On Demand: Underage Sex Billboard Campaign Targets Johns, Pimps

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.

Gov. Deal Signs Human Trafficking Bill Into Law

The human trafficking bill that toughens the penalty for sex traffickers and seeks to improve outcomes for victims has been officially signed into Georgia law.  

A small crowd of supporters gathered around Governor Nathan Deal Tuesday afternoon as he signed HB 200 at My Sister’s House in the Atlanta Mission. The legislation was introduced this year by Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) and passed within the same legislative session, which wrapped up last month.  

The governor and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, shared encouraging words to the families of trafficking survivors during the signing event. Both commended child advocates for remaining vigilant in their work to eradicate child sex trafficking.

Many Pimps Were Trafficked and Abused as Children, Survey Says

A small study out of Chicago indicates that many pimps were forced into the sex industry and trafficked as children, leading to a horrible cycle of abuse.  Researchers at DePaul College of Law surveyed 25 pimps, finding that 68 percent were trafficked as children and 76 percent were sexually abused. According to the survey by researchers Brenda Myers-Powell and Jody Raphael, many pimps now traffic kids themselves and “earn” between $150,000 and $500,000 a year, often by taking all the income of some of their prostitutes. The authors admit the survey was imperfect, but you can read the full report here.  

Sex Trafficking Bill Clears Committee Despite Calls for Amendment

A bill that toughens laws against sex trafficking was voted out of a Georgia State Senate committee this morning, despite calls by conservative activist to add an amendment.  HB 200 now moves to the Senate Rules Committee before heading on to the Senate floor for a vote. Sue Ella Deadwyler, the author of the Georgia Insight newsletter, who claims to have been “called by God,” wanted to change language that provides an affirmative defense for victims of sex trafficking under the age of 18. Proponents of the measure say the language concerning affirmative defense defines minors as victims of the sex trafficking industry, rather than criminals that participate in it. But Deadwyler disagreed, arguing that the bill legalizes child prostitution.  She wants to reduce the age that children are prosecuted from 18 to 13, otherwise Georgia will become “a haven for male and female participants in various sexually explicit professions, including prostitution, masturbation for hire and pornography,” according to her website, GeorgiaInsight.org. At a press conference in February, 2010, Deadwyler said, “Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer .

Women Volunteers Target Online Ads Selling Sex With Children

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.

Craigslist: Adult Services Section Closed for Good

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.”

Future Uncertain for Child Sex Bill

State Senator Renee Unterman of Buford already has the distinction of being the only female Republican in a male-dominated Senate, but she really became a standout during the last legislative session when she introduced a bill that asserted that young prostitutes in Georgia should be deemed victims, not criminals. In fact, she set off a firestorm of controversy with SB304, which declared that boys and girls under the age of 16 shouldn’t be charged with prostitution, but instead diverted to treatment or therapy. Child welfare advocates championed the move as a step in the right direction for sexually exploited young people in Georgia. Opponents, however, accused Unterman, of attempting to “decriminalize” prostitution. The age of sexual consent in Georgia only seemed to complicate the issue further.

Justice Targets Child Sex Trade

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.