Atlanta fire departments have recently become the focus of a new initiative to protect children and victims of domestic abuse.
This latest initiative is the idea of former Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, and but the latest step in the Franklin administration’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. It follows the mixed successes of the Dear John campaign which struggles to protect child prostitutes and the city’s complaints regarding the ease with which children could be trafficked via Craigslist.
This latest step shifts focus slightly. Or rather, it expands the focus of the campaign beyond child prostitution to include victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, exploitation and sexual assault.
It does this by creating “Safe S.P.O.T.S.”
The initiative is simple. Mayor Franklin unveiled it recently, explaining how the goal of this program is to turn every fire station in Atlanta into a safe, available haven for victims of abuse.
A victim of abuse would be able to walk into any Atlanta fire station at any time. There, the trained firefighters could offer her protection and support, locking the doors in the event she’s been followed, and offering any medical attention she may need. They would then call the police if the victim consents.
“The goal of the Safe S.P.O.T.S. program is to provide immediate protection to empower abuse victims to regain control over their own lives and their own bodies,” the mayor said.
Victims are sometimes afraid to go directly to the police, or might not be able to reach them directly. This is often because abuse victims are made to feel that the abuse is somehow their fault. Or, in the case of women and girls who are being prostituted, they have been told by their pimps that if they contact police they will be arrested for their illegal behavior. Fire stations provide an obvious alternative to a potentially fraught call to the police, according to officials. The programs logo will be displayed on participating stations, advertising their involvement.
In preparation for this initiative, Atlanta firefighters and paramedics have been receiving extra training to enable them to assist the kind of victims which they expect to see. In doing so, the city is cooperating with several other organizations, including the state Department of Family and Children Services, the Victim’s Assistance Network, and the Grady Rape Crisis Center.
Mayor Franklin has said that the city will accept any financial contributions which supporters of this initiative are willing to make, but the actual cost of this program to the city is expected to be very minor.
I have written several times before about the dangers of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation, and I believe I have made it clear that this is an issue not only important to me, but important to us both as a city and a society. It’s encouraging to see Atlanta taking steps to make breaking away from abusive situations that much easier for the victims of exploitation, as well as domestic abuse and sexual violence. Escaping an abuser is both the most important, and one of the most dangerous, steps a victim can take, and anything that we can do to make it safer should be applauded.
If you know a child who is the victim of sex trafficking, do not pause. Immediately contact one of the following numbers:
Georgia Statewide Tip Line
National Center For Missing and Exploited Children Hotline
Dear John Hotline