Sen. Renee Unterman Champions “Safe Harbor” Legislation with Candlelight Vigil and Press Conference

Sen. Unterman and a Vigil Attendee
Sen. Unterman and a Vigil Attendee

ATLANTA (December 12, 2014)  |  Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford) hosted a press conference and candlelight vigil on Thursday, December 11, in support of proposed legislation for child victims of human trafficking. Senate Bill 8, also known as the “Safe Harbor” bill, was pre-filed on Thursday morning to address several inconsistencies in the prosecution of human trafficking cases in Georgia. The press conference and candlelight vigil were held with the full support and assistance of advocacy groups Street Grace, Wellspring Living, youthSpark and Georgia Cares. Speakers included Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer and Rabbi David Spinrad, as well as Sen. Unterman.

“This has been a long four-year journey of advocacy, education, and sincere determination of explaining to Georgia citizens exactly what is happening to vulnerable children in the child sex trafficking trade. Georgia is a state that deeply cares about the children who are being sold for a profit in the sex trade industry, and this legislation is meant to send a clear message that we do not tolerate these actions and believe in severe punishments for profiteers,” said Sen. Unterman.

“We are excited about the ‘Safe Harbor’ legislation sponsored by Sen. Unterman. This is another helpful step in the journey to protect our children from the atrocity of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.  We are honored to be working with legislators such as Sen. Unterman who make the safety of Georgia children a top priority,” said Cheryl De-Luca Johnson, President and CEO of Street Grace, a faith-based organization dedicated to ending domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) in Metro Atlanta and throughout the United States.

Specifically, Senate Bill 8 would create the following directives for child sex trafficking victims and their captors:

  • The statute of limitations for actions defined as “childhood sexual abuse” would be extended until the victim reaches the ages of 23 or 25, depending on the criminal actions committed against the victim
  • Toll the statute of limitations for a minor’s civil cause of action for childhood sexual abuse until a minor reaches the age of 18
  • Amend the tolling limitations for tort actions while a defendant’s criminal prosecution is pending
  • Create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission, which will offer proper medical treatment, counseling, and other assistance programs for victims
  • Incorporate required Federal guidelines outlined in HR 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, passed by Congress earlier this year

Senate Bill 8 builds upon the statutes set forth by House Bill 200, which passed during the 2011 legislative session and subsequently signed into Georgia law by Governor Nathan Deal. House Bill 200 was a historic change to Georgia law that created severe punishments for criminals who sell children for a profit in the sex trade. This bill increased criminal penalties such as prison terms and fines, and also allows the confiscation of assets and affirmative defense.

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For Immediate Release:
December 12, 2014

For Information Contact:

Jennifer Yarber, Director