The sex trade has a new face, the face of a child.
Human sex trafficking, is the buying and selling of a person for sexual activity. When children are victims of human sex trafficking, they become apart of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children community also known as, CSEC. This modern day slavery is now rampaging through the streets of Atlanta, victimizing girls as young as 8 years old.
Most children that are lured into the sex trafficking industry begin runaways agitated by other conflicting circumstances ranging from abuse, dissatisfaction, drug addicted parents, or neglect. Recently, the amount of runaways living in the streets has increased in America. The U.S Department of Justice says, more than 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the United States. Most of these runaways return home within a week, 168 hours. Yet it only takes a pimp 48 of those hours to approach, rape, and force a runaway girl into having sex with her buyer.
To a pimp, selling an elementary school girl is nothing more than a business deal, and a very profitable one. The sex trade has grown to be the second largest criminal activity following drugs, an estimated multi-billion dollar industry. Even gangs are turning their backs on the drug trade of cocaine and marijuana for the less risky and lucrative sex trade.
Atlanta is one of 14 U.S. cities to be named by the F.B.I to have the highest rate of children used in prostitution, with 7,200 men soliciting sex from adolescents each month. According to the Schapiro Group, a data‐driven strategic consulting firm based in Atlanta, 42 percent of these men either seek sex with young girls or disregard signs that the woman they are having sex with are adolescents.
Kay, 16, from Marietta, GA met Jimmy Jones at Little Five Points. Jimmy was attractive, young and most of all, nice. He told Kay that she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and asked her out to the movies. Over dinner he told Kay she could be a model and asked if she was willing to take some pictures back at his place. Dinner and a movie turned into a three-day forced stay in his condo. She was raped beaten until she was black and blue and dragged into nightclubs to have sex with others.
To help victims like Kay, the modern day slave trade also has modern day abolitionists. Organizations like Atlanta Center for Healing, offer mental health services to help rehabilitate the mental state of traumatized girls and usher them back into society.
With the fight against Commercial Sexual Exploitation growing stronger, pimps are coming up with new covert ways to recruit.
“If a child is from the inner city, a pimp could convince her with nice things like shopping trips or money for her family… but recently they’re becoming more creative and underhanded,” says Cassandra Landry, founder of Atlanta Center for Healing.
Pimps are even infiltrating churches, sending their child prostitutes as recruiters. The recruiter will attend church service as the “new girl” and befriend a girl who fits what they’re looking for. Eventually the recruiter will invite the unsuspecting victim to other places outside of church and introduce her to the pimp, who is often disguised as the recruiter’s boyfriend.
By this time the child has let their guard down and the boyfriend takes the opportunity to beat or rape the child into submission and turn her out into the street. She is trapped and forced to believe that if she were to run away from her pimp, he will kill her or cause harm to her family.
Landry says to look out for signs of low self-esteem, shyness, mood swings, and truancy. Detecting these behavioral changes early may prevent girls from becoming targets of recruiters or pimps.
“I think that it’s important that we have advocacy groups and agencies that help to protect the lives of these girls who are really being victimized by prostitution. We have to do everything we can to create awareness about the horrible things happening in our own backyard. Tweet it. Facebook it. Just tell someone”, says Reverend Juandolyn Stokes, board member at Atlanta Center for Healing.
“Having services that offer alternatives and help to transform their mindset is very essential to getting our little girls back to being little girls.”
To get involved with Atlanta Center for Healing visit: http://www.atlhealing.org/ or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org