Helping Georgia’s Most Vulnerable Children
The 2016 Election will provide a historical moment for Georgia residents to do more than select the next President of the United States. We will also be asked to vote on a Constitutional Amendment for the State of Georgia called the Safe Harbor Fund Amendment. This will establish a permanent fund to provide the necessary support and services to help children who have been victims of child sex trafficking. This type of Constitutional Amendment only comes along once in a lifetime and is one that the people of Georgia cannot afford to ignore.
Sex trafficking has been called Atlanta’s Dirty Little Secret. Every month, 300 to 400 kids are bought and sold for sex in Georgia – predominantly in around Atlanta. It is heartbreaking that the typical child who is recruited, tricked or lured into this life is on average only 14 years old. Kids are ordered like pizzas from web sites on the Internet and are often branded like cattle by their traffickers so that they can be identified as the property of their pimps. These children become a commodity to be used for the economic gain of their exploiters in the ever increasingly lucrative business of human trafficking.
Fortunately, a greater awareness of the problem is developing. Last year our state legislature overwhelmingly passed Rachel’s law, so named after the brave survivor who gave her testimony to educate our elected officials about the horrors of being trafficked. This law makes it a crime to buy or sell sex with someone under the age of 18. It also created a Safe Harbor Fund so that the necessary resources would be available to help any minor who has been trafficked. Money for the fund will come from several sources including assets seized from those individuals convicted of sex trafficking. The adult entertainment industry will also be assessed a fee of the greater of $5,000.00 or 1% of gross revenues. The final step in the legislative process to create this Fund is that it has to be approved by 51% of Georgia voters in the upcoming election in November 2016.
When United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Women’s Leadership caucus became aware that this injustice was happening in our back yard, we immediately decided to act. It quickly became clear that we could use the influence of United Way and our convening power to bring together other nonprofit groups and individuals who have also been working tirelessly to solve this problem. Together, with these partners, we have launched the Safe Harbor YES Ballot Committee for the sole purpose of educating all voters in the State of Georgia about this amendment. This is a once in a generation opportunity to make these laws and their funding permanent by voting YES in November. You can help us achieve this goal and save our children. Please go to safeharboryes.com and click on the Pledge to Vote ‘yes’ icon.
Our work will also be highlighted at our annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Mira Sorvino, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador on Human Trafficking. If you can’t make it to the event, but would still like to contribute to our Safe Harbor YES Ballot Committee to help increase awareness of the ballot issue and encourage voters to take action, text UWGASTOP to 41444.