The Juvenile Justice Fund’s A Future. Not A Past. effort has a new tool in its ongoing campaign to “disable the demand for child sexual exploitation” in Georgia. The Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia has agreed to donate space to the Atlanta-based non-profit victim’s advocacy group to run billboard ads throughout metro Atlanta. Unlike previous efforts by other organizations focused on raising awareness among victims, these ads are unique in that they will target the demand side – specifically the pimps and johns who partake in child prostitution.
Some unlikely Atlanta women are spending hours on the Internet looking for child prostitutes, but not for personal gratification. They’re volunteers who are monitoring websites that advertise children under categories such as “escorts” as part of a new front in the war against sexual trafficking. “We have found every quarter an exponential increase in the number of girls being exploited,” said Deborah Richardson, executive vice president of the National Center for Civil & Human Rights. “One reason is the internet. Anyone can sit at home and order a young girl for sex as easily as ordering a pizza.” And just as a customer can specify pizza toppings, children can be ordered online by skin color, hair color and age, she said.
It was a sea of black and purple in every direction on the steps of the state capitol Tuesday morning. An estimated 800 people showed up to join in the third annual “lobby day” event to raise their voices — and overall awareness—about the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Georgia. “When we first started this we were told that 10 people showing up at the state capitol was a groundswell; now we’re rocking it,” says CSEC activist Cheryl DeLuca Johnson. “The first time we did this we had 50 people come out; then the next year we had 100. Last year it was about 500.
For the first time since Craigslist suddenly blocked sex ads 12 days ago, the company is talking about the decision. William Clint Powell, director of customer service and law enforcement relations at Craigslist, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Powell promised the Adult Services Section will not re-open. This could cost his company an estimated $44 million in annual revenue, according to The New York Times
Child advocates fighting the epidemic of child prostitution in Georgia and across the country are cheering the decision. According to Kaffie McCullough, campaign director for A Future Not A Past, “[Craigslist is] definitely the market leader in [prostitution] and as they go, others may go.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R- NJ) called the move “the responsible thing to do for the sake of the children.”
Powell warned that people who posted prostitution ads on Craigslist will move to other websites. As cnet.com reports, he said Craigslist has done more to deal with legal and safety concerns than any other venue, calling it “one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation.”
Advocates fighting the child prostitution problem in Atlanta are cautiously optimistic about Wednesday’s congressional hearing targeting Craigslist. The world’s largest online ad service is sending William Clint Powell, the director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist, to answer questions from the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee about adult ads and the role that online services play in child prostitution. “[Craigslist is] definitely the market leader in [prostitution] and as they go, others may go,” said Kaffie McCullough, campaign director of Atlanta’s A Future Not a Past. The group is fighting the child prostitution problem in Georgia with research, intervention, and education while pushing for prosecution of pimps and johns. Under growing pressure from attorneys general across the country, Craigslist deactivated its adult services section in the U.S. on September 3, but the section remains open in other countries.
The internet has become the favorite place to sell women for sex, according to a CNN report. Now there is a national campaign against Craigslist and its popular “adult services” section. Police and anti- sex trafficking groups are pushing to end the “adult services” ads, arguing that underage girls are being exploited. “Craigslist is like the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking right now in this country,” said Andrea Powell of the anti-trafficking group The Fair Fund. Watch CNN reporter Amber Lyon grill Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, about sex ad’s on his site.
Georgia’s child prostitution problem will get some new attention from the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder spells out the first National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention in a 280 page report. The plan focuses on child prostitution, child pornography, sex tourism and child exploitation in Indian Country. It’s a multi-agency effort that includes a national database to allow federal, state, local and international law enforcement to work together better and analyze trends. The Justice Department is adding 38 new Assistant U. S. Attorneys devoted to child exploitation cases. And the U.S. Marshals Service is targeting the top 500 most dangerous sex offenders in the nation. The extent of Georgia’s child sex trade came to light last spring, when a study done for A Future Not a Past revealed that an estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in the Atlanta area.
At Atlanta man is under arrest for sex trafficking involving children. Demetrius Darnell Homer is accused of recruiting and maintaining three young girls for prostitution. U. S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This defendant allegedly recruited very young girls and turned them into prostitutes, robbing them of their youth, their dignity, and their freedom. Vigorously prosecuting those who exploit children and young women is a top priority for our office.”
Atlanta is considered a hot spot for child prostitution. An estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in Georgia, according to a study called “Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls.” The report, commissioned by the campaign called A Future Not a Past, paints an alarming picture of the sex trade in North Georgia. 12,400 men pay for sex with young females each month; 7,200 of them end up having sex with underage girls. While many men were not looking for sex with teenage girls, close to half were willing to go through with the transaction even after they found out they would be hooking up with someone under 18.
Atlanta’s battle against child prostitution and sex trafficking is getting national attention, and so is the broad coalition of groups that are fighting the problem. The campaign called A Future Not a Past, which studies commercial sex exploitation of girls in Georgia, is winning funds and converts across the nation. Sojourners Magazine reports The Women’s Funding Network is modeling similar campaigns in Michigan, Minnesota and New York. Writer Letitia Campbell takes us through the history of the movement and what’s next in the battle.
New details are out about the child sex trade in Georgia. An estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in this state, according to a study called “Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study.” Highlights came out in May, but the full study, released Thursday, sheds new light on the crisis. While state leaders and advocacy groups are trying to get hold of the problem, it appears no one is more concerned about the report than Craigslist, the online classified ad giant. Craigslist attorneys have sent a Cease and Desist letter to the Women’s Funding Network, a national partner of the Atlanta campaign called A Future Not a Past, which commissioned the study. The legal warning letter alleges the Women’s Funding Network defamed Craigslist, and distributed false information about the company, by releasing highlights of the Georgia study. The study claims “Craigslist is by far the most efficient medium for advertising sex with young females; ads on this site received 3 times as many responses compared to identical ads placed on other sites.”
A spokesman for both the Women’s Funding Network, based in San Francisco, and Atlanta’s A Future Not a Past campaign were shocked by the Craigslist demand letter, which arrived June 7. In response, they sent Craigslist the full study yesterday, and asked for a sit-down meeting. They say Craigslist declined.