On October 17, 2019, the Centre County police arrested a young woman alongside 41-year-old Edward Lewis, of Newark, New Jersey, for prostitution-related offenses resulting from a joint Patton Township, Ferguson Township, and State College police investigation.
According to media reports, the arrest took place at Ramada by Wyndham State College Hotel & Conference Center on South Atherton Street. The woman allegedly invited an undercover police officer to her and Lewis’s motel room via an online sex forum. The woman allegedly offered to engage in sexual intercourse with the undercover officer in exchange for one-hundred dollars. The woman waited in the hotel room while Lewis circled the hotel “looking for police activity.” Once given the all clear by Lewis via phone call, the woman allegedly invited the officer into her hotel room. The woman and Lewis were subsequently arrested.
Lewis is charged with one count of promoting prostitution by transporting a person within the Commonwealth with intent to promote the engaging in prostitution by that person; one count of prostitution; and one count of driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked. The woman is charged with one count of prostitution and one count of possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use.
The CSE Institute is disappointed in Centre Daily Times and WTAJ News for choosing to publicize the first and last name of the young woman in this case. Little is known about her – she may be a victim of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Many prostituted persons become involved in selling sex through their “boyfriends,” who use control, manipulation, and coercion to force them into “the life” thereby becoming their trafficker. Despite her name being accessible to the public, media and news outlets have an ethical duty to avoid publishing the names of victims of sexual violence. Being sex trafficked is indeed a crime of sexual violence. In publishing the names of victims Centre Daily Times and WTAJ News promote the notion that prostituted persons are criminals, rather than victims of a terrible crime.
Further, we are disheartened and disappointed in the Patton Township, Ferguson Township, and State College police departments’ choice to arrest and charge this woman with prostitution while at the same time, charging Ferguson with the crime of “Promoting Prostitution,” a pimping charge. We encourage officers to investigate further so as to determine whether this is in fact a case of human trafficking and if so, bring trafficking charges against Lewis. Unfortunately, any further investigation has been significantly hindered due to the choices law enforcement officers have already made. In arresting and charging this woman they have dramatically diminished the chance she will cooperate with further inquiry. Victims of sexually violent crimes, such as human trafficking, are much less likely to trust the legal system. This lack of trust is only accentuated when people of legal authority, such as police and prosecutors, further traumatize victims by criminalizing them. We ask that all investigators working cases involving sexual exploitation focus on on taking a victim-centered trauma informed approach in their investigations.
In addition, prostituted persons face arrest and prosecution at a much higher rate than sex buyers in the Commonwealth, although both are criminalized under Pennsylvania law. The CSE Institute encourages authorities to focus on pursuing sex buyers who fuel the commercial sex industry, along with the websites and traffickers that promote the sale of prostituted persons. This strategy, known as the Nordic Model, attacks the demand for prostituted persons while decriminalizing prostituted persons themselves. An emphasis on targeting the buyers and those who profit from commercial sexual exploitation is imperative for abolishing human trafficking. As long as the demand from sex buyers exists, traffickers will find a way to make a profit by exploiting others.