January was National Human Trafficking Awareness month. I was fortunate to be invited to a panel discussion through Ellevate, a professional women’s networking group, that helped to shed much needed light on this issue. The fact that hit home the most for this writer was that of geographical rankings for human trafficking, the city of Atlanta was in the top 14.
In 2012 the International Labour Organization estimated 20.9 million victims worldwide, and 26% of them children. In 2013 at Trafficking In Persons Report it was up to 27 million.
The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines the crime of human trafficking as:
A. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, or
B. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Who Are The Victims?
- According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there is a one in eight chance of a runaway youth becoming trafficked.
- Statistics found on Sweet Grace note that 70% – 90% of victims report they were sexually abused at home.
- Account for 5% of the US population
- Account for up to 40% of the teenage runaway population
- Estimated 26% are rejected by family and put on the streets for coming out
Filled with rejection, abuse, and disparity, these youths become quick and easy targets for sex trafficking.
What Are The Signs?
- A significantly older partner
- Labeled as a chronic runaway
- Sudden change in appearance and behavior
- Signs of physical abuse such as bruising or cuts
- Sudden increase in material items such as clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. with no means to purchase items
- Unexplained absences from school
- Secretive about their whereabouts
- Special markings on their body such as tattoos or “branding”
- Provocative and highly sexual online profile(s)
- Multiple sexually transmitted diseases
Who are the Culprits?
That’s right. It’s not Crackhead Bob on the southside that smells and is missing half his teeth. It’s this guy. White, suburban, middle aged, and middle to upper class.
Child sex trafficking is a sickeningly lucrative business so John’s are actually more likely to be someone of some affluence. Someone outside the city limits. And someone who has an apparently normal and well made life.
In March 2014, Dr John Harold McGill, former principal at Mt. Carmel Elementary School in Douglas County was arrested as part of a sting operation for traveling with the intention of paying to have sex with a 13-year-old girl.
The sting, Operation Broken Heart, included the arrest of a total for 14 other individuals, all whom used the internet to find child prostitution and then travelled for purchase. The individuals range in age from 21 – 64, and occupations are as diverse as musician to software engineer. There is no stereotype.
- Approximately 7,200 men purchase sex with minors in GA each month
- 10% of these men were actively looking for the purchase of a minor
- Almost 50% of these men were between 30 – 39
- 42% purchase girls in and around the northern suburbs of Atlanta
Sadly it’s also true for the pimps. There are reports of men and women as ring leaders, as well as younger boys being roped in to produce classmates for trafficking. The younger boys lure in the girls and when they start performing the wrangler gets a cut of what the girls make. Thus setting the young man up for a future career.
What’s Being Done? What Can Be Done?
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens created the nationwide Not Buying It initiative to partner law enforcement to bring light to this issue and bring down the culprits that continue to exploit these minors by:
- Aggressively pursue and prosecute those who purchase sex illegally,
- Promote training for mandated reporters so they can effectively recognize, report and support victims of sex trafficking, and
- Incentivize businesses and civic organizations to engage in the fight to end sex trafficking.
House Bill passed in 2011 pertaining to Georgia’s Human Trafficking Law set forth that:
- Trafficked individuals shall not be treated as criminals themselves, but recognized as victims
- Anyone accused and convicted of trafficking a person over the age of 18 will receive a sentence no less than 10 years and no more than 20; a fine of $100,000.00 may also be imposed
- Anyone accused and convicted of trafficking a person under the age of 18 will receive a minimum sentence of 25 years and no more than 50 years; a fine of $100,000.00 may also be imposed
- Write your representative
- Participate in Lobby Day
- Help spread awareness and recognition
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888. It is open 24/7 and confidential.
While Atlanta is in the top 14, we are also in the top for activism, awareness, and change. Help keep this going to make Atlanta and Georgia free of this industry!