Tonight a friend and I went to a screening of a documentary called ‘Playground.’ ‘Playground’ covers the unpleasant topic of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Sadly, Atlanta is a hub for teenage prostitution and features prominently in the film. You may recall other posts I and others have written on this topic during this year’s Legislative session (here, here, here, here, and here.)
As you might imagine the film was not exactly warm and cuddly. However, it was extremely informative and told several heartbreaking stories of girls and their experiences in this seedy world. One girl from Atlanta told her story. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her Father. He seemed to be a good father, hard working, not on drugs, and doing the best he could as a single parent. One day, hoping to see her Mom, the girl found her Mom’s address and set out to Metropolitan Ave. to find her. She got lost and was befriended by a pimp who promised to help her. Instead he took her into a hotel room, raped her, and forced her to become a prostitute. Her story was tragic but by no means the only such story.
After the film, a panel discussion took place. Among the panelist was Alex Trouteaud who has studied the size and scope of this problem in Georgia. His most recent study estimates that almost 500 girls under the age of 16 are prostituted every month in Georgia. Approximately 7,200 men in Georgia seek out young girls to have paid sex with – the younger the better in many cases. 42% of these men come from the northern suburbs. These numbers are shocking, and growing rapidly.
Thankfully, there are private groups attempting to help these young girls. Street Grace, the group which sponsored the screening of ‘Playground,’ is one such group. This year they organized an event at the Capitol to highlight the problem and call for legislative action. They plan to be back next year. Hopefully their voices will be heard.