Monday, July 27, 2009

Ending the Sexual Abuse of Girls


By Kaffie McCullough

Despite aggressive FBI action to target prostitution and pimp rings, an estimated 300 girls are still forced into commercial sex transactions each month in our state, more than twice the number who are killed in auto accidents in a year.

The Juvenile Justice Fund has mounted a statewide campaign called “A Future. Not A Past.,” to address this sexual exploitation, seeking to show that adolescents who are drawn into prostitution are victims of adult criminal behavior, rather than criminals themselves. The media has helped raise awareness of the staggering dimension of the problem, most recently in an article profiling the forceful response of faith-based communities.

This fight is to rescue girls who have been exploited and help restore their lives. Although we still do not have enough capacity to treat all of the victims, the Governor’s Office of Children and Families has committed to develop a statewide system of care so that any girl who may have been exploited can be assessed and, if necessary, treated for the trauma that she has endured through commercial sexual exploitation.

But as a community we must do more than just rescue the young victims. We must move to stop the behaviors that are producing the victims. No community can afford to say “It doesn’t happen here.” From Dalton to Lilburn, communities large and small are learning that sex trafficking is just around the corner.

However, when it comes to stopping the behaviors that produce the victims, we have a long way to go. The behavior of the men who take advantage of girls should cause outrage — and from that outrage should come action — and that has not happened yet.

We must insist that our law enforcement and publicly elected officials increase the frequency of arrests and prosecution of johns and pimps to deter others from seeking sex from our children. We also must change the cultural attitudes that excuse grown men who exploit young females.

Commercial exploitation of under-age girls is not a problem without a solution. No new technology or medical breakthrough is needed. We know what the solution is — we just haven’t summoned the public will to make it happen. Georgia has the laws to arrest and prosecute perpetrators. We just need to do it.

The FBI MATCH task force has made a good start, partnering federal and local law enforcement and arresting both pimps and johns. But one task force is inadequate to deal with a problem that is increasing exponentially, especially over the Internet, every month.

We need every law enforcement jurisdiction in the state trained on what to look for and how to address this issue effectively. Prosecutors must be supported in making their cases and elected district attorneys must understand that we will accept nothing less than zero tolerance when it comes to prosecuting these cases. There are fewer than 100 strip clubs in Georgia. Their operating permits can be inspected to ensure that all exotic dancers are actually their stated age.

Finally, we must look to ourselves and we must demand that men be held accountable for their behavior. Men must confront their friends, their brothers, their sons, and no longer excuse behavior that results in young girls being prostituted for their pleasure. If, as a society, we don’t hold ourselves responsible for taking these critical steps, if we excuse behavior that continually produces young victims who need to be rescued, then we will be committing our state, and our tax dollars, to an ongoing stream of victims.

Will we allow men with money in their wallets to continue buying sex with girls under age 18? Or will we at last say no?
McCullough is the campaign director of A Future. Not A Past., a project of the Juvenile Justice Fund to address sexual exploitation and show that adolescents who are drawn into prostitution are victims of adult criminal behavior, rather than criminals themselves.
Copyright (C) 2009 by the Georgia Editorial Forum. 7/09


Unknown said...

Very interesting,and i enjoyed reading..
Every one should read this..

Thanks for sharing your view..

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