January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The month is dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking, otherwise known as modern slavery.
The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice found at least 100,000 to 300,000 youth are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation annually in the U.S.
There is a misconception that human trafficking does not happen here, Ashley Lindsay of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Lowndes County said in a past article in The Valdosta Daily Times.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month “brings to light a situation that most people may not think is in our community, but with I-75 running right through Lowndes County, Atlanta is a major hub for sex trafficking, and that’s easy access between Miami and here,” Lindsay said. “We just want to make people aware that sex trafficking is real.”
It’s even real in rural Colquitt County.
In October 2015, a joint task force of federal, state and local officers arrested seven people in a raid of a brothel near Moultrie. In all, Operation Safe Haven charged 38 people in eight states with conspiracy to transport a person in interstate commerce for prostitution. Some were also charged with sex trafficking of a minor.
In May 2019, five people with Colquitt County ties were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee, Wis., with charges related to trafficking of farm workers. Operators of a farm labor company based here, they’re accused of taking foreign workers legally in Georgia under the H-2A program to work on farms in Wisconsin under circumstances easily described as slavery.
Many people think a victim must cross the border for the crime to be considered trafficking, but that is not the case, officials say.
Another misconception is victims are always physically restrained, but many times the victim is detained through mental coercion. Victims fear being without food, shelter and other resources if they leave those who are trafficking them.
The workers in the Wisconsin case said their supervisors took away their passports. Without them, the guest workers couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.
January became National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month following a Dec. 28, 2016 proclamation signed by President Barack Obama.
The proclamation read: “Our nation wrestled with the issue of slavery in a way that nearly tore us apart — its fundamental notion in direct contradiction with our founding premise that we are all created equal ... But today, in too many places around the world — including right here in the United States — the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric.”
We urge anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or anyone who believes they may be witnessing a case of human trafficking to contact authorities for help.
To report human trafficking, call 911 or the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services at 1-855-422-4453.
A simple phone call could save a life, could free a life.