JLA’s Decade-long Fight Against Child Sex Trafficking
By: Audra Dial, Past President, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.
The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) work to stop child sex trafficking dates back to 2006 when JLA was celebrating its 90th anniversary. In connection with the recognition of the league’s 90 years of service, the Board of Directors and active and sustainer members started discussing what the JLA would do to celebrate its Centennial Anniversary, a mere ten years away. At that time, the board convened a task force to identify critical issues facing the Atlanta community.
The task force began this analysis by interviewing community leaders, members and researching current events. Through that deep-dive investigation, the fight against child sex trafficking surfaced as one of several critical issues facing the community. In 2007, the Board learned more about child sex trafficking and the ways the organization could become involved in actively fighting it. At that time, child sex trafficking was not publicized or discussed in major news stories.
The Board of Directors voted to move forward with a Pilot Project focused on preventing child sex trafficking in 2008. Partnering with organizations already fighting against child sex trafficking, including A Future Not a Past and the Barton Clinic at Emory Law School, the pilot project began identifying ways JLA members could make an impact and get involved. Eventually, members traveled to the State Capitol and lobbied for legislation to protect victims of sex trafficking and to require “mandatory reporters” to report if they noticed signs of a child being trafficked for sex. JLA members also became trainers to help rollout the training to mandatory reporters and organized volunteer activities and service drives to assist sex trafficking victim-serving organizations. Most importantly, the Board of Directors asked the Councils to develop plans for adding volunteer placements that were focused specifically on helping victims of sex trafficking.
In 2009, the member education campaign about child sex trafficking was well underway. Lobbying efforts continued and other Georgia Junior Leagues came together to support legislation that would help victims of sex trafficking. JLA also convened a roundtable of Buckhead and downtown business leaders to discuss what was happening on the streets around their businesses and ways those businesses could intervene to stop child sex trafficking.
In 2010 and 2011, JLA sponsored a PBA broadcast entitled How to Stop the Candy Shop, a parable about the sexual exploitation of children. That year, the organization also created and funded a billboard outreach campaign across the city to provide victims of sex trafficking with the phone number for Georgia Care Connection, a resource hotline dedicated to helping trafficking victims.
Importantly, since 2006, The Junior League of Atlanta has not been the only league involved in the fight against human trafficking. Leagues in New Jersey, New York, Michigan, California, Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia were working to end sex trafficking in each of their communities. In 2011, these individual Leagues, along with the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI), were recognized by the United Nations Association of New York for working to prevent child sex trafficking. This award was a public recognition of the important work that the Junior Leagues had been doing for so long to fight human trafficking.
Now, a decade later, JLA has continued building strategic partnerships by awarding Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta a Centennial Grant in April 2017 to launch the virtual Institute on Healthcare and Human Trafficking (the Institute). The Institute is part of the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children and trains healthcare providers on how to recognize the signs of trafficking in their patients and then intervene appropriately.
In April 2019, youthSpark, an Atlanta based nonprofit organization focused on helping at-risk youth who have been exploited, abused, or neglected, honored JLA at its annual Movers, Shakers and Changemakers fundraiser for JLA’s continued partnership over the years, including providing both volunteers and a $100,000 contribution in the 2015-2016 league year.
JLA’s efforts in the community to bring a voice to the victims of sex trafficking, continue to be an organizational priority as the league prepares to launch its 103rd year of service to the community. To learn how to partner with the JLA in these efforts, please email [email protected]