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Guidance: When Victims Are Minors, They Are Not 'Women' And 'Men'

The R. Kelly and Jeffrey Epstein cases include accusations that they sexually assaulted and exploited minors – girls, in these cases.

When accusers or alleged victims are under 18, do not refer to them as "women" or "men." The words that apply are "girls," "boys" and "minors" (which helps in cases when we're not sure of the gender). Phrases such as "underaged girls," while somewhat redundant, can help to reinforce the nature of the alleged crimes. But do not say "underaged women" or "underaged men." Note: Be careful because laws about who is "underage" vary by state.

Also, when someone is accused of assaulting both minors and adults, be sure to use phrases such as "women and girls" or "men and boys."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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