Gathering Resources to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Article originally published on MeetJustice.org on May 2, 2011.
Sun Tzu, author of the ancient manuscript The Art of War, famously wrote “Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated.” Those wishing to stop human trafficking would do well to heed his advice. The US Federal Government has ranked human trafficking as tied with illegal arms dealing as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. (ICFI) Atlanta is considered to be in the top three cities in the nation for this industry, and the city’s most common casualties are children. Mary F. Bowley, founder of Wellspring Living, stated in a public address recently that in Atlanta, 300 girls are raped for profit each month, 129 girls are raped 10 to 15 times a day, and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday a girl is being raped every 54 seconds for profit.

However, there is good news. There are thousands of people committed to interceding on behalf of these victims through raising awareness, prayer, direct intervention, counseling, research, and fundraising. Each of them fall somewhere into place in a system of rescue against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, (CSEC): Recognition, Response, Restoration, and lastly, Review [Read about the earlier steps in the Meet Justice Blog! ]. Sun Tzu’s advice to know what we’re fighting against as well as to know ourselves relates to Review. To review is to gather- we must gather information, funds, and resources; more importantly, we must gather together as activists.

Reviewing CSEC through research empowers the community to do something about commercial sexual exploitation through education. The better we understand the causes and contributing factors of CSEC, the better equipped we are to stop it. Two of the most revealing documents regarding commercial exploitation in Georgia are the Mayor’s report in 2005, Hidden in Plain View, and the Georgia Demand Study, conducted by The Schapiro Group in 2010.

Hidden in Plain View, a study commissioned by Mayor Shirley Franklin, provided the first look at CSEC in Georgia, and it focused primarily on the girls being trafficked, such as their geographic and demographic characteristics. The Georgia Demand Study took a different approach by studying the men who purchase sex. Together, these studies have provided crucial information about both the supply and demand sides of commercial exploitation of children.

While many aspects of child trafficking have not yet been explored, such as male victims of CSEC, the traffickers themselves, and the many cultural factors that make the commercial trafficking industry so viable, what we do understand has led to state legislation that has made the pimping of a minor a felony, required mandatory reporters to report signs of abuse and trafficking from someone who’s not a family member, and streamlined victims services. Returning to the quote by Sun Tzu, we must know how far our legislation goes to recognize victims, respond to it through rescuing victims and prosecuting criminals, and rehabilitate survivors. We must review and understand a bill before we stand behind it.

With the public sector facing increasingly tighter budgets, the gap between what needs to happen to stop CSEC and what the state government can afford to provide is growing wider and wider. The private sector has already stepped in to fill some of that gap. For example, Hidden in Plain View was funded by the state. A Future Not a Past and The Women’s Fund, two private sector organizations, commissioned the Georgia Demand Study.

The public sector is the part of the economy that’s controlled and directly funded by the government. Included in this category is the Governor’s Office for Families and Children, the Atlanta Police Department, and the Juvenile Justice Department. The private sector is made up of nongovernmental agencies, businesses, and nonprofits like Street Grace, Georgia Care Connection, A Future Not a Past, and Innocence Atlanta. They’re largely funded through donations and grants.

Finally, we must gather our resources together. The most important resource for abolition of any kind isn’t money or even information: it’s the passion of the people. When people are fueled with awareness of an issue, they step up to the plate to do something about it. After all, among the most remarkable moments in American history are moments of social justice: the abolition of institutional slavery, Women’s Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement.

By rallying people together, we’re utilizing an important resource to stop sex trafficking. From organized lobby days at the Capitol to youth group fundraisers to running groups to water cooler conversations, people are gathering together to review, gather, and dream up ideas to stop CSEC. Many local organizations provide sections on their websites to link activists with upcoming events and opportunities. Meet Justice will provide you with all of the upcoming events here.

There is truth in the old adage that there is strength in numbers. Not only are we empowered by hard numbers and research about CSEC, but also when we gather together, we make a clear statement: Georgians will not stand for CSEC. In order to look forward toward the common goal of eliminating trafficking and freeing Georgia’s children, we have to review the progress that has been made and the research that has been conducted.

Reviewing CSEC and the fight against it mobilizes abolitionist groups and individuals to take our city (state, country, and world) and its children back from traffickers.

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