Sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry, and a problem that has swept the nation in epidemic proportions. Atlanta is one of the largest “hubs” for human and sex trafficking. January is human trafficking awareness month, and advocates and law enforcement alike are hoping that with awareness, education and prevention will follow.
Over a million children, generally girls between the ages of 12 and 14, are sold into sex trafficking operations every year. Homeless children, in particular, are at the highest risk. In Atlanta, dubbed the “Sex Trafficking Capital of the U.S.,” close to 300 girls are trafficked every month. Further, with the emergence and popularity of social media, “pimps” have found an easier and quicker way to transport the victims all across the nation.
Even more disturbing is the sheer amount of children and young adults that are brought into sex trafficking monthly. In any given month, around 12,4000 people in Georgia are bought and sold into trafficking. Around 100 teen girls are sexually exploited each night in Georgia, and generally, it occurs around three times a night, per victim.
— Laura Reed (@wsblreed) October 28, 2016
Atlanta is home to one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, making it an easy and convenient place for clients to meet the victims, sexually assault them in a bathroom, and be on the next flight out before anyone notices anything.
“(A) man could get on that computer, anonymously, say, ‘I’m coming in to go have sex with this child.’ He’ll fly in on a 3:00 flight, meet the child at 6:00, and be gone on the 8:00,” Dekalb County assistant DA, Dalia Racine, said. “How are we to ever find them? How are we to ever know who they are?”
Another issue is the victims themselves. They’ve been beaten and psychologically abused to the point that they’re scared to let authorities know what’s going on.
Sex Trafficking Hits Rural Georgia Hard
Perhaps it’s geographical isolation or limited access to assistance or witnesses that’s appealing to pimps and others who participate in finding girls for trafficking. Rural areas provide these law breakers an almost perfect place to seek out girls, and even boys, for sexual trafficking. Truck stops and rest areas are often common in rural areas, making it easier to traffic, exploit, and sell victims to new customers.
Small towns in Southern Georgia, in particular, have an alarming rate of sex and human trafficking. Numerous small towns in Georgia face economic uncertainty, which leads to low-paying jobs or no jobs at all. When young women don’t have the means to support themselves, they can easily be lured by promises of a better life, money, and security. This is the furthest from the truth. Once people get into the ring, every aspect of their lives are controlled by others.
In October 2015, authorities arrested 29 people from Georgia after a year-long sex trafficking federal investigation. According to prosecutors, it all started in the small town of Moultrie, Georgia. Numerous victims were saved during the investigation, including a 14-year-old girl, the youngest victim. According to former U.S. Attorney, Michael Moore, predators tend to prey on young people in small, poverty-filled towns because they’re the easiest victims to get their hands on. Moore told WALB that with no way to support themselves, young girls in rural towns and “forced” into sex trafficking.
“They’ve got no money, no family, no contacts, no place to live, no way to support themselves, and they are just forced into this life.”
How to Fight Sex Trafficking
Sarah Reising, an outreach coordinator with Georgia Cares, a 501(c)(3) that assists victims of sex and human trafficking, told Crime Online that there are numerous signs and red flags attached to sex trafficking victims.
“Some of the major warning signs include having a significantly older girlfriend/boyfriend, they are labeled as a chronic runaway, homelessness, having a special marked tattoo or “branding,” having new material possessions that cannot be accounted for, a sudden change in appearance or behavior, and multiple STDs.”
It’s important to remember that if you suspect someone is a victim, they’re probably afraid of law enforcement. Reising said victims typically have a sense of fear instilled in them that makes it difficult for them to open up to authorities, but if they can somehow reach organizations such as Georgia Cares, they are much more likely to open up.
“Georgia Cares partners and works closely with law enforcement. Many times, youth who are rescued are afraid of law enforcement, as they have been brainwashed by their trafficker and made to believe that law enforcement would put them in jail. Typically, once a youth begins Georgia Cares services, they are more likely to open up and are no longer afraid of law enforcement and view them as people who are going to help them- not harm them.”
Part of the reason that victims may open up while in organizations such as Georgia Cares, is because the services are 100% confidential. Fear of being caught or called “a rat” keeps many victims silent. With anonymity, victims are more likely to not only communicate, but stay long enough in the safe environment so that they can heal and begins steps to start a new, productive life.
If you or anyone know need assistance, contact Georgia Cares at 1-844-8GA-DMST.
Out of Darkness is another Georgia-based organization that helps “reach, rescue, and restore” sex trafficking victims, as well as those who need assistance with drug rehabilitation. You can contact their 24-hour hotline at 404-941-6024.
Likewise, the Covenant House of Georgia offers crisis care, outreach, support services, mental health services, a community service center, and more. For shelter assistance, call 404-589-0163.
National Help for Sex Trafficking
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888 (also accepts tips)
- National Organization for Victims’ Assistance: 800-TRY-NOVA
- National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program: 800-333-4636