Atlanta remains a hub for sex trafficking

Contributing Writer

Every year, there are 20.9 million people affected worldwide by illegal sex trafficking. Many people think that this is not a local issue. They think that Singapore or Thailand are at the top of the charts, but the reality is much closer to home. Atlanta is the number one city for human trafficking in the world. Americans are trafficking Americans. The Urban Institute profiled seven major cities and their illegal sex trade revenue. Atlanta was one of two cities whose trade has still continued to grow since 2007. In the Atlanta area, the market has increased to $290 million. Atlanta pimps are bringing home $33,000 in a single week on average. As repulsive as this number may be to you and I, Atlanta’s sex trade industry is still growing with a high demand. Some people believe this is due to the large amount of conventions that come and go through the Atlanta and metro-Atlanta area.

The same study done by Urban Institute showed more than 300 young women from every area of Atlanta are lured into trafficking each month. On top of that alarming statistic, an Atlanta outreach mission, Street GRACE, found that every month 500 children are trafficked for sex. According to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, the average age of entry into street prostitution is between nine and 14. Yet in the dangerous world of commercial sex trade, the survival rate is about seven years for a young woman or child.

Women and children account for 98 percent of trafficking victims. One in five of trafficked women were sexually abused in their adolescent years. There are several reasons besides childhood sexual abuse for a young girl to be sex-trafficked. These include poverty, absent fathers, juvenile violence, vulnerability and so many more. As you can imagine, several of these aspects result in a domino effect, leading to a perfect storm to be targeted. Women and young girls are targeted at the bus station, nightclubs, strip clubs, malls, high schools, college campuses and on social media. Pimps have actually developed a great marketing strategy that has put them ahead of where they were 20 years ago– social media. They often times can find girls in their area on Facebook, read their posts and determine if they will be an easy target or not. They will then send a friend request and strike up a conversation.

Pimps lay the groundwork to make their target feel as if he is the only one that will listen or care about her. He will seem like Prince Charming until she is caught in his web of lies and cannot escape. Often, this is a whirlwind for these young women and girls. One moment she is chatting about her personal and family life to a man that seems to be a genuine shoulder to cry on. Next thing she knows, they are standing at a street corner in downtown Atlanta as that shoulder to cry on is telling her to “catch dates.” By this time, the young girl is so trusting of this man whom she thinks saved her from her troubled life. These young women and girls feel as if they cannot go back to their family, and this new “boyfriend” is the only answer. It is easier to manipulate teens and children, and by the time they are adults, they are broken down and dependent on their pimp.

Next time you go into Atlanta, do not assume that every young woman on the street chose that lifestyle. Look a little closer. Although it may be easier to cope with thinking that this was a voluntary decision, a lot of the time, this is not the case. The majority of young women found on the streets are under the constant supervision of their pimp.