Stopping the Prostitution of Children in Georgia

Study Commission Expected to Deliver Recommendations

ATLANTA – The Joint Commercial Exploitation of Minors Study Commission convened the last of its fivepart meeting series at the Capitol on Monday and is now determining what legislative and policy recommendations it will make to combat the prostitution of children in Georgia. The commission’s final report is expected to be released mid- January.

“This study commission is a vital component to building the infrastructure we need statewide to fight those who buy and sell our children for sex,” says Kaffie McCullough, director of A Future. Not A Past., a campaign spearheaded by the nonprofit Juvenile Justice Fund to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia. “This is a serious issue that affects thousands of adolescent girls in our state, and we commend members of the Georgia Legislature and the Study Commission for seeking solutions to protect our kids’ innocence.”

The prostitution of children has become an increasingly public issue in Georgia as credible information has emerged to quantify the extent of the problem. Groundbreaking, scientifically defensible research commissioned by A Future. Not A Past. found 200-300 girls are victimized by prostitution each month on the streets; over the Internet; through escort services and in major hotels.

Among the recommendations Study Commission members are considering are those supported by A Future. Not A Past., including restored funding for a Georgia Regional Assessment Center and an amendment to state law that would require reporting of all commercially sexually exploited children as child sexual abuse.

Last year, A Future. Not A Past. secured $560,000 new state dollars to provide supportive therapeutic services victims need to recover from sexual exploitation and become strong enough to testify against their exploiters. Due to the decline in tax revenue, funding for this program was frozen and is slated for elimination in the FY2009 and FY2010 state budgets.

“Without assessment services for child victims of prostitution, these girls will continue to be treated as criminals – being sent to juvenile detention centers or, worse yet, forgotten,” McCullough says. “When this happens, it is virtually impossible to identify and prosecute the true criminals.”

The commission is also considering making a small change in the state child abuse reporting law so mandatory reporters of child abuse also report a child who they suspect is being prosti- tuted by someone other than a “parent or caretaker.”

Under state law, certain professionals who reasonably believe a parent of caretaker is sexually abusing a child must report it to authorities. But most prostitution rings are run by someone outside the child’s immediate family. Removing the current “parent or caretaker” language will ensure health professionals who encounter a child they suspect is a victim can report it without violating patientconfidentiality laws.

For more information about efforts to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia, visit www.afuturenotapast. org.

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