Sticks and Stones . . . Can words really hurt?

“Man arrested for possessing sexually exploitative images of children–images of child abuse.”

“Man arrested for child porn.”

Based on word definitions, these two sentences say the same thing. However, they convey two different messages and invoke different reactions. “Kiddie porn” is a term we hear often. In addition, the word “porn” is often paired with other words such as “earth porn,” “poems porn,” “food porn,” to convey images that are attractive and beautiful. Using this word so often and as a synonym for “aesthetically pleasing,” we have inadvertently become desensitized to its meaning. We forget that “child porn” is images of abuse.

Word choice matters. Changing the way we talk about things changes our approach because it affects how we perceive information.

To put this in perspective, when an article reports a case involving someone with hundreds of “Images of child porn in their possession,” that means the person in question A) had pictures and/or video of hundreds of children being sexually abused and exploited or B) had pictures and/or video of one child being sexually abused hundreds of times.

The phrase “child porn” doesn’t accurately convey the severity of the crime. The new and more accurate term is “child sexual abuse images.” Please use the correct phrase when referring to this horrific crime.

Prostituted Children/Adults

“Teen Sex Workers Found during Super Bowl”

“Prostituted Children Rescued during Super Bowl”

“Child Sex Trafficking Victims Rescued during Super Bowl”

Which of these headlines is accurate?

The first is absolutely wrong. The second is correct, but the third is most accurate.

Abusers don’t buy sex with a child…they pay to abuse and sexually exploit a child. They pay to traffic the child.

There are abused children, there are prostituted children, and there are trafficked children, but there are NOT child prostitutes or teen sex workers. Children cannot legally consent to sex. Therefore, minors cannot consent to selling their bodies for sex. Using the inaccurate coinage, “child prostitute,” implies consent, which is absent in the case of minors–always.


Below is the legal definition of sex trafficking. Anyone under the age of 18 working in the commercial sex industry is a VICTIM, not a prostitute. And anyone 18 or older who has been induced by force, fraud, or coercion into the commercial sex industry is a VICTIM, not a prostitute. (Even if the victim does not self-identify.)

Sex Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the victim induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Changing how we talk about human trafficking cases will change how other people talk about it. News outlets hold a lot of power because they reach so many people in a short amount of time.

These stories have influence because they affect the audience’s conceptions (or misconceptions) as well as how they will receive similar information later on.

For example, if news stories always label known human trafficking cases (especially those involving children) as prostitution, it may be harder for some viewers/readers to understand many of those prostituted people are actually victims of human trafficking.

By simply changing the wording, people can begin to understand that human trafficking does happen in our state and that it is a horrible crime against humanity.

Changing the way we talk affects the way we think, and the way we think affects our actions. Choosing to use more accurate terminology may help others think differently too.

All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.” –Sai Baba

Fighting for freedom does not have to involve dramatic life changes. It simply requires small efforts and simple changes paired with an open mind.

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“[Some people] believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” –Gandalf the Gray in “The Hobbit”