ATLANTA (December 10, 2014) | Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford) will officially pre-file legislation in the Georgia Senate to further the protection of child victims on the morning of Thursday, December 11. The “safe harbor” legislation will address inconsistencies in the prosecution of human trafficking cases at the state level, impose harsher punishments on those convicted of this terrible crime, and create a funding mechanism to provide for the care and rehabilitation of child sex trafficking victims.
“It has been a long four-year journey of advocacy, education, and sincere determination explaining to Georgia citizens exactly what is happening to vulnerable children in the child sex trafficking trade. House Bill 200, authored by former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, was a historic change to Georgia law that punishes criminals who prey on children by selling them for profit in the sex trade. This bill increased criminal penalties with prison terms and fines, as well as allowed confiscation of assets and affirmative defense,” said Sen. Unterman.
Current state law fails to recognize that victims are not ready or conditioned to not identify their traffickers. This leads to a problematic situation where human trafficking victims are punished because prosecuting attorneys do not realize the depth of the case. The legislation proposed by Sen. Unterman would offer immunity to minors who are forced into human trafficking, as well as proper medical treatment, counseling, and other assistance programs for victims. The legislation will add requirements that are compatible with HB 200.
According to Shared Hope, an advocacy group, Georgia is currently ranked with a “B” letter grade in its protections against child sex trafficking. The pre-filed legislation reflects pro-active measures that recognize children as victims and not criminals, creates a therapeutic safety net system of care and bridges the gap of public/private partnerships with community non-profits. The legislation will also incorporate required Federal guidelines outlined in HR 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, passed by Congress earlier this year.
“Georgia is a state that deeply cares about the children who are being sold for a profit in the sex trade industry. This legislation is meant to send a strong and clear message that we do not tolerate these actions and believe in severe punishments for profiteers. We are a state that recognizes societal problems, and Georgia should strive for nothing less than an “A” letter grade in the protection of its children,” said Sen. Unterman.
Sen. Unterman will host a press conference and candlelight vigil at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening at North Avenue Presbyterian Church (607 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta) in support of the legislation. The event is being held with the assistance of several advocacy groups, including Street Grace, Wellspring Living, youthSpark and Georgia Cares.
The agenda for the press conference and candlelight vigil is as follows:
7:00 PM – Opening Remarks and Prayer, Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer
7:10 PM – Legislation Announcement and Explanation, Sen. Renee Unterman
7:30 PM – Supporting Remarks from Legislative Colleague, TBD
7:45 PM – Moment of Silence, Sen. Renee Unterman
7:50 PM – Remarks and Prayer, Rabbi David Spinrad
8:00 PM – Closing Remarks, Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer