On July 16, 2018, the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against Venus Denise Rhodes, 36. News outlets reported that Rhodes, of Winter Garden, Florida, allegedly promoting the prostitution of a minor. The alleged incident took place in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in late April.
Court records show that Rhodes was charged with one count of promoting the prostitution of a minor through encouragement (a third degree felony); one count of endangering the welfare of children (a third degree felony); and one count of indecent assault against persons less than thirteen years of age (a third degree felony).
Andre Maurice Parker, 38, of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was also arrested in connection with the incident. Court records reveal that he was charged with one count of indecent assault against persons less than thirteen years of age (a third degree felony).
Both Rhodes and Parker were arrested in Orange County, Florida, on July 17, 2018. They are currently awaiting extradition to Franklin County.
The CSE Institute applauds the joint effort of Chambersburg and Orange County investigators in making these arrests. However, we encourage prosecutors to utilize the human trafficking laws in Pennsylvania to bring additional charges, if appropriate. According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011, an individual commits the crime of trafficking of minors if they recruit, entice, solicit, harbor, transport, provide, obtain or maintain a minor if the person knows or recklessly disregards that the minor will be subjected to sexual servitude. Or, an individual commits the crime of trafficking minors if they knowingly benefit financially or receive anything of value from any act that facilitates any activity previously described.
Finally, the CSE is disappointed with the current Pennsylvania law criminalizing the promotion of prostitution of a minor. Rhodes was charged with 18 § 5902 §§ b.1(3) which states that one can promote the prostitution of a minor through “encouraging, inducing or otherwise intentionally causing a minor to become or remain a prostitute.” Under both Federal and Pennsylvania law this is sex trafficking – plain and simple. We would like to make it clear that a child cannot be encouraged to become or remain a prostitute. We would also like to make it clear that a child cannot be a prostitute – they are a victim of rape. Legally, the crime of “promoting prostitution” should be moved to the Human Trafficking section of the crimes code. The CSE strongly encourages the use of appropriate language when discussing commercial sexual exploitation in order to both show respect for survivors and acknowledge that sex trafficking of children is a horrific crime of sexual violence.
We will report updates on this matter as the investigation and prosecution continues to unfold.
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 Villanova University.