As I'm sure many Georgia residents are aware, the city of Atlanta is a hotbed for human trafficking, and even more specifically, the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Commercial sexual exploitation is defined as using a child to produce pornography, erotic displays, or performances. While this is disturbingly common in Georgia, it has become the second largest growing crime in the United States overall.
Sexually exploited children are, on average, 13 years old, but there are some as young as nine. They are mainly kept in check by their traffickers through the manipulation of drug addiction and threats of violence, either against the child or the child's family. Unfortunately, many child victims do not see themselves as victims and can form psychological and emotional bonds with their abusers, often insisting that he or she has a relationship with the trafficker. Then again, it was only recently that these children were even treated as victims by Georgia's legal system. Up until 2011, the State of Georgia considered many children found in this situation to be sex workers, and charged them as such. Now, five years later, we have the opportunity to take yet another huge step in the right direction against the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Georgia.
On November 8, Georgia residents will be able to vote on the adoption of an amendment that will create a permanent fund for children who have been bought and sold for sex. This is different from other government created "funds" because it directly amends the constitution. Constitutionally dedicated money can't be used for anything other than it's specifically outlined purpose. This fund will be created by new fees placed up adult entertainment establishments and fines against adults convicted of sexual exploitation. (It is important to remember that this amendment will not create a new tax against Georgia residents.) It is estimated that this will raise as much as $2 million annually, and we will be the first state to enact a law such as this.
With the right physical and psychological treatment and care, as many as 80% of former victims of child exploitation are able to recover fully. It must be acknowledged, however, that recovery is a multi-year process, and it is very expensive. This is how the proposed fund will be used to help child victims. The fund will be overseen by a committee of eight people, seven of which will be unpaid volunteers, and the eighth being a DFCS official. With no rehabilitation for child victims, it is very likely they will be coerced in the same way and brought back into sexual exploitation.
With the high rate of commercial sexual exploitation in Atlanta, and the state of Georgia as a whole, the Safe Harbor Amendment will be an extremely valuable tool in rehabilitating victims and protecting the children in our state. For more information visit SafeHarborYes.com, and I encourage you to vote 'Yes' on November 8.