Whore stigma, buttressed by law enforcement

Bob Herbert identifies the Whore stigma, buttressed by law enforcement in his piece yesterday

“If no money is involved, the youngster is considered a victim. But if the man pays for the sex — even if the money is going to the pimp, which is so often the case — the child is considered a prostitute and thus subject in many venues to arrest and incarceration.”

 This is clearly because prostitution is considered so low that even a child forced into it is sullied by its nature. He goes on to say:

“What’s needed is a paradigm shift. Society (and thus law enforcement) needs to view any adult who sexually exploits a child as a villain, and the exploited child as a victim of that villainy. If a 35-year-old pimp puts a 16-year-old girl on the street and a 30-year-old john pays to have sex with her, how is it reasonable that the girl is most often the point in that triangle that is targeted by law enforcement?

A measure of how far we still have to go is the fact that some enlightened officials in the state of New York tried to shift that paradigm last year and failed. The proposed Safe Harbor Act would have ended the practice of criminalizing kids too young to legally consent to sex. Under the law, authorities would have no longer been able to charge children with prostitution, but would have had to offer such youngsters emotional counseling, medical care and shelter, if necessary.

Legislative passage was thwarted in large part because prosecutors made the case that it was necessary to hold the threat of jail over the heads of these children as a way of coercing them to testify against pimps. In other words: If you don’t tell us who hurt you, little girl, we’re going to put you in jail.”

Sadly, this is common across the country, and children are not the only victims of violence in these situations. Herbert identifies the trouble with threatening jail to those who would not turn in their pimps. Have they considered that some of the violent men who control females of any age in these situations would be certain to have any witnesses against him hurt badly? That to insist that the girl turn in her pimp coulod mean a death sentence- or at the least an act of violence against her?

As much as I dislike the fact that Herbert is far too uncritical of the likes of Farley and her “research,” I think he has a point here. Sadly, he may be too blind to notice his own subscription to the whore stigma.