I want to go quietly this time, . . . no fuss . . . no parties . . . because I haven’t been able to stay ‘retired’ in the past. I feel differently this time in that I have an internal sense that the time is now right. youthSpark is in good hands. David Bakelman is the right person to take us on the next phase of our journey. I’m an ardent feminist, but having a man at the helm of youthSpark right now feels exactly right. I have never felt that child sex trafficking was a gender issue. Men have to join us in this fight – and that means confronting the norms in our society . . . it means not dismissing the buying of sex from a child – or from anyone for that matter – by saying “Boys will be boys.” Having David as our spokesperson, talking directly to men, complementing Jennifer Swain’s passionate support for our children, will be an unbeatable combination.
I feel immensely proud of the work that all of us have done – knowing that there is much left to do. I feel totally at peace leaving that work in the hands of all of you whom I know will carry it forward. I will be standing on the sidelines, cheering you on as the work continues, helping in whatever smaller ways I can. Taking a stand to right such a heinous wrong, working shoulder to shoulder with so many passionate people, and building the foundation we have built fills my heart with gratitude. I will miss all of you – but I know our children are in good hands. Keep the pressure on . . . never take ‘no’ for an answer . . . and know that when the hill looks insurmountable just keep taking the next step and you’ll get to the top.
We were thrilled about the FBI’s efforts this past weekend in Operation Cross Country as they rescued 105 victims of child sex trafficking AND arrested adults who were responsible for this exploitation. So much amazing work has been done in this arena, and such progress has been made. However, despite all of that work and progress, and all the awareness that has been raised, the children who are affected by this horrific injustice are still often treated as criminals, rather than victims. Check out this letter that youthSpark’s Kaffie McCullough wrote to the editor of the AJC on this topic:
I was dismayed, discouraged, and disgusted to read the first sentence in the AJC article “Crackdown on child sex trafficking nets arrests” which reads “Two underage girls suspected of being prostitutes . . . . “. I have been working in the field of child sex trafficking for almost fifteen years and thought that the media was now better informed than to be labeling underage child victims as prostitutes. There is no way that a child, forced onto the streets to provide profit for one set of adults and sexual pleasure for another set of adults, should be labeled as a criminal. The AJC should edit their own articles better so that the most vulnerable of our community are seen as the victims that they are – and not just fodder for a good story where the mis-labeling perpetuates the problem.
youthSpark presents General Sam Olens with his award
On Monday, May 13th, youthSpark hosted its annual Town Hall Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast at North Avenue Presbyterian Church. Special thanks to Attorney General Sam Olens and our panelists Senator Renee Unterman, Representative Ed Lindsey, and Sharon Hill of Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. WABE’s Rose Scott moderated the panel discussion and highlighted the 2013 legislation, as well as the importance of ongoing research and evaluation.
Inaugural Kaffie McCullough Advocacy Award
We were honored to present Attorney General Sam Olens with a special award for his leadership of the “Georgia’s Not Buying It” Campaign and his commitment to stopping the demand for prostituted children in the state of Georgia.
We were thrilled to present Kaffie McCullough with the Inaugural Kaffie McCullough Advocacy Award for her outstanding contributions to keep all children safe. This award will be presented annually at our Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast.
Thanks to everyone who attended this special event. We appreciate North Avenue Presbyterian Church for hosting us!