COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – According to Georgia Cares, 300,000 American children are victims or vulnerable to human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Hotline tracks victim data, and their numbers put Georgia amongst the Top 5 worst states for Human Trafficking.
The numbers don’t stop there. More than 1,000 children were trafficked in Georgia in the last year alone. Despite this being a huge issue facing our state and country, it’s a topic this is not spoken about often.
During the month of January the goal is to spark conversation around the topic and raise awareness for this ongoing issue.
Two local organizations have made fighting human trafficking their mission all year long, not just in January. Sean Stark, co-founder of Firebrand Alliance, an organization that educates youth mentors, teachers, parents and other individuals on how to teach youth to identify and resist predatory behavior says a key to stopping this issue is risk reduction.
“There is so much more value to risk reduction than there is to rescue, even though rescue it gets all the attention all the glory and all that,” said Stark. “If you can educate people to just start paying attention to those in their sphere it becomes a big factor in reduction.”
Stark explains the Firebrand course teaches people how to do things like set boundaries and be aware of the people within their circle, in order to prevent a potential trafficking or abuse situation.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry that has lasting impacts even once survivors are out of these traumatic situations.
Bobbi Starr, Executive Director of Columbus-based organization Micah’s Promise, says one of the biggest issue is the lack of resources for these survivors who need intense long-term therapeutic care.
“Right now currently there are only 40 beds certified, state certified therapeutic beds in our state,” Said Starr. “And we are building to help fill that gap for those children.”
Besides creating more beds for these survivors Micah’s Promise is also asking the community to participate in Molly Gochman’s, Red Sand Project, to raise awareness for the issue.
The idea is to place the red sand in the cracks of pavement around your community, with permission of course, to show that you’re filling in the gaps that can cause vulnerable people to fall victim to sexual exploitation.
It also opens up the opportunity to education someone passing by on human trafficking. Micah’s Promise is providing bags with the Red Sand and the information on the project to those who request it.
Once you’ve completed the project you’re asked to upload a photo to social media and use hashtags like #humantraffickingawarenessmonth.