Sex crime advocates say 2 underage girls forced into sex during robbery are victims, not criminals

Sex crime advocates say 2 underage girls forced into sex during robbery are victims, not criminals
A law-enforcement guide to human trafficking.
Source: Ted S. Warren/AP
A law-enforcement guide to human trafficking.
Source: Ted S. Warren/AP

Sex-crime-victim advocates are criticizing a Philadelphia prosecutor's decision to charge two underage teen girls who allegedly were forced to perform sex acts on a man during a robbery.

Authorities say the alleged April 22 crime was orchestrated by a 28-year-old man named Reginald Lewis, according to Philly.com.

Prosecutors say Lewis created an ad on Backpage that lured another man into a northeast Philadelphia home to have sex with two unnamed underage girls, ages 16 and 17.

Authorities say at least one of the girls held the sex buyer at gunpoint for an hour, which Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Fischer argues makes the girls just as guilty as their alleged pimp.

"Human trafficking victims don't hold people at gunpoint," Fischer told the court during a bond hearing for one of the girls. "This defendant knew what she was doing."

Sex-crime-victim advocate Shea M. Rhodes, director of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, said prosecutors are wrong to charge the two girls; Rhodes said they likely were forced by Lewis to commit the robbery.

"It is not uncommon for traffickers to make their victims complicit in other crimes," Rhodes said in an interview Wednesday. "It's an additional act of coercion, something they can hold over their heads."

Lewis and the teen girls are being charged as adults with the same crimes, which include felony kidnapping, simple assault, false imprisonment, theft and conspiracy, according to Philly.com.

Rhodes said Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that do not have a so-called "safe harbor" law granting limited related criminal immunity to sex trafficking victims.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach is advocating for a safe harbor bill that would prevent minors involved in prostitution from being charged for related crimes.
Source: Bradley C. Bower/AP

Pennsylvania state senators introduced a safe harbor bill in 2015 that was passed in the Senate in April, but hasn't been signed into law yet.

State Sen. Daylin Leach said he's contemplating filing a lawsuit to stop prosecutors from charging children with prostitution-related crimes.

"It is illegal in Pennsylvania for a juvenile to consent to sex with an adult. That’s what statutory rape laws are," Leach said, according to Philly.com. "If these girls legally cannot give consent, how can they be charged with a crime for something they can’t consent to?"

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Chauncey Alcorn

Chauncey is a trending news writer at Mic. His work has also been featured in the New York Daily News and Fortune.com. Email him at chauncey@mic.com.

MORE FROM

What does Sean Spicer’s resignation mean for the rest of Trump’s inner circle?

Many are already wondering if Spicer's departure could portend more shakeups to come.

How the messy New York City subways are hurting vulnerable New Yorkers the most

The New York subway system is a mess — and here's who's suffering the most.

Is Sean Spicer the shortest-serving White House press secretary in history?

Spicer served just six months as press secretary — there are some cabinet members in White House history who have served mere days.

5 stories from this week that aren't about OJ Simpson or Sean Spicer

The White House will be forced to release logs from Mar-a-Lago, and Democrats finally have an agenda.

According to Anthony Scaramucci’s Twitter, he believes in climate change and voted for Barack Obama

He also supports same-sex marriage. And abortion rights.

Trump is reportedly looking into pardoning himself. Here’s why that could backfire.

Can the president really pardon himself?

What does Sean Spicer’s resignation mean for the rest of Trump’s inner circle?

Many are already wondering if Spicer's departure could portend more shakeups to come.

How the messy New York City subways are hurting vulnerable New Yorkers the most

The New York subway system is a mess — and here's who's suffering the most.

Is Sean Spicer the shortest-serving White House press secretary in history?

Spicer served just six months as press secretary — there are some cabinet members in White House history who have served mere days.

5 stories from this week that aren't about OJ Simpson or Sean Spicer

The White House will be forced to release logs from Mar-a-Lago, and Democrats finally have an agenda.

According to Anthony Scaramucci’s Twitter, he believes in climate change and voted for Barack Obama

He also supports same-sex marriage. And abortion rights.

Trump is reportedly looking into pardoning himself. Here’s why that could backfire.

Can the president really pardon himself?