Atlanta is one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the country. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and those who try to save these girls and boys sold against their will for sex say it happens all around us, often in plain sight.
Georgia's State Attorney General Samuel Olens calls human trafficking a brutal, complex and widespread crime. Olens says vulnerable people, often children, are sold and forced to have sex against their will.
Mary Frances Bowley runs Wellspring Living, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta that helps young survivors of human trafficking get their lives back by providing shelter, education and counseling.
"In Georgia, we know there's a range from 200-300 girls that are trafficked each month in our city. And tonight there will be 100 girls that will be exploited in metro Atlanta," Bowley said. "So the numbers are huge."
Bowley says statistics show these children are lured into this lifestyle at the age of 12. "So the typical girl is 14 on the street," she said. Many times they're runaways. They leave home because something is not healthy at home. "There might be neglect or deprivation," she said. The child looks elsewhere for love.
Those who trap these kids know exactly what to say to lure them in, quickly enslaving them, said Bowley. And those who buy these young sex slaves are no better.
"They are forced to sell themselves between eight and 12 times a night. We know that they don't get the money, and sometimes they are very deprived, sometimes drugged to stay awake so they can perform more."
Bowley urges anyone who wants to help end human trafficking to learn how by checking out any of WellspringLiving.org events and meetings this month.
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