Human Trafficking Awareness Steps Up in Roswell

Roswell Rotary will begin training members to speak to PTAs throughout the state, equipping them to prevent the commercialization and sexualization of children.

"We've got to rise up, open our eyes up. Be her voice, be her freedom, come on stand up." The words to "Twenty Seven Million" by Matt Redman echoed through the activities center at Roswell Area Park where several hundred Roswell Rotary members gathered Thursday to kick off a beta program which will attempt to put an end to human trafficking in Georgia - and then hopefully the world.

"This could be our next Polio vaccine," said President Dave McCleary, referring to the famed successful efforts of Rotary International to end Polio years ago.

Speakers from throughout the metro area spoke to the issue of human trafficking, which has become so prevalent approximately 27 million people are enslaved around the world. Human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest international criminal industry in the world and it is the fastest growing, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Because human trafficking is often thought of a foreign problem, one that might affect a third-world country, speakers brought the reality home for their audience by telling them many of the commodities Americans buy are produced through forced labor. But even closer to home, is the serious issue Atlanta has as a hotbed for human trafficking via the sex trade industry..

The city is ranked among the top 14 cities in the United States for the highest incidence of children used in prostitution, according to the Governor’s Office for Children and Families.

Guest speaker Melissa Stanfield, a Roswell resident, shared her own story of falling into the industry after she ran away from home at 17. She was eventually rescued from a forced life as a prostitute in Atlanta and got back on her feet with the help of Wellspring Living, a non-profit that rescues and helps restore victims of the industry.

In the "Demand Study" by The Shapiro Group researchers surveyed 218
men over a two month period in fall 2009. The findings showed that 42 percent of respondents lived north of the perimeter, debunking the myth that commercial sexual exploitation is a problem that exists only in the urban core of the city. In other findings, the study also showed that 12,400 men in Georgia pay for pay for sex with a young female each month and 7,200 of them end up exploiting an adolescent female.

Read the entire demand study here.

Amy Walters, the Director of Programs at Street GRACE, a non-profit that works to organize resources to fight child exploitation, told the audience that the sex trade is mainly driven by men, who are "buying a product." 

"But, men, you can also be the ones to help solve this problem," she said.

A new partnership between several non-profits and the Georgia Department of Education will train Rotary members as anti-trafficking experts. They will then be given assignments to speak and educate PTAs at the more than 2,000 public schools in the state. Roswell Rotary would be the test pilot for this new program. If successful, the program could be replicated within other Rotary clubs throughout the world.

Stanfield's story isn't as uncommon as you think; and it doesn't always look the way you might predict. Human trafficking, and particularly the sex trade industry, can begin harmlessly enough. It can begin with a compliment; a conversation; a long-sought companion.

"Technically, any child is at-risk," said Walters. "The best thing you can do to protect your child is to be involved in their life."

Norma Jean Almodovar March 31, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The US Government reports that 90% of child sexual exploitation cases are at the hands of someone whom the child knows and trusts. People like Jerry Sandusky, like the priests who molest altar boys, school teachers, boy scout leaders, preachers, and even law enforcement agents. 68% of the predators are family members. None of these predators are "buying a product"- they don't have to. Their victims are not abducted and sold into slavery. They are pillars of the community- fathers like Keith Brown-parent of the Five Browns. Like former Alameda County sheriff’s deputy John Eric Freeman who sexually molested his daughter throughout her childhood (and received 3 years in prison). The prostitution abolitionists have convinced the public that if we could only abolish the sex trade our children would be safe- but nothing could be further from the truth. And of those 27 Million persons trafficked around the world, the majority of them are NOT being trafficked into prostitution- but rather most are forced into domestic servitude, agriculture, farm labor, garment manufacturing and a host of other forms of labor- and yet there is no crusade to abolish THOSE types of labor to prevent modern day slavery... Nor is there a crusade to abolish marriage despite the reported 12 MILLION incidents of intimate partner violence each year in the US. What about those victims? Doesn't anyone care about them?
Kerry Ford April 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I just want to say how thankful I am for ministries like Street Grace and many more out in the world just like them. They are making a difference. With out them there would be a lot more Jerry Sandusky's and John Eric Freemans out doing what ever, when ever. Do these ministries have a lot more work to do? Yes, but lets encourage them not discourage. We as Americans have set on our hands long enough. If we all did just a little something to make the wrong things right, it would change our world drastically. Keep up the good work all you ministries working hard to show Gods Love in dark places!!!!
Norma Jean Almodovar April 04, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I'd be more encouraged if they would help the majority of victims, rather than 'rescue' those who have not asked for help. The Jerry Sanduskys and the John Eric Freemans do not find their victims on the internet. Forcing websites to close will not in anyway help any victims. If it did, then we would need to close churches, stop after school sports, ban the Explorer Program (where many cops find their victims) and so on. What we do when we discover that there is a predator - be it a rapist, child molester, wife abuser- is to arrest the perpetrator WHEN there is a crime, not IN CASE THERE MIGHT BE ONE... and that's what we need to do for 'victims' of human trafficking. Not every wife is the victim of an abusive spouse, not every coach/ teacher/ priest/ cop is a pedophile- so we deal with each case as it is uncovered. Why don't we do that for 'sex trafficking' and prostitution? Why do you religious people think that you must treat the issue of sex trafficking differently than child sexual exploitation at the hands of the religious leaders? For every 1 victim of an online predator who looks to BUY the sexual exploitation of a child, there are 9 who victimize children who are entrusted to their care. These are the cases we need to stop. If your solution is to abolish all prostitution to stop the 1, will that same solution not work to stop the 9?


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