As we move into 2020 – a new decade – it amazes me that we are 20 years into the new millennium and experiencing advances in technology and innovations involving the Internet, social media and smartphones that truly connect the world. And yet, we still see intense cruelty and degradation in society, such as child abuse and human trafficking.
The numbers are nothing less than shocking.
Research studies show that 25 percent of females and l6 percent of males experience sexual abuse as children, and an estimated 325,000 children are at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year.
Statistics show that traffickers are targeting minors more often and the entry age is getting younger. And, while we often think of sex trafficking happening to young girls, it’s happening to young boys as well.
Most startlingly to Atlanta is the fact that as home to the largest international airport in the country and host to multiple large sporting and entertainment events, Atlanta is a magnet – not just for tourism – but for human traffickers as well. These events often create opportunities for traffickers of commercial sex and human exploitation to take advantage of our vulnerable children and teens. The proximity of our school communities to these activities can put our students at greater risk of exploitation.
More numbers related to Atlanta:
- Atlanta has been identified as one of the cities with the highest incidences of child sex trafficking (FBI, 2005; Urban Institute, 2014)
- Between 200 – 400 adolescent girls are sold online per month (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
- Approximately 65% of men who purchase sex with female children in Atlanta live in suburban areas outside the I-285 perimeter (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
- Traffickers in Atlanta make an average of $33,000 per week (Urban Institute, 2014)
- 7,200 men purchase sex from a minor every month in Georgia accounting for 8,700 sex acts (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
- 91% of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims in Georgia were enrolled in school at the time of their exploitation (Georgia Cares, 2016)
That’s why we recognize today, Jan. 10, as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, to raise more awareness across our District about the seriousness of this issue. But it goes throughout the month of January as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Our middle and high school counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and health teachers are hosting sessions across the District to raise the issue, cover risks, and alert students to the potential indicators of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Our students are also taking an active role in stopping human trafficking by designing Public Service Announcement posters using the hashtag #stophumantraffickingAPS. We are also showing solidarity against trafficking by wearing blue and supporting the Blue Campaign, which was launched in 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security, as a unified initiative to raise public awareness about human trafficking, combat human trafficking, and help protect victims.
As a part of our professional development offerings, we have online courses for staff. All of our counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses have received training on sexual abuse and exploitation. The executive director of the Atlanta-based International Human Trafficking Institute, Deborah Richardson, spoke to our central office staff during a lunch session today and has trained all of our health teachers, school police officers and bus drivers. For 2020, we are working in closer partnership with Richardson and the Institute to further educate our students, teachers, staff and community.
At the state level, I am proud to serve as a member of the GRACE Commission, created to combat the threat of human trafficking in Georgia. First Lady Marty Kemp launched GRACE (which stands for Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education) last year after learning that the FBI had named Atlanta as one of the Top 14 cities with abnormally high rates of human trafficking. The commission meets on Monday, Jan. 13, at the State Capitol building. We will hear from representatives from Gigi’s House, the House of Hope Refuge of Love and Wellspring Living. We also expect to be making some important announcements about the work in advance of the next state legislative session.
So as we move into a new decade, let’s all do our part to eradicate this modern form of slavery. Let’s make a commitment as a school district and as a city to traffick-proof Atlanta for the 2020s. Educate yourself and become aware. Learn more at https://www.ihtinstitute.org/.
Signs Student May Be Trafficked
- Unexplained school absences
- Abrupt change in attire, behavior, or relationships
- The presence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
- Travel with an older male who is not a guardian
- Sudden presence of expensive material possessions
- Chronic running away
- Signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or an overly submissive attitude
- Lack of control over his/her schedule, money, and/or proof of identification
- Signs of physical trauma, including bruises, cuts, burns, and/or scars
- Tattoos or other branding marks
- Poor health, as evidenced by sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and/or serious dental problems
- Substance abuse or addictions, or selling drugs
- Coached/rehearsed responses to questions
- Uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior and/or references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms