That title goes to Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, who, in addition to being the first female mayor of Atlanta, and the first African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major southern city, has been working on ending the sexual exploitation of teens in her community since 2006.
And not by throwing underage prostituted girls in jail, but by addressing the men who buy sex the right to rape already-exploited teens and pre-teens. Apparently, Atlanta is a hub for trafficked girls, although it’s far from the only city in America with a major trafficking problem (…Independence, Missouri? Salt Lake City?). Read this post from Change.org (a digested version of a huge study put together by Shared Hope International) about the latest numbers on child sex trafficking; the upshot is that underage girls are the majority of victims in commercial sex markets, and because they are seen as criminals, rather than victims, they are typically arrested and then returned to the streets, where they suffer further.
In the “Dear John” Campaign, Mayor Franklin herself appears in PSAs and posters informing the men of Atlanta in no uncertain terms that using girls for sex is not just illegal, it’s wrong. It’s harmful. It hurts girls, their families, and the community as a whole.
Mayor Franklin seems like your cool, smart, tough-as-nails Aunt Shirley, who isn’t going to let you pull any funny business, so watch it, kiddo. Even though I am slightly skeptical that pedophiles and perverts are going to snap to attention and say “Yes Ma’am, Mayor!”, I love that the ads are about valuing and protecting girls for themselves and for the roles they play in their communities. Not only do the ads send a clear message to johns, but they also point out to the entire community that girls have worth and their well-being is the responsibility of all Atlanta citizens.
A big Harpy salute to Mayor Franklin, her Policy Advisor on Women’s Issues Stephanie Davis, and the women of WIFTA for acting on behalf of Atlanta’s girls and young women, and the people of Shared Hope International, who work every day to help end sex trafficking.