On November 8, 2018, Shea Rhodes, Esq., Director and Co-Founder of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation (“CSE Institute”), delivered a speech titled Choice v. Culpability for TEDx at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The TEDx program, “Crossroads,” featured influencers and innovators whose lives are dedicated to creating change and shaping the future. We are thrilled that Shea was chosen and incredibly proud of the speech that she delivered.
Shea used the TEDx stage to initiate a discourse about her choice to advocate for those without a voice and her subsequent mission. As a former Assistant District Attorney and current Director of the CSE Institute, Shea has fought against preconceived notions regarding prostitution and has persisted to create societal reform. Having been on both sides of the fight, she is acutely aware of the endurance needed to stand with a tragically marginalized sect of society.
Shea discussed the harm in viewing prostitution as a choice and proposed that culpability and choice inherently rests with the sex buyers. As an advocate, she is profoundly mindful of where choice lies. She urged the audience to alter their thinking and determine the true source of culpability between prostituted persons and sex buyers. She advocated for the Nordic Model or Equality Model, which solely criminalizes those that purchase sex and provides support for those that are sold for sex. She invited the TEDx audience to join her in the uncomfortable feeling of imagining a life of “choices” made from fear, desperation, and hopelessness; a discomfort that we firmly believe deserves to be felt by the broadest audience on the largest stage. Because as we all know, change arises in the uncomfortable.
Shea left the audience with one final message: to face the devastation of discounting the humanity of those with little power. She challenged the audience to notice the prevalence of a tragedy that goes predominantly unnoticed. On one night, in a theatre full of men and women with the absolute power of choice, the absence of choice in prostituted persons garnered full attention. The fight to end commercial sexual exploitation resonated. We hope that our broadened advocacy will lead to greater change.
Shea has stood firm at the crossroads for change. Our vision – that we, as a society, will treat survivors with dignity and empathy – was intensely felt. And we are thankful to TEDx for providing a platform for our purpose. Shea is a voice for the voiceless and a remarkable source of strength in her fearless pursuit to effectuate change – and on November 8th, her compelling efforts captured the TEDx community.
A link to the TEDx speech will be posted in the coming months.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.