By Sierra Porter
Approximately 374 girls are commercially sexually exploited monthly in Georgia, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Public Policy Studies. Atlanta was one of the 14 cities in the United States with the highest rates of minor sex trafficking according to the FBI.
In response, the FBI announced 169 people were arrested that were participating in sex trafficking crimes during the 11-day sting operation during Super Bowl LIII. This included 26 traffickers and 34 individuals attempting to engage in sexual acts with a minor.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline defines human trafficking as “a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
Nine juvenile sex-trafficking victims were recovered with the youngest being a 14-year-old, and nine adult human sex trafficking victims were identified. The sting was conducted by the Violent Crimes Against Children/Human Trafficking Program and Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force or MATCH. Twenty-five local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and district attorney officers along with several non-government organizations collaborated to bring perpetrators of human or sex trafficking to justice.
In response, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms participated in the Pathways to Freedom grant which was presented Feb. 15, 2018 to end sexual exploitation in the city. Chicago and Minneapolis are also among the cities participating in the Pathways to Freedom grant.
Ouleye Ndoye Warnock is the inaugural senior human trafficking fellow responsible for the Pathways to Freedom grant. Warnock is working with leaders in law enforcement, housing, health care, and community leaders to help identify solutions to end the vicious cycle of people who become victims to the sex business including people of color, immigrants, indigenous populations, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, and those who are struggling with addictions.
“The City of Atlanta is committed to ending human trafficking and are grateful for the resources provide by the Pathways to Freedom grant, which will help us achieve that goal,” Bottoms said at an Atlanta City Hall meeting Sep. 18. “We look forward to working with the many stakeholders focused on this important issue to strengthen our existing systems and ensure the safety of our vulnerable populations as a continuation of Atlanta’s long and strong legacy of protecting civil and human rights.”
Pathways to Freedom has partnered with The NoVo Foundation in the effort to end human and sex trafficking. The NoVo Foundation will give a $10 million, three-year commitment for programs in the United States that “open exit ramps and close on-ramps to commercial sexual exploitation.” The grants will range from $100,000-$600,000 per year for 1-3 years.
“From day one we’ve known that such a world depends fundamentally ending all forms of violence and discrimination against all girls and all women everywhere and this includes the violence of commercial sexual exploitation,” said Pamela Shifman, executive director for The NoVo Foundation. “We know that if sexual exploitation thrives on systems failures, then systems-based solutions can create lasting change and are the key to ending commercial sexual exploitation.”
Eiland remains vigilant. While speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she said, “I figured that if I had not come forward and put my face forward, what would the next woman do.”
As Williams remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond, the fight to stop sex trafficking in Atlanta continues on.
This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.