COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A local non-profit dedicated to awareness and prevention of trafficking underage boys and girls for sex held its bimonthly awareness training this week.
Micah’s Promise is a faith-based organization working to educate the Columbus community about how dangerous sex trafficking is and to remind folks it happens all the time, even right here at home. The organization regularly invites community members to join training sessions in Uptown Columbus. August’s sessions were held Tuesday evening and Thursday lunchtime.
“It’s important to have these trainings regularly and more, because the issue has grown exponentially. The selling of children is the second largest criminal enterprise in America,” says Bobbi Starr, Executive Director of Micah’s Promise.
Attendees heard the danger signs that may point to a child they know being trafficked for sex and what to do about it. Starr emphasizes the traffickers are getting smarter.
“It used to be, you would know a child who would regularly be out of school. Well now the traffickers know we know that, and they make sure the kids get to school. But they may be sleeping in class all day because they were up forced to ‘work’ all night,” Starr explained during her presentation.
Each attendee also got a checklist of things that may point towards a child they know being caught in domestic minor sex trafficking. Some of the points include if the child has expensive new items that are unaccounted for, frequently running away, overly sexualized social media posts, and being secretive about their friends or where they live.
Starr says the goal is to have as many eyes as possible trained on protecting at-risk kids.
“They deserve for adults to protect them. They deserve for adults to fight for them, and they deserve to have childhoods and to have their innocence protected. That’s why it’s the most important to me, and so we have to educate people on what to look for and what this issue really looks like so that we can stop blaming children as well,” Starr explains. “That’s a point Georgia has been really good about.”
Georgia passed Senate Bill 158 this year. As of July 1, children under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and are now considered under the law victims of commercial exploitation. House Bill 281 also requires that a person charged with soliciting a prostitute, underage or otherwise, will have to spend a mandatory 72 hours in jail before bail is allowed.
“What is a person’s main fear when they do this kind of thing? Exposure! And yet we haven’t been exposing them. They bail out before their wife or work even know. This law almost guarantees that exposure,” Starr says.
Micah’s Promise also just passed the million dollar mark for its initiative to build a home to rehabilitate trafficked girls from all over Georgia. The home will house girls ages 12 to 17 for up to a year to offer them physical, emotional, and educational therapy in order to leave behind their lives as trafficking victims. The domestic minor trafficking awareness group still has about half a million dollars left before they can break ground on the project.
Click here to learn more about Micah’s Promise and its residential home initiative.