Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson, the president of the District Attorneys Association of Georgia, was on hand to discuss the fight against child prostitution.
“I’ve done this for a long time but it never ceases to amaze me the evil that people will do,” Patterson said. “This is something else that we can use to help bring the people who promote these practices to justice,” she said of the event.
Olens announced the public awareness campaign with the slogan “Georgia’s not buying it.” It specifically targets those who pay for sex. To effectively combat sex trafficking, Olens said, it’s necessary to go after the demand.
“Through the ‘Georgia’s Not Buying It’ campaign, we are drawing a line in the sand and telling purchasers of children for sex that their secret is out, and we will not tolerate it in Georgia,” Olens said.
Patterson said she recently attended training on human trafficking cases and learned of some of the ways girls are kept under the service of pimps.
“One of examples I spoke about during the press conference that I heard at the training was if a girl didn’t do what they were told or didn’t get as much money as they wanted, he would strip her naked, beat her and sic a pit bull on her,” Patterson said.
“People ask, ‘why don’t these girls run?’ This is why they don’t run.”
The campaign includes a public service announcement featuring professional athletes from Atlanta sports teams speaking out against sex trafficking.
Braves play-by-play announcer Ernie Johnson Jr. is in the message along with the Falcons’ Harry Douglas, the Hawks’ Devin Harris and the Braves’ Tim Hudson.
Patterson said Johnson is very involved in one of the organizations that help young girls involved in prostitution to get out.
“That was neat that they got all these people to participate in the public service announcement,” Patterson said.
The effort is a public-private partnership of the attorney general’s office, law enforcement, nonprofit advocates and the Governor’s Office of Children and Families.
As part of the campaign, the attorney general’s office is also working with partners to conduct trainings and increase awareness.
Georgia passed some of the state’s toughest human trafficking laws in 2011.
Anyone caught using coercion to traffic someone younger than 18 faces a 25-year minimum sentence. Anyone who has sex with a 16-year-old is sentenced to a minimum of five years and those who try to have sex with someone younger than 16 will get at least ten years.
Traffickers with adult victims now face 10-year prison terms.
The bill protects those forced into prostitution if they can prove coercion. And the victims would be eligible for state money for medical treatment if they cooperate with law enforcement.
Staff Writer Jeremy Stewart contributed to this report.