December 5, 2009
By Eric Stirgus
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — A woman walked into a fire department station house in northwest Atlanta late Thursday, desperate for help.
Her jaw was bruised. The woman said her boyfriend punched her.
The firefighters there closed the doors to the station house to protect her, in case the boyfriend was following her, and called police.
Mayor Shirley Franklin unveiled a new initiative Friday in which every Atlanta fire station will respond similarly when such scenarios take place. The program is called “Safe S.P.O.T.S.” The idea is to give victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault or exploitation and infant abandonment a safe place from those who’ve harmed them while fire department workers get them medical attention, call police or contact counseling agencies.
“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.
Some victims are afraid to go to the police when attacked, so fire stations were the logical place for the Safe S.P.O.T.S. program, officials said. A logo for the initiative will be posted at each fire station, said Stephanie Davis, the mayor’s policy adviser on women’s issues.
In recent months, each Atlanta firefighter and paramedic received training to assist victims. The city is working with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, the state Department of Family and Children Services, the Victim’s Assistance Network, the Grady Rape Crisis Center and other agencies on the initiative.
There will be little, if any cost to the city to run the program, Davis said. Franklin said the city will accept financial contributions from anyone willing to help. Franklin said she hopes the next mayor will continue the initiative.
The new initiative was the brainchild of former Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran. It is a continuation of several city efforts by the Franklin administration in recent years to help children and victims of abuse. In 2006, the city created the Dear John campaign to crack down on the purveyors of child prostitution.
In 2007, Franklin complained that the Web site Craigslist was allowing children to be marketed for prostitution. Cragislist has since vowed to do a better job prohibiting such Internet traffic. Some say it’s had mixed success.
Copyright 2009 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution