Join us in the fight to protect women and children

January 25, 2019
| by Guest Contributor |

Atlanta has the highest annual revenue in the underground commercial sex economy – over $290 million per year. Our city, individuals, and organizations must collaborate to raise awareness.

With Super Bowl LIII approaching, thousands are preparing to descend upon our city to cheer for their favorite team. And while football is on the minds of many, there is an even bigger issue that needs our attention. The largest sporting event in the country happens to fall at the end of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Atlanta has the highest annual revenue in the underground commercial sex economy – topping out at over $290 million per year. It’s important that in the days ahead, our city, individuals, and organizations are able to collaborate to raise awareness.

What is Human Trafficking?

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of children and youth through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, or money. Sexual exploitation also involves children and youth in creating pornography and sexually explicit websites.

For more than a decade, The Junior League of Atlanta (JLA) has committed itself to educating and eradicating Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking. In 2006, during its 90th anniversary, the board of directors voted to form a task force to identify critical issues facing the Atlanta community; during this process, the group was made aware of the growing problem of child sex trafficking.  In 2008, JLA members began lobbying for legislation to protect victims of trafficking and fought to require “mandatory reporters” to report if they noticed signs of a child being trafficked for sex.

The JLA also convened a roundtable of Buckhead and downtown Atlanta business leaders to discuss what was happening on the streets around their businesses, and ways those businesses could intervene to stop child sex trafficking.

In 2010 and 2011, the JLA sponsored a PBA broadcast entitled How to Stop the Candy Shop, a parable about the sexual exploitation of children. During that same time, the organization also created and funded a billboard outreach campaign across the city to provide victims of sex trafficking with the phone number for Georgia Cares, a resource hotline dedicated to helping trafficking victims. JLA has also been given commendations for its work to prevent child sex trafficking: In 2011, along with other Junior League chapters, JLA was recognized by the United Nations Association of New York for its work to bring a voice to the victims of sex trafficking through collaboration and engagement.

JLA has continued to use its large membership base of dedicated and trained volunteers to build a coalition of community organizations. Annually, JLA hosts advocacy breakfasts for business and community leaders to learn the extent of this tragedy, and holds trainings for members to become well-informed advocates against human trafficking.

Thanks to a partnership with the International Human Trafficking Institute (IHTI), groups of women will be trained to become ambassadors who in turn will educate others across the city. According to their strategic plan, the IHTI’s goal is to hold buyers who purchase humans for exploitation accountable, thereby decreasing the demand for human trafficking.

We are also continuing our relationship with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, after awarding them a Centennial Grant in April 2017 to launch the virtual Institute on Healthcare and Human Trafficking. The Institute is part of the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children and is led by Jordan Greenbaum, MD, a world-renowned expert in human trafficking. The Institute trains healthcare providers in how to recognize the signs of trafficking in their patients and then intervene appropriately.

Long after the big game has come and gone, the JLA has vowed to continue to raise our voices to advocate for those who often don’t have a voice and to fight to protect our children.

If you are interested in Human Trafficking awareness training for your church or civic group, email the JLA at [email protected].

Ryann Pasquale is a member of the Junior League of Atlanta and an account coordinator at EngagedMedia.

This column originally appeared on the SaportaReport.com Thought Leadership column on Leadership in Action. To read more content from these, and other Georgia-based nonprofits, click here.

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