On its website right4girls.org states: "Rights4girls is a human rights organization focused on gender-based violence against vulnerable young women and girls in the U.S." It advocates for "the dignity and person hood of young women and girls so that every girl may possess the right to be safe and live a life free of violence and exploitation."
In Los Angeles from Washington D.C., the organization's Executive Director Malika Saada Saar, spoke to a chamber full of advocates, guests, public officials and media to share its new campaign which aims to change the way people and law enforcement view child sex trafficking crimes. They showed a video in which a narrator says "Modern-day slavery is alive and real in the United States. Young girls are being bought and sold for sex."
When arrested, the narrator says, "They're put into handcuffs. They're put into a police car. They're brought to a detention center. They are brought before a judge and they are convicted of prostitution."
Rights4girls says the minors are not the bad guys. They're controlled. From the age of 11 "Jessica" was bought and sold for sex. She's now an advocate that helps others in the battle against the pimp and the pedophile. She says she had very low esteem. For several years, she was bought and sold. The feeling of being vulnerable, she says, "came as second nature because I thought that was all I was worth."
Several L.A. County Supervisors were on hand including Don Knabe who said, "There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Kids that are forced to sell themselves night after night on a street corner are not prostitutes. Kids that are brutally beaten by their scumbag pimp for not making a quota are not prostitutes... they are victims… victims… victims!"
To L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, "They're victims of a sex crime. They've not been treated like that in the past and, really, it's like a rebooting of the system in order to be able to look at it differently to be able to get a better result for the victim and to hold people accountable for their behavior both the pimps and the predators going after these young kids.
It's why his department is now having first responders immediately provide services to the under-18-year-old victims where in the past they would get handcuffed and jailed first.
There was also a big point repeatedly made that the media needs to stop saying words like "child prostitute" in its reporting. Everyone at the podium said they are not prostitutes. They never woke up one day and said 'I want to grow up and be a prostitute. They are victims.' To which, an L.A. Times reporter asked, if prosecutors were going to stop using words like that because that's where reporters get them. Knabe said that it's a work in progress to get everybody on board with a change in language. He said District Attorney Jackie Lacey supports the movement.
Malika Saada Saar tells FOX 11 it's about changing how people view and say "child prostitution" because, as the campaign slogan suggests, There is No Such Thing as Child Prostitution. They are victims. And, changing how we communicate in this country can take some time.