COLUMBUS, Ga. – Georgians have a chance to direct the power of the purse in the 2016 election, particularly when it comes to sexually abused children. A proposed state constitutional amendment would set aside money for victims of various sexual crimes.
In fixing the growing issue of sexual exploitation and human trafficking statewide, Georgia constitutional amendment two calls for imposing a $2,500 fine on criminals convicted of a sexual crime. If passed, the measure would put that money into the Safe Harbor fund to help sexually exploited children.
“When a child has been exploited, they have to live with that for the rest of their life,” director of House of Mercy Johanne Harris said.
Harris sees sexual exploitation victims young and old walk through the doors of House of Mercy. She says the personal and emotional stigma lasts in victims forever.
“Even though they are adults now, you can still see the pain in their eyes and they’re so protective,” Harris explained.
The proposed Safe Harbor measure could provide much-needed relief in directly helping child victims of sexual abuse. The amendment would also propose a tax on adult entertainment business like strip clubs and sex shops. News 3 reached out to owners of several adult entertainment businesses around town, however they were unavailable.
The revenue from the tax, and other penalties paid by those convicted of certain sex crimes would be dedicated to the Safe Harbor fund. Currently, money is set aside in Georgia’s general fund.
“We tend to think that this is a global problem or an Atlanta problem,” advocate Samantha DeFranks said. “But we’re seeing children being exploited, sold and purchased for sex right here in Columbus, Georgia.”
DeFranks is the director of Children’s Treehouse Child Advocacy Center. She believes perpetrators, and those who might possibly have links to child abuse should pay back to society.
“I think the role they need to play, adult establishments, is a proactive approach,” DeFranks said.
However, some argue that there’s no direct link between adult entertainment businesses and child exploitation.
“Is the adult entertainment industry responsible for this problem?” Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon (R, District 29) posed on behalf of several concerned business owners. “Should they be taxed for this? Is there a nexus between these businesses and trafficking?”
Voters will decide on four constitutional amendments at the ballot box, including the Thaw the Freeze amendment, opportunity school district amendment, and fireworks sales revenue going toward trauma centers and fire services.