Stopping the Sexual Exploitation of Children

This article first appeared in the 2016 Junior League Newsletter. It is reprinted here with permission from the Junior League of Atlanta.

LST Barbara Rose has been actively involved in stopping the sexual exploitation of children for decades. We want to congratulate her on work against this horrendous “industry”.

Tragically, Atlanta is a leading city for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation on of Children (CSEC) industry. Years before focus was put on this horrific blight on our state, Barbara Rose became interested because of her second career, writing detective fiction. The plot of her novel The Bad Ol’ Boys Club was about several young sisters who were sexually exploited by a family member. Children sexually abused in their homes may later be exploited by someone in their family or by a close friend. Barbara studied resources, interviewed people already working on developing programs and establishing shelters, and spoke with Atlanta detectives. She included her findings as an epilogue to the story, hoping readers would keep reading after the novel’s end.

In 2009, Kaffie McCullough, former director of A Future. Not a Past, bought the first printing of The Bad Ol’ Boys Club book. This group, now called youthSpark, works with the Georgia Juvenile Justice Department on the CSEC problem. Kaffie wanted to focus people’s attention on child sexual exploitation in our area. Convinced that the public would read fiction but not reports and research papers, she gave away Barbara’s books with an invitation to a Town Meeting to discuss the problem and possible actions to address the supply and demand sides of this tremendously lucrative and disgusting “business.” It worked. She told Barbara, “This is the largest attendance we have ever had!”

Kaffie was committed that this scourge would no longer be ignored. In 2005, she found an important and visible ally in Atlanta’s mayor Shirley Franklin, who commissioned a report, “Hidden in Plain View.” With the enormity of the problem gaining legislative attention, it generated the city’s Dear John public education program. It was a beginning for the state but not enough to vigorously address the challenge. This effort needed partners. It needed a team of dedicated people.

Barbara joined the effort and began speaking to discuss the responsibilities of the individual, police and state legislature. When asked to do reviews for book clubs throughout the South, she always included the facts as well as the fictional story. She emphasized that part of our responsibility is to be aware of what is happening in our towns, neighborhoods and families. She actively lobbied for new legislation to identify the exploited children as victims, not criminals. It took several years but legislation on has been passed raising the age at which boys and girls are considered prostitutes. How can sexually exploited children be called prostitutes? The correct word is VICTIM! Everyone must speak up and take action.

“Hidden in Plain View” tells what is happening in Atlanta and Georgia. In 2010, when under age females were being advertised on craigslist, A Future. Not a Past. conducted research to identify where and who made contact. A mock ad was placed for sex with a “young female.” All responses were tracked, and the final shocking numbers showed that 42{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} of the replies came from the north metro affluent suburbs. By age distribution, 44{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} were 30-39 years old, 34{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} were under age 30, and 22{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} over age 40.

The Junior League of Atlanta is now very involved in how to attack the demand and victim sides of CSEC. In 2015, local Rotary chapters mobilized their resources with an anti-child trafficking program, and JLA joined with the Rotary leaders who presented at the international Stop Human Trafficking Now Summit at the Carter Center.

Barbara says that very impressive conference was an opportunity to learn what is being done across the US and in many other countries to attack the problem. She talked with people from our federal Department of Justice, Scotland Yard and Sweden’s Nordic Model. They all know the severity of the problem and are giving it serious attention. Rotary’s International President K. R. “Ravi” Ravindran addressed the closing Candlelight Vigil at Centennial Park.

An easy and inexpensive action to curb the number of buyers of young children came from that gathering: clearly tell employees to avoid commercial sex, or they can face serious consequences. Barbara suggests that groups imitate a campaign initiated by former Attorney General Eric Holder. He sent a letter to all Department of Justice employees informing them of a new policy: “. . . All Department personnel, including attorneys and law enforcement officers, are prohibited from soliciting, procuring or accepting commercial sex. This rule applies at all times during an individual’s employment, including while off duty or on personal leave, and applies regardless of whether the activity is legal or tolerated in a particular jurisdiction, foreign or domestic.  . . .Department employees who violate these prohibitions will be subject to suspension or termination.”

If corporations as well as government were to adopt this policy, a huge number of buyers would be warned off. Research shows that once buyers are arrested, only 30{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} will return to the activity again. Because 75{71bb150a2bc889730474e0d4d3c3934bdfc3cc805d65fba18ac3d426a1e1afd5} or more of buyers are repeat offenders, this could take a huge number of “Johns” off the street.

Barbara has recently joined the Board of youthSpark to serve and share her knowledge and research. It is critical to bring this horrendous problem to light and to encourage others to be aware and active in reducing the number of buyers, pimps and victims in our State. Let’s not ever be Number One in this industry.