Sex Trafficking Bill Clears Senate With Unanimous Vote

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In February, an estimated 600 to 800 people showed up at the capitol to join in the third annual “lobby day” event to raise awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Georgia.

The Georgia Senate’s unanimous vote in support of the human trafficking bill that toughens the penalty for sex traffickers and seeks to improve outcomes for victims is an historic victory, state child advocates say.

“To have legislation written and passed in the same session is amazing and seems historic,” gushes Street GRACE Executive Director Cheryl DeLuca Johnson. “This is huge! The leadership of [lead sponsor] Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) and [supporter] Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Gwinnett) was invaluable to this process.”

Julianna McConnell agrees. “I’ve been a lobbyist for 20 years and this is probably one of the most fulfilling moments of my career,” says McConnell, Street GRACE advocacy chairperson. “This legislation is not about the work of one person; it’s been an ongoing effort for several years. To pass both the House and the Senate with just one dissenting vote in the House says a lot. It’s like Rep. Lindsey said, this legislation ‘applies Old Testament justice against those who commit the crime of trafficking and provides New Testament compassion for those who are victims.”

Street Grace, a Norcross-based non-profit, strives to eliminate child sexual exploitation in metro Atlanta. PHOTO BY © Koko Hunt / Ministry of Design

McConnell says the victory is especially important because Atlanta is a known hub for human trafficking. Street GRACE representatives say about 375 girls are exploited in Georgia each month, with the majority of the illegal incidents occurring in Atlanta. In that same time frame, the organization estimates, about 7,200 men knowingly or unknowingly purchase sex from teen girls in the state. “It’s not just the pimps, we also need to crack down on the Johns; the buyers,” says supporter Katherine White McCullough. “We have to get to that point in society where we no longer say ‘boys will be boys.’ These people are buying children younger and younger and that’s not okay.”

Liz Odom of Decatur says she ventured down to the capitol as a show of support for the measure. “A lot of people don’t know what’s happening here in our state,” she says. “This vote shows that we’re ready for a change in Georgia. This is truly a testament that people care.”

HB 200 passed out of the Senate unanimously without any amendments Tuesday, setting off a wave of excitement among the small group of supporters gathered in the state capitol. About 40 men and women, mostly from local churches and community organizations, donned black shirts and purple scarves in a show of support. Nikema Williams was among those sporting the scarves handed out by representatives from We Urge You, the umbrella organization for non-profits Street GRACE, A Future. Not A Past and Wellspring Living. “It just feels good to win,” says the Northwest Atlanta resident. “This is an opportunity for Georgia’s policies to no longer mirror third world countries in regards to this issue.”

Her fellow supporter Amber English says she was elated to be at the capitol in time for the final vote. “Usually people are up here protesting or opposing something,” she says. “It’s always good to see something positive happen. The fact that it was a unanimous vote definitely makes the strong statement that this is legislation that we all can get behind.”

Key provisions in HB 200 include:

  • Provides an expanded definition of “coercion” in the human trafficking statute, to include causing or threatening financial harm.
  • Prohibits defense by blood relation – such as parents exploiting their children – or by marriage – such as a husband “selling” his wife.
  • Significantly beefs up penalties for human traffickers who target minors. If the victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 5-20 years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000. If the victim is under 16 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 10-30 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
  • Treats those in sexual servitude as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victims fund.
  • Provides an affirmative defense for victims when coming forward to the sexual crimes of prostitution, sodomy, solicitation of sodomy and masturbation for hire if the defendant was being trafficked for sexual servitude.
  • Allows the state to seize any real or personal property that a trafficker used for, or bought with the proceeds of the crime.
  • Requires law enforcement agencies to receive training on how to relate to human trafficking victims.

“We, as a state, are saying to these traffickers ‘you are no longer allowed to do this to our children in Georgia,’” adds McConnell. “And if you do, we will are now able to increase the penalties and seize all of your assets. HB 200 includes training for law enforcement and involves the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This is very well-rounded legislation.”

DeLuca Johnson

Rep. Lindsey’s bill built upon the foundation established by a failed measure introduced last year by Sen. Unterman, which pushed for children 16 and under to be treated as victims and not criminals in prostitution cases.  Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens had members of his staff work with Rep. Lindsey to strengthen the legal framework for the new measure, in hopes that it would avoid a similar fate.

On the heels of the victory, supporters of the measure say now it is time to gear up for the next stage of their efforts. “Now that we have a good bill, we have to make sure it is implemented,” says McCullough. “A Future Not A Past has already trained over $2,000 law enforcement officers across the state. We’re also doing a series of trainings with prosecutors. We will all have to continue this grass roots movement.”

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Got a juvenile justice story idea? Contact JJIE.org staff writer Chandra R. Thomas at cthom141@kennesaw.edu. Thomas, a former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow and Kiplinger Public Affairs Journalism Fellow, is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has worked for Fox 5 News in Atlanta and Atlanta, People and Essence magazines.

6 thoughts on “Sex Trafficking Bill Clears Senate With Unanimous Vote

  1. No use talking to Keith, or to anyone who defends the sex trade, he is probably a pimp…

  2. Keith, ask anyone that is a victim of child sexual abuse whether they live daily with the effects of their abuse and you will be told yes, the effects are still there affecting their adult lives. I am an incest survivor who has worked on my incest issues and healing for the past 20+ years. Child sexual abuse is a life sentence for the child. The pain may eventually go away or at least lessen to manageable levels but the abuse is always there waiting for something to trigger a fear, anger, or pain of some kind. It is less debilitating than it was years ago but I still find pockets of shame, fear and anger that have to be dealt with. I will soon be 60 years old. I am not a weak victim like I was as a child. It takes strength and courage to face and deal with sexual abuse issues.

  3. I don’t understand why people have a problem with these laws that were passed! Human trafficking, and forced prostitution is a terrible thing whatever the numbers. I’m proud that legislators could come together to fight a common enemy. If it was even 10 people being held in slavery in the entire country, it should be enough to take notice and action. Who cares about wasting a little bit of money when a child’s or any human’s life and dignity are at stake. Imagine explaining it to a child that they weren’t worth the effort to save.
    @Kieth: The study by Rind et al. that found no long term effects of sexual abuse used flawed methodology and is not an accurate representation of the truth. There are many many studies that prove the opposite; that there are significant long term detrimental effects of child abuse. Besides that, sex slavery is not only sexual abuse, it is slavery which is a a whole other issue. In slavery a person has their humanity and freedom violently stripped from them and they are forced to do degrading work for little to no pay at their retainer’s whim.
    If a black person were put into slavery on a farm today the nation would be in an uproar, but when a young girl is put to work in a hotel people often quietly look the other way if they’re even aware enough to know what’s going on… I would be so bold as to say that the work demanded of the young girl (or boy) is more degrading than that demanded of a farm worker.

  4. full report on the lies, myths and exaggerated numbers being told about sex trafficking slaves. The articles about the super bowl sex slaves, has been proved wrong many times, but news organizations still report about it.

    Official Lies About Sex-Trafficking Exposed: It’s now clear that anti-prostitution groups used fake data to deceive the media and lie to Congress. And it was all done to score free publicity and a wealth of public funding

    Village Voice media in the March 24, 2011 issue have a great story on the lies and myths of sex tafficking:

    Latest News

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-03-23/news/women-s-funding-network-sex-trafficking-study-is-junk-science/

    1. How did the super bowl child sex slaves rumor get started?
    2. Who started it?
    3. Why did the public and politicians believe it so easily, when it is not based on any facts?

    I would like to see a full scale investigation into who started this and caused all this tax payer money being spent checking out this untrue rumor, and ruining the reputation of the the great sport of football because of a untrue rumor.

    According to the media hype There was supposed to be hundreds of thousands of under age child sex slaves kidnapped and forced to have sex with super bowl fans. At the Dallas Super Bowl 2011.

    WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THEM?????

    WHERE ARE THE THOUSANDS OF SUPER BOWL KIDNAPPED FORCED CHILD SEX SLAVES???????

    Politicians, women’s groups, police and child advocates were predicting that up to 100,000 hookers would be shipped into Dallas for the Super Bowl.

    It was all a big lie told by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, government officials, and various anti-prostitution groups: Traffick911, Not for Sale, Change-org, Polaris Project, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation, which are anti-prostitution groups that tell lies in order to get grant money from the government and charities to pay their high salaries, and get huge amounts of money into their organizations. As proved in the links below:

    Top FBI agent in Dallas (Robert Casey Jr.) sees no evidence of expected spike in child sex trafficking:

    “Among those preparations was an initiative to prevent an expected rise in sex trafficking and child prostitution surrounding the Super Bowl. But Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said he saw no evidence that the increase would happen, nor that it did.
    “In my opinion, the Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes,” he said. “The discussion gets very vague and general. People mixed up child prostitution with the term human trafficking, which are different things, and then there is just plain old prostitution.”

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/super-bowl/local/20110302-top-fbi-agent-in-dallas-praises-super-bowl-security-effort-sees-no-evidence-of-expected-spike-in-child-sex-trafficking.ece

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    Brian McCarthy isn’t happy. He’s a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he’s forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

    These anti-prostitution groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

    In recent years, every time there has been a major international sporting event, a group of government officials, campaigning feminists, pliant journalists and NGOs have claimed that the movement of thousands of men to strange foreign countries where there will be lots of alcohol and horniness will result in the enslavement of underage sex slaves for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Obviously. And every time they have simply doubled the made-up scare figures from the last international sporting event, to make it look like this problem of sport/sex/slavery gets worse year on year. Yet each year it is proved false.

    This myth of thousands or millions of underage sex slaves tries to make every sports fan a sex criminal. No matter what the sport is, or in what country it is in.

    Brian McCarthy isn’t happy. He’s a spokesman for the NFL. Every year he’s forced to hear why his customers are adulterers and child molesters. Brian McCarthy says the sport/super bowl sex slave story is a urban legend, with no truth at all.

    I do not like the idea of people getting the wrong information and believing lies, no matter what the topic is. The Sex trafficking, slavery issue is one of the biggest lies being told today. It is amazing to me how people will believe such lies so easily. The media is to blame for this. I wonder why they feel such a need to report wrong stats, numbers and information about this topic without doing proper research.

    While this may happen in very rare limited situations, the media will say that millions of people are sex slaves without doing any real research on the topic. Only taking the word of special interest anti-prostitution groups which need to generate money in the form of huge government grants from taxpayers, and charities. These “non profit” group’s employees make huge salaries, therefore they need to lobby the government, and inflate and invent victims in order to get more money into their organizations. If you look into how many real kidnapped forced against their will sex slaves there are, and not just take the anti-prostitution groups word for it. You will be very surprised.
    Where are all the forced sex slaves? I would like to meet the millions of slaves and see for myself if they were kidnapped and forced against their will.

    These groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies.

    This is an attempt to over inflate an issue in order to get more government money to these organizations. As a tax payer, voter, and resident I don’t want the government to mislead me.

    Sex Trafficking in Sports Events links:

    http://sextraffickingtruths.blogspot.com/

    http://bebopper76.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/sex-trafficking-lies-myths/

    Dallas TV News show about super bowl sex slave myth:

    http://www.wfaa.com/sports/football/super-bowl/Super-Bowl-prostitution-prediction-has-no-proof–114983179.html

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/2011-01-27/news/the-super-bowl-prostitute-myth-100-000-hookers-won-t-be-showing-up-in-dallas/

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/2011-03-03/news/super-bowl-prostitution-100-000-hookers-didn-t-show-but-america-s-latest-political-scam-did/

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/2011-03-03/news/sex-traffick911-press-release/

  5. Sex laws are the biggest waste of our best resources. Look at the Guyana group of Republican/Democrate backing of the projects like Planned Perenthood and the government funding request of 61 billion dollars going after sex laws too justify their existance, yet everything the compond of Jim Jones was demonized for is every day occurences in our own prisions. This is a recipe for right wingnut too use what they say but not do, expecting me and you to follow their party’s around the world that dance for the camera and go on using ataquated ideas and their new world Apolilpitic purity pulpet of ingnorance to point a way of life lies saying do as I say, Dude: its just another barn burner and when the Barns gone the ground is not blessed. It’s for the silver colected by the theives purse to force what is the stupid idea that touching someone causes ireversable damage when the perpeitrators of that crime keeps reminding us pre~existing condition is in fact the thought crimes inflicted by their thinking alone. Sex Laws have a one sided relivence unsupported by failure through history and this lets try it this way rotine that is the crime of our century without justification by it’s own results which is slavery to man by missunderstanding and projection of extreameist ideas that are crimanal too make political prisoners and slave work crews over sex which is a contact sport requiering a pitcher and a catcher and now we have what refferees installing cameras in the bed for their intertainment? End sex laws now. Now since I know what you do and who you do it too I can understand why people want this power BUtt: that proves an un~lawfull bunch and the predjust displayed in an inability too desplay a counter argument is because its wrong and refusing to acknowlage it passing laws illigaly when the law was passed the point of order was ignored by the same people asking for these laws who called pull on building seven and people give them power? “O jackass is on now I gota go people don’t know, and the WMD calling everyone a pin head won’t tell you, and the pigheaded loons in insurance compaines telling you they are protecting us when in fact they don’t even cover Comp, isen’t it time to rethink our policy makers?