking them to stop using the phrase “child prostitute” in reporting.
More than 1,000 children, some as young as twelve, are arrested for prostitution in the United States every year, despite the fact that they are in reality victims of statutory rape and child sexual abuse.
The group declared that child victims of sex trafficking should be treated like any other victim of child abuse and called on jurisdictions to implement policies and protocols to end the arrest of child victims and, instead, refer them to mental health and social services. They also called for greater accountability for the people who try to buy sex with children.
Last year, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department became the first in the county to officially recognize that there’s “no such thing as a child prostitute” thereby ending the arrest of child victims for prostitution.
Rights4Girls’ letter to leading news organizations asked them to end using the term “child prostitute,” because, simply put, children can’t consent to sex. Following a year-long campaign led by Rights4Girls, the Associated Press this year changed its authoritative Stylebook to discourage the use of the phrase.
Rights4Girls released a report in 2014 showing over 5,000 uses of the phrase “child prostitute,” or similar variations during the previous five years. The practice continues today and the recipients of the group’s letter all have used the phrase in the last year.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): “As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the horror and violence children suffer as victims of human trafficking. Bipartisan legislation I introduced and was signed into law last year is helping ensure that minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as the victims they are. Still, as trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, we need to continue to work together to find solutions that ensure that more of our young girls are able to go to school, play with their friends, and make plans for their future—rather than being sold for sex and prosecuted.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA): “We have an insidious epidemic of 21st century slavery in our country and the victims are children. With 100,000 to 300,000 minors trafficked for sex in the U.S. each year, we need clearly defined protocols to stop traffickers and rescue the victims, like the protocol I developed with law enforcement and advocates as a result of my San Mateo County Zero Tolerance Policy launched in 2010. We also need to continue training employees in the travel and leisure industry so that they can recognize human trafficking incidents and report them. Equally important, we need to provide safe houses and support services for trafficking victims so they can reclaim their lives and become survivors.”
Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA): “I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to continue the fight against domestic child sex trafficking. I am proud that California is leading the charge in addressing the needs of these child victims by referring them to social services rather than treating them like criminals, and I’m optimistic that our nation will soon follow suit. Last year’s passage of the Justice for Victims for Trafficking Act, was a commendable first step in making this a domestic priority, but more work must be done to ensure that victims across our nation have access to the services they need.”
Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director, Rights4Girls: “There should be no difference between abusing a child and paying to abuse a child, but sadly there is. We routinely excuse the rape and exploitation of our children if the rape is bought and paid for. We even turn around and punish the exploited child. Rights4Girls is changing all of that. Through our No Such Thing campaign and advocacy we’re working to ensure trafficked girls are met with services and protection they need and that their abusers, both buyers and traffickers, are brought to justice.”
Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, Survivor Advocate and Policy Consultant: “The media has an incredible influence over the way that survivors of child sex trafficking are viewed, talked about, and ultimately treated. I am so grateful to the Associated Press for hearing my voice, and the voices of all survivors, in making clear that there is no such thing as a child prostitute. Now it is time for other media outlets to follow suit. Our most vulnerable children are depending on us.”