A Change.org petition urging the Associated Press to stop using the term “child prostitution” has gained traction on social media, with entertainers, journalists and activists adding their voices — and their tweets — to the cause.
In a letter to the AP’s Style Guide Editor David Minthorn, Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, the creator of petition on behalf of Rights4Girls, a Washington D.C. based organization which “works to make the lives of U.S. young women and girls a human rights priority…so that every girl may possess the right to be safe and live a life free of violence and exploitation, details her own molestation and traumatic experience as a survivor of child rape and sex trafficking:
I was not a child prostitute or child sex worker. I was a victim and survivor of child rape. And so are the other kids out there now who are being bought and sold for sex. They are victims and survivors of child rape.
But, too often, when the media reports on child sex trafficking, or attempts to tell our stories, the way we are described mislead the public about what is happening to trafficked children.
According to research by the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), The California Endowment, and The Raben Group, there have been more than 5,000 instances in the past five years when reporters for print, wire, and online outlets have used the phrase “child prostitute,” “child prostitution,” “underage prostitution” or other variations on the phrase to describe these exploited children.
I, with the Human Rights Project for Girls, understand it is the media’s job to convey a situation or an issue with precision and clarity. “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. 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.
Read full letter here.
See some of the celebrities, journalists and activists who have tweeted support for the campaign below.