A VERY IMPORTANT VOTE
The impact that poverty, especially generational poverty, has on individuals and families is deep and long lasting. It effects both physical and mental health as well as self-esteem, development, and social interaction. Its impact on children and young adults can be devastating. Many young children who grow up in poverty are socially ostracized and bullied in school because their clothes are not in style, their teeth aren’t straight and white, or their vocabulary is limited and their use of grammar is not refined. Children and teens growing up in poverty often are unable to participate in school activities because of the cost or because they must work to help support the household.
And some who are living in poverty turn to a terrible place in an effort to get money or because they are deluded into a false sense of self-esteem. Those children and teens enter a dark world where they sell their bodies and become part of the sex trade. And yes, I did say children as well as teens. Because some of these young people are very young. The children at risk are not just high school students—pimps or traffickers are known to prey on victims as young as 9.
According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), “Although comprehensive research to document the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, an estimated 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of these victims are runaway or thrown-away youths who live on the streets and become victims of prostitution…Few children in this situation can develop new relationships with peers or adults other than the person victimizing them. The lifestyle of such youths revolves around violence, forced drug use, and constant threats. Among children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a problem of epidemic proportion…The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14. It is not only the girls on the streets who are affected; boys and transgender youth enter into prostitution between the ages of 11 and 13 on average.”
This November we in Georgia have an opportunity to help the victims of sex trafficking get support and start a new life. Voters will be asked to approve Constitutional Amendment 2 to create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. It is estimated that this fund will provide as much as $2 million annually in funding that will be dedicated to providing restorative services and support to the child victims of sex trafficking who are able to escape truly horrific circumstances and abuse. Funds will be distributed by an appointed commission directly to the agencies, faith-based organizations and non-profits who provide the safe housing, trauma counseling, medical treatment and other resources these children desperately need. The funds will come from two sources: additional penalties on convicted sex traffickers and a new fee on the adult entertainment industry. The creation of the Safe Harbor fund will not raise or create new taxes for the people of the State of Georgia.
This a very important vote. Vote YES.