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Show criticized for putting rape victim in blackface to protect her identity

The move was to protect her identity, but the show is being criticized.

Feb 20, 2020, 4:12 pm*

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Samira Sadeque 

Samira Sadeque

To protect the identity of a teen sex trafficking victim, a French TV show put her in blackface and an afro-style wig.

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The weekly show, Sept à huit (Seven to Eight), aired an interview on Sunday featuring 17-year-old “Nina,” according to the Daily Mail

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Nina was interviewed by Stéphanie Davoigneau about her book Papa, Viens Me Chercher (Father, Come And Get Me), the Daily Mail reports.  

In the segment, Nina shared how being a victim of rape in her childhood led to her being trafficked into prostitution.  

“Since this was done to me, I decided to take back power and convince myself that I have power, precisely by sleeping with men for money,” she said, per the Daily Mail

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Later on in the segment, her father, who is white, reportedly joined her. The Daily Mail did not confirm whether he is her biological father. 

The show’s host, Harry Roselmack, who is Black, defended the show’s reasoning to put dark “makeup” on the victim, leading her to appear Black. He said the decision was based on research and a “test” with his team as well as experts. He added that Nina and her parents were also on board. 

“Without going into details that could help identify Nina, this choice was the most visually efficient,” he said, according to theGrio. “It has happened that we approved, in a similar context, the opposite makeup: lightening the skin of a Black woman to allow her to testify.”

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The rest of the team also defended the controversial decision. “Nobody today can tell this person’s ethnic background and this is what was important for the production,” a spokesperson said, per the Daily Mail.

Roselmack further expressed frustration, saying the backlash had distracted the audience from the point of the show: to highlight the plight of sex-trafficking and its victims. 

“The real substantive debate, the societal debate supported by the brave testimony of this teenager and her father has been left in the background,” he said, adding that in France, “more than 7,000 teenagers are victims of sex-trafficking and prostitution.”

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“The fact that the Black community can rise and respond publicly to what it considers disrespectful is a good thing,” he said. “But we ought to make the right choices to fight the right battles.”

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H/T theGrio

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*First Published: Feb 20, 2020, 3:42 pm