by Marji Iacovetti, Program Services Manager at ZOE
“There’s no such thing as a child prostitute.”
A quick online search of these words brings over two dozen perfectly matching results. In recent months, the phrase has been featured in newspaper articles, media guides, billboards, and speeches given by public figures. The words have been tweeted, posted, and worn on jewelry.
The reasoning behind the phrase is simple: Since young children in the U.S. cannot legally consent to sexual acts, they certainly cannot consent to commercial sexual acts.
When a child is trafficked for commercial sex, several results occur.
- One exploiter receives physical gratification.
- Another exploiter receives financial gratification.
- The child suffers physical, emotional, and psychological harm.
The child is abused for profit. Often, the crime also results of a label for the victim. The label is “child prostitute” and it denotes a choice that stands in clear contradiction to our nation’s laws.
Together, we can change perceptions by being intentional about the terms we use. Let’s strike the term “child prostitute” from our vocabularies. Let’s replace that term with more accurate phrasing like “exploited child” or “trafficked youth.”
Over time, this subtle but powerful change can make a difference in the lives of children who deserve our acceptance and support.