- October 17, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Sexual Assault & Trafficking
The 2019 creation of Georgia’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit has allowed for much more effective follow-through on local sex trafficking cases.
As the name suggests, the unit is dedicated exclusively to investigating, stopping, and prosecuting human trafficking in Georgia. That targeted focus of personnel and resources has allowed them to reexamine cases once written off as closed. Offering these cases the due diligence they’ve so often been denied isn’t just a moral win; the unit is producing practical results.
For example, the year the unit was founded, it reopened a case from the year before, in which a 15-year-old girl had reported being sexually exploited for money over the course of months. Investigators arrested the two men the girl named as her traffickers, one of whom pled guilty this year.
The other man’s list of indictments has now grown to include aggravated child molestation and cruelty to children, as well as multiple counts of sex trafficking. The ongoing investigation has also led to the arrest of two alleged buyers of the girl.
That one girl’s case isn’t an isolated victory. Another duo of suspected sex traffickers were arrested last month and charged in connection with multiple incidents, one involving a 16-year-old and one a 14-year-old. Attorney General Carr, one of the unit’s founders, has stated that the search for other possible victims of the pair is still ongoing.
The latest news on the fight against sex trafficking in Georgia isn’t all good, however.
The DFCS Has Not Been Able to Protect At-Risk Youth from Becoming New Victims
As positive as the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit’s work has been, fighting human trafficking shouldn’t just be about catching traffickers and rescuing victims after the fact.
An effective strategy to stop human trafficking has to include prevention. Among other things, that means making sure nobody is ever in a situation where complying with a human trafficker is their best or only option.
When it comes to child sex trafficking in particular, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is supposed to be a primary line of defense, ensuring that all underage people can have their basic needs met without being exploited. That’s the idea, but based on recent investigations, it’s far from the reality.
As recently as August of 2022, Atlanta News First found foster kids being housed together in DFCS offices, for months at a time, allegedly without access to necessary mental health or educational services. While there, the kids were reportedly exposed to drug use and violence, and frequently ran away rather than stay in the provided living conditions.
Multiple runaway foster kids in the Atlanta area were later found as sex trafficking victims.
Clearly, if Georgia and Atlanta are serious about protecting young people from sex trafficking, prosecution is not the only area in need of targeted resources and attention.
Legal Options Exist for Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Regardless of Current Situation
In spite of the lack of support many sex trafficking victims receive, there are ways to fight for justice and a better life, from just about any starting point. Unfortunately, many victims, especially very young ones, don’t know their legal rights, or where to start.
The most important thing to know is that sex trafficking victims are not criminals under modern Georgia law. Underage victims in particular cannot be charged with prostitution, and do not need to prove that they were forced into transactional sex.
In addition to having criminal law on their side, sex trafficking survivors can also sue for financial compensation under civil law. Valid targets for lawsuits include anyone who knowingly enabled or profited from the victim’s exploitation, such as:
- Complicit hotels/motels
- Complicit transportation services
- Websites that host sex trafficking ads
If you have ever been coerced into a sex act for someone else’s profit in the Atlanta area, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options.