Studies of Georgia’s child sex industry indicate that these children often are trafficked. A Future Not a Past, a statewide project of the Juvenile Justice Fund, says half of the girls prostituted in Georgia are brought here from another state.
Add the safe assumption that some Georgian children are forced into prostitution, and it’s clear that a majority of these kids are sex slaves.
Treating the children as victims does not diminish the criminality of pimps, gangs and “johns” exploiting them. Their roles will remain illegal, and police will still have reason to intervene in these situations. If the bill needs to be altered to make that clear, so be it.
For her part, Unterman argues that her bill would aid the prosecution of exploiters.
“It’s much easier to take a child into custody and put them into a secure, therapeutic facility and get them to talk to us,” she says. If you first handcuff children and throw them in jail, on the other hand, “they’re not going to rat out that pimp.”
Speaking personally, what’s most disappointing here is hearing such loud opposition in the name of Christianity.
Umbrella groups oppose the bill, but coalitions of churches are begging legislators to act. They’ve also formed organizations like Street Grace to help sexually exploited children. My family’s church is one of them.
Another participant is North Avenue Presbyterian Church — which, statistics tell us, sits amid a hotbed of child exploitation. While pledging to work with others to resolve differences on the legislation, North Avenue’s urban ministries coordinator, Phil Cobb, says the imperative is to help the victims.
“In Scripture, and in the Christian faith, there is a theme of justice, and providing a voice to those who are victims of injustice is a clear theme throughout the Bible,” says Cobb.
“For us, once we found out this was happening, we felt like we had no choice but to answer the call.”