The California Endowment recently initiated the “No Such Thing” campaign with the hope to promote awareness of the fact that slang terms such as ‘underage hooker’ and ‘child prostitute’ are invalid. This movement came to fruition after the Associated Press declared it would remove such terms from their dictionary and replacing them with “child rape” and “child sex trafficking victim”.
“There is, in fact, no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’ because children cannot legally consent to sex, and under federal law, they are considered victims of human trafficking,” said Yasmin Vafa, the Executive Director of the Rights4Girls program. “In any other situation this would be seen as child or statutory rape. There is no difference between raping a child and paying to rape a child. Money cannot erase violence and trauma.”
Human trafficking of every genre is a major crisis in America, and especially so in the city of Sacramento, which is widely known as the human trafficking capital of this country. The AP move toward terminating the use of demoralizing and inaccurate slang terms in the media is seen by many as a step toward humanizing these exploited children.
“Each year more than 1,000 children are arrested for prostitution in the US despite not being old enough to even consent to sex,” says Vafa. “Instead of being seen as victims of child rape, these children are instead seen by law enforcement and other first responders as criminals.” She suggests that more accurate terms will help “showcase the true reality of what is playing out in the lives of these children. These terms help evoke the elements of abuse and victimization that characterize the condition of children bought and sold for sex.”
90 minutes to the west of Sacramento, the Oakland Police are experiencing their own scandal involving a young adult by the named of Celeste Guap. Thanks to an investigation by a local newspaper, the public has been given access to her private messages and comments wherein she seems pleased to have sold her body to sworn law enforcement officers for protection or money. According to Vafa, it is important to note that Guap remains a victim of her environment and “that the difference between 17 and 18 is just one day. We cannot pretend that someone who was first trafficked and exploited as a child magically becomes an empowered ‘sex worker’ once the clock strikes 18.” It is very likely that Guap is making the best out of a situation in which she probably threatened daily and has very little freedom.
Whether we see it or not, children in communities all across the country are still arrested for being raped. As Vafa said, “this is truly one of the biggest human rights failures facing our country today.” With movements such as #NoSuchThing, it is hoped that the hearts and minds of the American people will begin to rally around these victims in the shadows.