Release Date: 08.30.2016 | Location: All Metro Atlanta | Organization: The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Supports the Safe Harbor Yes Campaign
Atlanta, Georgia (August 30, 2016) – The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant for public education activities associated with the Safe Harbor Yes campaign, which seeks to create a dedicated Georgia fund to provide care for children who are victims of sex trafficking.
On November 8, Georgia voters will have an opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment that would create the Safe Harbor Fund for Sexually Exploited Children. To educate Georgia voters on the issue, the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Junior League of Atlanta and Rotary International initiated a campaign that has since been joined by a strong coalition of partners including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, CommunityBuild Ventures, Georgia Cares, Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, Georgia Family Connection Partnership, She is Safe, Street Grace, Voices for Georgia’s Children, Wellspring Living, YouthSpark and the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, among others.
Jen Bennecke, who previously served as president of the Junior League and executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, is part of the Safe Harbor Yes leadership team. In this Q/A, Bennecke describes why Safe Harbor Yes is critical to Georgia’s future and how concerned individuals can take action.
Q: How severe is the child sex trafficking problem in Georgia?
A: According to the FBI, Atlanta ranks among the top 14 cities in the United States for the number of children who are bought and sold for sex. Children from all over the state are victims. Nonprofits that help sex trafficking victims have served children from 91 Georgia counties – victims as young as 9 years old. The average age of victims is 13. GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit investigated nearly 4,000 cases in 2015. From 2015 to 2016, arrests rose by 37%.
Q: Where do the victims come from?
A: These children are from neighborhoods like yours and mine, from South Georgia to North Georgia, from every demographic, family situation and income level. While their stories may differ, they have all been targeted, sexually abused and exploited. Some of the children have been abducted. In other cases, older men posing as “boyfriends” lure children into situations marked by violence, forced drug abuse and constant threats from which they cannot escape.
Q: Who came up with the idea for a Safe Harbor Fund?
A: In 2015, Republicans and Democrats in the Georgia legislature overwhelmingly approved legislation (Senate Bill 8) to make provisions for children who are victims of sex trafficking. State Sens. Renee Unterman, Gloria Butler, Butch Miller and Judson Hill sponsored the bill. More than 90% of state senators and more than 85% of state house members voted to approve the bill, which calls for a dedicated funding source for these child victims.
Q: Why do we need a constitutional amendment to create the Safe Harbor Fund?
A: In Georgia, the only way state funds can be dedicated to a particular purpose is with voter approval of a constitutional amendment, which is what will be on the ballot on November 8. This protects the monies in the Safe Harbor fund for being used for any other purpose and ensures that they will be there in perpetuity. November 8 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide victims of child sex trafficking with the resources they need to resume a normal life.
Q: Where will the money come from?
A: Funding for Safe Harbor will come from two narrowly tailored sources identified by the General Assembly: new fines for those convicted of crimes related to sex trafficking and a new fee on the adult entertainment industry, specifically on establishments that serve alcohol and provide entertainment involving nudity.
Q: How will Safe Harbor Fund resources be used?
A: A commission, appointed by the General Assembly and the Governor, will oversee the distribution of funds to ensure they are used where they can have the greatest impact. Funding will be directed to intensive programs that help victims, including treatment for physical abuse and trauma. Agencies, faith-based organizations and nonprofits that provide services to child victims of sex trafficking will be able to apply for funds.
Q: What is being done to mitigate sex trafficking overall or to at least prevent the rise in arrests related to this issue?
A:Fortunately, Georgia’s leaders are serious about stopping trafficking and have been focused on addressing what are broadly considered to be the necessary components to address this growing crime. The one piece that is missing is funding for victim services, which the Safe Harbor amendment would provide. Today in Georgia local and state governments are working with law enforcement, child services and prosecutors to make sure that all appropriate parties know how to recognize trafficking, can make arrests and rescue child victims. Interagency task forces work together to exchange information and stop traffickers across our state.
Q: What is the overall goal and measurement of success if funds are approved?
A: If funds are approved, no child victim of sex trafficking in our state will be denied access to the services they need to return to a normal and healthy life.
Q: What will voters see on Election Day?
A: Like all constitutional amendments, this question will appear at the end of your ballot. It’s critically important for voters to click through to the end of the ballot to vote in favor of Safe Harbor Yes, which will be Amendment 2. By taking a few seconds to vote for this amendment, voters can give child sex trafficking victims the opportunity to resume a normal and healthy life.
The question will appear on the ballot this way:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited.”
Q: For anyone concerned about child sex trafficking victims, how can they help Safe Harbor Yes?
A: Our campaign includes everyone, from concerned individuals to businesses. People who want to be a part of the campaign should go to SafeHarborYes.com, where they can find out how to donate, share information and vote in November.
About The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Formed in 1995, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation promotes innovative solutions to transform the lives of youth and their families, seeking results that move communities beyond what seems possible today.
The Foundation invests in early childhood development, education, green space and the arts, and leads giving programs for each of the Blank Family of Businesses, including the Atlanta Falcons, PGA TOUR Superstore, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch and Atlanta United. Mr. Blank, chairman of the foundation, co-founded The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, in 1978 and retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001. Through the foundation and his family’s personal giving, Mr. Blank has granted more than $300 million to various charitable organizations.
For more information about The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, visit www.blankfoundation.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @blankfoundation.
Contact Name: Joselyn Baker
Company: Butler Baker Communications
Phone: (404) 929-9081