“Sex trafficking in Atlanta”
December 10, 2017
As many people know, sex trafficking is a very big problem in America. What many don’t know however, is that Atlanta has been ranked the #1 for sex trafficking. While it comes as a shock for many, when looking at the statistics and other factors relating to the ranking, it begins to make more sense as to how it happened. There are lots of factors contributing to the high trafficking rates such as how busy our airport is and easy access to the internet, however there are also many results to trafficking such as HIV/AIDS. While the statistics seem horrible, several organizations have surfaced to combat sex trafficking and help victims.
One of the biggest factors contributing to sex trafficking is the fact that Atlanta has the world’s busiest airport right in our backyard. With constant flights going to and from various countries and cities, it makes it all too easy for pimps and dealers to exchange their cargo and pick up fresh meat. According to The West Georgian, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is an important destination for political refugees, making it an easy selection spot for potential predators looking to make quick cash.
To give more of a visual on just how bad the sex trafficking in Atlanta is, the FBI and other organizations have conducted many investigations and have released some horrifying numbers. According to the FBI, in Atlanta alone, an estimated 200-300 youth are prostituted each month, while many other organizations believe the number to be much higher than that at approximately 400 girls monthly, and on average 100 juvenile girls are exploited nightly. The
Center for Public Policy Studies(CPPS) says that the average age of the commercial sex market for girls in between 12 and 14 years, but in some cases the girls are pimped out at a younger age. While a lot of refugees and girls at home are being subjected to these types of lifestyles, a study has found that Atlanta has the highest number of trafficked Hispanic females in the nation.
While the size and popularity of our airport is a huge factor, perhaps the most important contribution is the Internet. There are many innocent-looking websites out there targeted at young children, a lot of them are disguised to look like games and “friendly” chat rooms where you can have an online pen pal. A lot of potential attackers will befriend the young girls on these sites and get close enough to them to set up a meeting place where they can kidnap the unsuspecting girl. The child has no idea that the person behind the screen isn’t who she thinks it is, so it is the parent’s responsibility to monitor their child and protect them from such attacks. But it is not only the “child-friendly” websites that are hot on the market, but Craigslist has been proven to be the most efficient way to create unsuspecting advertisements for underage prostitutes, as ads on that site have had 3 times more hits than other sites.
Although the number of girls is horrifying, what is even more intriguing are the men that participate in this. Each month, around 13,000 men in Georgia pay for sex with a minor, while around 8,000 pay for sex with an adolescent female. In a study conducted by the Department of Global Health at Emory University, it was found that although victims of sex trafficking are more likely to be arrested, it is rare for a purchaser, or client of the sex workers to be penalized. This becomes a huge issue because when there are no clear or reinforced punishments regarding having sex with an underage sex worker, those same men will continue to buy into the industry and have their way with children, because they recognize that there is a low risk for facing criminal punishment. According to The Schapiro Group, between 42-65 percent of men who
purchase sex from minors do so in the North metro Atlanta area outside of I-285, while roughly 9 percent of men do so close to the airport.
Do not believe however, that a child is more likely to be trafficked by a random person. It has been proven that a lot of times, girls are trafficked and sold by someone in their family or by someone they know. Its more heartbreaking to hear this because it tarnishes the sense of trust between family members and the child. In other cases however, the child is being sold because her family doesn’t have money and she needs to help provide for the family.
While anybody can be subjected to the world of sex trafficking, there are some more vulnerable populations. For example, homeless youth are targeted the most because they have nobody to protect them. According to The National Center for Protection of Child Abuse, in the U.S., 2.4 million children run away from home each year. Researchers estimate that within 48 hours of running away from home, 1 out of 3 homeless youth will be lured towards prostitution. Another targeted population is the LGBTQ community. Due to the discrimination and violence towards the LGBTQ community, children are forced to leave their homes, and make up close to 20 percent of the homeless youth in the U.S. Foster care children are also at risk because of their vulnerability and desire for love and affection. A pimp will approach a troubled youth and promise to love and take care of them, and then force them into this modern slave trade.
The rise in the number of sex trafficking incidents has caused a lot of other problems in our city, such as the rise of HIV/AIDS. AIDSVu states that in Atlanta, the number of people living diagnosed with HIV was 33,000 in 2015. That number has since increased tremendously, and the sex market is not helping at all. A lot of traffickers do not care about the well-being of their merchandise and don’t take them for regular checkups and screenings, only enhancing the
rate at which how many people get infected with the disease. Its not just HIV/AIDS that is being spread, but all kinds of STDs as well, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis.
These numbers and situations are scary, but it is not a lost cause. There are many ways to help a victim of sex trafficking as well as organizations designed specifically to rehabilitate those who have been traumatized by their experienced as a sex worker. Wellspring Living and the Human Trafficking Hotline are two popular anti-trafficking organizations to help those who have been affected by prostitution. In Atlanta, the Friends of English Avenue is a local attempt to help neighborhoods with the highest crime, poverty, and prostitution rates.
Cops and government organizations have begun to crack down on certain areas of Georgia suspected of sex trafficking. Some of those areas include Moreland Avenue, Peachtree, and Decatur. In 2014, Brookhaven became the first city in Georgia to join the “Not Buying It” pledge as part of Georgia’s Task Force on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. The program hopes to educate citizens about the dangers of child trafficking and how to recognize signs of a child in need.
Even with all the organizations out there, it is still our job as citizens to help officials crack down on these cases. According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, over 150(as of June 30, 2017) cases have been reported this year. That number seems high, but its not compared to the countless cases that go unreported. Since 2007, there have been a reported 1,759 cases to the Hotline alone, with over 60 percent of them being female-related cases and one-fifth of them being related to minors.
While many good measures and efforts to end trafficking are out there, there are also lots of barriers to traffic prevention as well as treatment. The biggest problem is identifying those
who have been trafficked. What may seem like a normal family situation in public or in the airport could be an exchange of a child to a predator. or perhaps a child who has been trafficked may show no physical signs. It is very difficult to determine who has and has not been trafficked, which makes it hard to rescue victims and rehabilitate them. Without proper identification, many victims will be criminalized for behavior without identifying a cause. Since it’s hard to identify victims, a lot of faith-based non-profits focus their rehabilitation on survivors or trafficking rather than focusing on rescue missions.
When it comes to giving care to traffic victims, granting safety to the victim can pose as a challenge because after 72 hours, many shelters are required to call a parent or guardian, and often the victim no longer has ties with his/her family. There is also a reuniting period where the victim is kept in a foster care home until the shelter can get in touch with a relative. During this time however, the victim may run away and eventually return to their exploiter. Another issue is that in Atlanta it is harder for women who have aged out of foster system but have been trafficked since a young age. It becomes difficult because at that point they need an adult shelter and medical services, which outside of Wellspring Living, is hardly available.
That is not to say that the situation is hopeless. Citizens can report suspicion of a child in need by contacting the Human Trafficking Hotline or Wellspring Living. There are many issues leading up to the high rates of trafficking, but there are also many solutions. With a busy airport and easy access to the internet, we must protect our children and always be alert.
AIDSvu. “Atlanta.” AIDSVu, 21 Nov. 2017, aidsvu.org/state/georgia/atlanta/.
“GA HT Fact Sheet .” Http://Www.htcourts.org/Wp-Content/Uploads/GA-HT-Fact-Sheet-6.4.13.Pdf?Factsheet=HT-GA, www.htcourts.org/wp-content/uploads/GA-HT-Fact-Sheet-6.4.13.pdf?Factsheet=HT-GA.
“Georgia.” National Human Trafficking Hotline, humantraffickinghotline.org/state/georgia.
Hansen, Jane O. “Selling Atlanta’s Children: What Has and Hasn’t Changed.” CNN, Cable News Network, 18 July 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/child-sex-trafficking-update-hansen/index.html.
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“The Current State of Sex Trafficking Legislation in Georgia.” International Human Trafficking Institute, 2015, theihti.org/the-current-state-of-sex-trafficking-legislation-in-georgia/.
Waga. “FBI: 60 Arrested in Georgia in Human Trafficking Investigation.” WAGA, 18 Oct. 2017, www.fox5atlanta.com/news/fbi-60-arrested-in-georgia-in-human-trafficking-investigation.
“Wellspring Living.” Wellspringliving.org, wellspringliving.org/.
White , Rhonda. “At World’s Busiest Airport, Sex Trafficking Abounds.” The West Georgian, 7 Oct. 2013, thewestgeorgian.com/at-worlds-busiest-airport-sex-trafficking-abounds/. http://globalhealth.emory.edu/resources/pdfs/2016_intramural_cc_case.pdf