SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – We continue our four part series making sense of the questions Georgia voters will see on the ballot.
If you missed our story on “Amendment 1” Monday night feel free to take a look. Now we are talking about Amendment 2. Amendment two on the Georgia November ballot would create new fines and penalties on human trafficking cases, money that would then be put in a fund for sexually exploited children.
Each night in Georgia one hundred teen girls are sexually exploited. families hurt like Mary Florence’s are who some lawmakers hope question two can help.
“I want to let them know that they’ve hurt a family and they need to stop, really stop because those are innocent children,” says Florence.
Florence’s granddaughter was exploited and abused, she was drugged and used for sex time after time after time. In Georgia, girls in the child sex trade are sexually abused on average three times a night.
“We really need treatment services, medical and mental health services for the sexually exploited youth here in southeast Georgia and amendment two the safe harbor amendment would guarantee funds for those types of services,” says Kris Rice the executive director for the Coastal Georgia Children’s Advocacy Center.
Question two asks for voters to allow the state to add new penalties on adult venues that could promote exploitation of women as well as raise fines in sex trafficking cases.
Groups that would utilize the fund estimate up to about $2 million dollars per year from increased fines and court fees could go into it. Specifically lawmakers have laid out as much as a $5,000 annual fee levied on venues like strip clubs.
“If we have a girl who’s been sexually exploited, we don’t have the resources here to give that child the intensive services they really need,” says Chatham Juvenile court deputy chief District Attorney Diane McLeod.
The penalties would target the estimated more that twelve thousand men in Georgia who purchase sex from a minor any given month. No groups have come out against providing those services.
“I think most people would consider it a no-brainer simply because who’s against providing needed services to children who have been abused by pimps by boyfriends sometimes tragically by their own family members,” Rice adds.
Twenty-one state legislators did vote down the amendment. Among the reasons, a charge that, as written, the amendment is reactive rather than active in preventing sexual exploitation adding that strip clubs are being attacked and singled out without proof of any link to exploiting women or girls.