The Sex Trafficking Opposition Project (S.T.O.P) was originally founded as a project for a First Year Seminar class in 2008. This organization’s goal is to help to combat human trafficking in the Macon Area, Georgia and throughout the United States.
There is no specific age that human trafficking targets, yet it is estimated that the average age of those being trafficked is between the ages of 11 and 13 years old.
This statistic has impassioned President Jaclyn Levin to enact change. “This is children. The idea that someone would be forced to prostitute themselves is to me just completely insane. I couldn’t believe that this happens in the United States. This happens to 300,000 U.S. kids. That to me is just outrageous. Once I knew about the issue, it was just something that I could not leave alone or do something about,” said Levin.
About S.T.O.P, Levin said, “Since its founding, we have had local ordinances passed so that massage parlors no longer operate as brothels. This is sort of why the group started, because we noticed this massage parlor problem that we had in Macon.”
The organization had ordinances passed so that the massage parlors were mandated to become licensed. The ordinances also allowed for Macon police to become trained in efforts to stop human trafficking. The police are trained on what to look for and how to question subjects properly.
“We got the police trained so that they knew what trafficking was, and not just arrest the girls for being prostitutes. What happens then is that the pimps come and bail them out. It is just an endless cycle,” said Levin.
Due to the efforts of the Mercer S.T.O.P organization, two girls have been saved from the cycle of human trafficking.
The largest initiative for the organization this year is having students switch their voter registration from their hometown to Macon. “We want to go to see council meetings, because we’ve found that the ordinances that we helped get passed are not being enforced. So, we want to go to city council meetings and ask why they aren’t enforcing them. It would sort of be improper to go, and not be voting citizens of Macon,” said Levin.
There will be a table set up in the Connell Student Center in the upcoming weeks to ensure that the conversion process is simple and easy for students.
Other ongoing initiatives include having a Super Bowl tailgate in February to raise awareness about the vast number of people that are trafficked during these big events. “There are so many people there that it is a spike in demand in the area where the event is hosted. So we would like to have an awareness event. It will be a Super Bowl party, but also educate others that they should be aware that this happens at these events,” said Levin.
Mercer S.T.O.P has partnered with similar organizations from Wesleyan and Macon State, and hope to attend the city council meetings as a collective unit in the near future.
Levin suggests that the best thing students can do to get involved would be to switch their voter registration and attend the city council meetings. “Having that voice in the government is more powerful than students think,” said Levin.