Working to Help Georgia’s Human Trafficking Victims

Jennifer Robson is the founder of Beautiful Feet Ministries, which reaches out to women and children involved in the sex trafficking industry in Hall County. Robson recently started a call center where she and another female member of the ministry go through the lists of ads looking for local women they can help. Beautiful Feet is part of Straight Street Revolutions in Gainesville and is also affiliated with an Atlanta-based sex trafficking rescue organization called Out of Darkness. Robson tries to share the organization’s hotline number and website with every woman she calls.

“We’re trying to build relationships up over the phone,” Robson said. “And we’re trying to help these ladies out and let them know they’re not alone and we’re praying for them. If they want or need a way out of the industry, there is a way out.” Robson explains that the ads often use vague language and false names. Some ads will spell out words using symbols and numbers instead of letters; others say “donations” or specific services are accepted in exchange for sex. Robson said there is much more sex trafficking going on in the area than most people realize.

According to a Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children demand study by the Juvenile Justice Fund in Atlanta, geographically the largest group of men who purchase sex with young females is found in the north metro Atlanta area. Most “buyers” are between the ages of 30 and 39. “When I heard that I thought, ‘Those are the men I know,’” Grayson Pratt, vice president of advocacy and initiatives of The Junior League of Atlanta said. “Those are my husband’s friends, those are my friends. Probably someone that I know has hired a child at some point in their life.” Pratt said grass-roots awareness is key to ending the business and preventing more children from being exploited.

State departments are also taking action. In March, state Attorney General Sam Olens launched the “Georgia’s Not Buying It” campaign to combat child sex trafficking. The campaign is focused on ending the demand for the sex trade of children. The Georgia legislature has increased penalties with human traffickers facing 25 years to life in prison, increased in July 2011 from a maximum of 20 years. Offenders also can be fined up to $100,000. The Georgia Department of Education is training educators and school employees to recognize and combat sex trafficking. The biggest thing that schools and parents can do, Jarod Anderson, director of learning support for Gainesville City Schools said, is to help children understand boundaries and how to get help should they need it. Establishing strong personal boundaries and self-esteem may be enough to prevent some children from ever getting involved in the industry.

“There’s this huge awareness in Hall County,” Robson said. “But I don’t know if we’re putting a dent in it because this kind of ministry, of outreach, is not like you can go in and save the day and come out and everyone’s good in the end. It’s a long process.”

Learn more at Savannah King’s Gainesville Times article: Nonprofits, state agencies work to help victims of human trafficking.


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