September 19, 2016

Stop Calling the Teen Trafficked by Oakland Police Officers a “Prostitute”

Seven Oakland police officers have been charged in a recent sexual exploitation scandal, involving the sexual abuse of a teenager.

The young woman who has attracted national attention after being traded between as many as 30 police officers for sex acts has been labeled by many, including The New York Times, as a “prostitute.”

However, when she was first targeted and sexually exploited by some of the police officers she was a minor. As a campaign by Rights4Girls states:

There is no such thing as a child prostitute.

This means that she was a victim of sex trafficking in the eyes of the law, as minors cannot consent to participation in acts of prostitution.

The pejorative and incorrect terms being applied to this victim, such as “teen prostitute” “prostitute,” and “sex worker,” fail to recognize the toxic cycle of exploitation in which this young woman was ensnared.

Though she is now 19, her status as an exploited survivor does not change with a birthday. The power and control in this situation rested on adult men of authority who were happy to “pass her around” to their friends. This reality did not suddenly evaporate because the victim of this commercial sexual abuse turned 18.

As a society, it’s vitally necessary that we recognize the plight of countless women and men who have “aged out” of the legal definition of sexually trafficked minors, but who have still been shaped by those experiences and see a life of prostitution as their only option.

It is also telling that some major news sources have published pictures of this 19-year-old victim, but have failed to post pictures or even mention the names of the seven men who are currently facing criminal charges for sexually abusing her.

Why parade images of a sex trafficking victim in the public eye, and yet protect the men who took advantage of her vulnerabilities? It is Giovani LoVerde, Ricardo Perez, Brian Bunton, Warit Utappa, Tyrell Smith, LeRoy Johnson, and Dan Black who should feel the full brunt of public shame.

Below are three of the seven men who have been charged in this crime.

LeRoy Johnson has retired from the Oakland Police Department and is being charged with failure to report.


Dan Black has resigned from the Livermore Police Department. His charges include two counts of engaging in an act of prostitution and two acts of committing a lewd act in a public place.danblacklivermore

Tyrell Smith resigned from the Oakland Police Department in May. He has been charged with four counts of conducting search of criminal justice system data without authorized purpose.tjsmith

To learn about best practices language for discussing victims of commercial sexual exploitation, download the “Chart of Preferred Terminology for Sex Trafficking and Prostitution.”

Further Reading