Mercer addresses Sex Trafficking in Georgia

Sex trafficking is one of the greatest issues facing Macon. The city’s location at the junction of major interstates, and the large number of massage parlors per capita makes it a regional hub for the sex trafficking business.

It is for this reason that Quadworks sponsored “Sex Trafficking in Middle Georgia,” a lecture with David Cooke, Senior Assistant District Attorney for the Houston Judicial Circuit. On Wednesday evening Jan. 25, Cooke spoke to students about the issue of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).

Cooke defined CSEC as “sexual abuse of a child for money or really anything else of value.”

Victims of CSEC are usually runaways, and the average age is 12 to 14. In the U.S. there are approximately 1.6 million runaways per year, and one out of every three of these runaways will be recruited by a pimp within 48 hours.

The average life expectancy for victims of CSEC is seven years. Homicide is the main cause of death.

In Georgia alone, 300 to 500 girls are exploited per year, and 47 percent of men in Georgia are willing to pay for sex with a child after being warned three times that they are underage.

Cooke said that the majority of the 47 percent comes from the Atlanta suburbs. “Alpharetta-Roswell area is the worst,” said Cooke.

According to Cooke, Pimps are turning increasingly to the internet in order to advertise their prostitutes.

The official website for the Sex Trafficking Opposition Project (S.T.O.P.), www.stopsexslavery.org states that Macon is home to over 20 massage parlors and spas, “most of which offer a ‘second menu’ of services ranging from masturbation for hire to sexual intercourse.”

S.T.O.P. began right here at Mercer in one of Dr. Andrew Silver’s First-Year Seminar classes. Students in Dr. Silver’s class teamed up with students from the Women and Gender Studies Department and Baptist Collegiate Ministry and worked with “media, political leaders, congregations, community groups and schools” in order to raise awareness on campus and in the community.

Dr. Mary Alice Morgan and Dr. Silver are the faculty members who helped found S.T.O.P.

In their Take Back the Skies campaign, Morgan said they noticed that there were around 21 massage parlor billboards on I-75. S.T.O.P. lobbied to remove the billboards, and eventually some companies did comply.

Morgan explained that there are several “red flags” which can indicate that an area is probably a sex trafficking hub: proximity to airports, proximity to military bases, intersection of interstates and high rates of commercial sex business.

All of these “red flags” apply to Macon.

Atlanta is an international hub for sex trafficking due in large part to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  “Particularly for children,” said Cooke.

Atlanta is also the home of the “Players Ball,” an annual pimp convention.

Many times, victims of sex trafficking are women from other countries who were promised jobs in America.

Chase Williams, who helped coordinate “Sex Trafficking in Middle Georgia,” hopes to do more awareness-raising activities next semester.

To learn more, visit www.stopsexslavery.org or visit the Middle Georgia Allegiance to End Regional Trafficking at www.mgalert.org.