Did you know that the average age of girls forced into the sex trade is fourteen and that Atlanta is one of biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the United States (“Hotline Statistics”)? Every month 7,200 people in purchase a child for sex (“Atlanta’s Fight”). I am a fourteen-year-old girl who has lived in Atlanta my whole life. It’s terrifying to consider that such atrocities are happening around me and that most people aren’t aware of this issue; there needs to be an end human trafficking, and since the government does not seem to be taking adequate action, what can teenagers do?
The clearest definition I have found about human trafficking is that it is a modern slave trade that “involves the use of deception and coercion to persuade victims to cross national borders in search of new jobs and better opportunities” (“At Issue”). Wait, didn’t chattel slavery end with the Civil War, at least in the United States? All of the American history textbooks I’ve read up until now talk about Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, but none of them have talked about human trafficking, which is considered a form of modern-day slavery.
Human trafficking is a whole new type of slavery, and it is so difficult to wrap my head around. I am just in repulsed to contemplate how that people can pay to have sex with children, especially when some of these kids may be younger than me. Polaris Project estimates that there are approximately 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, and 55% of these are women and children. Furthermore, while there are many forms of human trafficking, such as forced labor and debt bondage, 75% of all human trafficking is specifically sex trafficking (“Polaris Project”). If so much of this is happening right here in my home town, why are we not learning more about it in school? Our schools encourage us to do community service, but it’s mostly raising money for causes like Trees for Atlanta.
Contrary to what I initially thought, there actually are laws that make human trafficking illegal. However, it it does not seem like the laws are being enforced. House Bill 200 took effect on July 1, 2011 and greatly increased the length of prison sentence for perpetrators from one year to now a minimum of ten years, and if the heinous crime involves a minor then prison sentences range from twenty-five years to life. This sounds like progress at first, but then I found out of every eight hundred trafficking victims, only one perpetrator, or “john,” is convicted (“Polaris Project”).
As an aspiring lawyer, I spend lots of time watching Law and Order: SVU, and just about every episode involves the investigation and conviction of a prostitution or human trafficking case. This has led me to believe that courts were dealing with human trafficking, but the statistics I am finding in my research vastly contradict what I see on TV. This problem is not being solved, at least not to the extent I believe it should be. I wonder whether laws just aren’t being enforced, or if victims are too afraid of the repercussions to come forward and press charges? Clearly, there is still an issue.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says, “Sex trafficking has existed in our country for generations, and it is time to take necessary steps to protect victims from buyers who purchase sex illegally and traffickers who sell people for sex” (“Not Buying It”). If the government would execute the laws as they were written, johns would not think that they could get away with human trafficking, thereby reducing the amount of victims. As kids living in Atlanta, we need to let our elected representatives know that we care about this issue. I sent a letter to my senators and am asking my whole school to sign copies of the letter. If everyone signs, we will be two hundred voices strong. Even though we are not yet old enough to vote, we can still make our voices heard on issues like human trafficking.
"Atlanta's Fight Against Human Trafficking - College of Law." College of Law. Georgia
State University, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
"Georgia Not Buying It." Street Grace, Inc. Street Grace. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
"Hotline Statistics." National Human Trafficking Resource Center. National Human
Trafficking Resource Center. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
ProQuest Staff. "At Issue: Human Trafficking." ProQuest LLC. 2016: n.pag. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.