Last night (Sep. 23), Sean “Diddy” Combs took to Twitter to make a public service announcement to the Associated Press, urging the news organization to use better vernacular when describing under-aged victims of rape and sexual assault. In the tweet, he shared a link to a Change.org petition, which is trying to coax the AP to stop using the term “child prostitute.”
The petition is penned by survivor of sexual abuse, Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, who also is in collaboration with Washington D.C.-based organization, Right4Girls. The group aims to shine light on gender-based violence, while also pushing forward policy changes for trafficked and abused girls. It also tries to make a shift in the way the media portrays trafficked girls. It’s common for a news outlet to describe these victims as “child prostitute” or “child sex worker,” which can be misleading because “there is no such thing.”
“It is important that the Associated Press take leadership in ending the use of these terms, because how we are named is how we are treated,” Pettigrew writes. “If respectable media outlets continue to use these terms, children who are bought and sold will continue to be treated as criminals, instead of as victims and survivors of child rape. They deserve to be named and treated as such.”
Pettigrew also went on to break down why using such terms are wrongful and in fact, don’t properly describe what’s really going on in the bigger picture. In doing so, she also reveals things about her own experience.
“’Child prostitute’ may seem clear because it conveys the fact that money is exchanged for sex, but it is also misleading because it suggests consent and criminality when none exists,” she continues. “Many of us are not even of legal age to consent to sex. I was 10. And girls like me are beaten, kidnapped, gang raped, and tortured into selling our bodies to adults, every night. This is not about choice. This is about abuse and rape.”
Right4Girls suggests that “the sexual abuse of a minor, statutory rape and victims of rape,” are more appropriate terms to use. The group’s full recommendation can be read here.