Originally, I was planning on writing a blog concerning “Marriage Equality”. Last night that all changed as I attended a community event called, “Facing Sex Trafficking: Atlanta’s Dirty Little Secret”.
What I experienced, heard and saw has caused such a level of disruption to my soul as to cause me to vomit upon arriving home. My anger is such that my tears of anguish are hot enough to fry an egg.
Yes, I am a survivor of sexual abuse. Yes, over the years I have read and heard the stories about how some lone freak did horrendous deeds to children.
Yes, when the city of Atlantamade a move to banish prostitution from the city, I knew in my gut the city council and their political friends were turning victims into criminals.
Yes, I knew that Pedophiles exist and work their evil every day of the year.
Yet, what is difficult to face is the same thing that was difficult for Audrey, Daisha and Yewanda from “Face Atlanta” to face,
“It’s been difficult for us to face how few of those who buy and sell kids for sex are held accountable, how kids are groomed, slowly lured into the trade, how the average age of victims is 12 to 14 years old, how some 400 girls are sold for sex in George each month, and how difficult it is to escape.”
What is difficult to face this is going on in my neighborhood, my LGBTQ community and the city that I call home.
According to INnocenceATL.org these are the facts:
Atlanta was named by the FBI as one of 14 US cities with the highest rate of children used in prostitution
The Schapiro Group Georgia Demand Study
In Georgia, 12,400 men purchase sex with young women in a given month; more than 27,000 men purchase sex with young women in Georgiamore than once per year.
Approximately 100 adolescent females are sexually exploited each night in Georgia
In Georgia, adolescent females controlled by the child sex trafficking trade are sexually exploited by an adult male on an average of three times per night.
42% of men who buy sex either seek out young girls, or are willing to disregard all signs that the woman they are about to have sex with is an adolescent
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Federal law enforcement task forces opened 2,515 investigations into suspected human trafficking incidents between January 2008 and June 2010
of these investigations, 8 in 10 were classified as sex trafficking:
82.1% of victims in sex trafficking incidents were identified as US citizens
40.4% of all suspected trafficking incidents were child-related and classified as “prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child”
I have not included the statistics for young boys because as you will see later it is a much harder group to get information about.
I sat in this auditorium as 10 stories of victims were given voice through the spoken word, song, poetry and rap and tried to convince myself I did not know that “sex trafficking” is a 30 billion dollar a year industry. I didn’t know it was this evil, this horrendous, this wide spread, this close to my soul.
Please indulge me as I share just one of the stories from this very unsettling night.
As told by JONATHAN BLANCHARD Soul Singer, Actor, Educator
I’ve worked in the public school systems in TN, GA, AL, AR, and IL as an Artist in Residence. The primary objective has been to integrate Afrikan American Music into the core curriculum. To say that I spend a lot of time around children is an understatement. Before signing on to be a part of the Facing Project, I’d never done any real research on the matter of child trafficking. I had no idea how prevalent it is in the US furthermore in Atlanta, GA.To know that there are young children growing up in these conditions makes me feel as if there is so much more that I should be doing. I suppose however that it shouldn’t be a shock, seeing how the majority of women that I know have expressed to me that they have been molested or touched inappropriately at least once in their life. Ironically, for this project I was assigned the task of exposing the stories of young boys who are victims of sex trafficking. My research revealed that boys are forced into the lifestyle at a very alarming rate, and though young boys account for 57% of all child sex trafficking cases, almost 100% of efforts to combat and expose trafficking has been focused on girls. You see, boys aren’t going to say anything, young men aren’t going to say anything, and no one cares to even ask them. That is the reality. That’s why myself and the brothers that participated with me, decided to present the research in the way we did…….to be the crying voice of the forgotten.
FACING STORY: THE FORGOTTEN
This presentation will attempt to shed some light on the enslavement of young boys whether it be for slave labor or sex slavery. We will address specific accounts of nameless young men, as well as their fear of talking about their abduction and victimization. It will be comprised of myself and other men chanting a song while presenting brief accounts of males who have been victims of child sex trafficking. The unnamed young men will be represented by a blank, black piece of construction paper. The song will feel like an old spiritual being sang in the field.
MENTAL HOSPITAL DIRECTOR
Claude Foulk, the director of a mental hospital deliberately adopted a young boy to be his sex slave for almost a decade as part of a pattern that spanned four decades and ensnared dozens of young boys. Foulk was convicted of 20 counts of forcible oral copulation, nine counts of sodomy and two counts of lewd acts for abuse between 1992 and 2001. His victim is now 30 and living in Atlanta where he remains anonymous. 11 other men came forward claim Foulk molested them as children dating back to 1965. 5 adult men testified that Foulk would take them to a cabin in the mountains and force them to commit sexual acts, telling them that this is how men show love.
A young boy’s stepfather locked him up in his bedroom for six years with straps and hooks. The step-father deprived the boy of food and water while constantly torturing him sexually, emotionally and physically. This abuse went on from the time the boy was 11 until he was 17. The boy said that he was so underfed, that he had gained 100 pounds in six months after leaving his stepdad’s house. He also said that when he was allowed out of the bedroom, the stepfather would force him to stay sitting on the kitchen floor and would hit him and cut him with knives to intimidate him.
In an article by Clinical Social Worker Steven Procopio it is stated that:
Since it is assumed that “boys can take care of themselves”, indicators of abuse amongst boys often goes unrecognized. It is estimated that 50% of the children victimized by “commercial sexual exploitation of children” aka “CSEC” are boys. One in six boys in the UShas a history of sexual abuse. While awareness of CSEC has gained momentum in recent years, legislation to protect trafficking victims, as well as recent and ongoing nationwide FBI busts targeting culprits, continue to focus nearly 100% of society’s attention on sexually exploited girls. First, there is a sense of shame and stigma about perceived as gay that keeps boys from self-identifying as sexually exploited. Secondly, they simply are not being asked. Even law enforcement and other service providers fail to assess young boys at intake under the guise that boys are not victims of CSEC. This leads to the belief that boys are not generally pimped. Furthermore the boys are viewed as deviants with a desire for quick sex and money. The reluctance to discuss the exploitation of boys is generated by a culture that is sometimes both hetero-centric and homophobic, causing these victims to be under-discussed and therefore underserved.
A poor grandfather in Scotlandwas approached by a man who offered him a large amount of money to take his three boys and raise them. The grandfather thought that this would be a good opportunity for the boys. He didn’t know that the man ran a “puppy mill”…….(a place where young boys can be purchased for sex; it is named after the unethical practice of keeping dogs in cages simply to reproduce). They were only nine years old.
The man forced the boys to do whatever the clients wanted which was mostly sex. The boys were often forced to perform together for the clients viewing pleasure. Puppy mill boys are also used as assassins, and drug smugglers….they are expendable and easy to replace.
Since pedophiles consider it erotic to have sex with twins or triplets, the boys were in high demand and were sold and resold eventually being shipped to England. Finally they were sold to an organized crime syndicate, and imported to the United States. In all, they were shipped to 9 different locations.
After one of the triplets attempted to escape, his owner drove a bolt between the tendon and the bone in his leg, and chained him to the wall, after which he was beaten to death at 12 years old. While in the US the other two boys were separated one going to an even more brutal mill and the other going to a private home. After being brought back together because of the appeal as twins, they were eventually rescued at the age of 19.
Now I can no longer say I didn’t know. 7:30 pm till 8:45pm, story after story after story, all children under the age of 18 and many starting as young as 9.
I can no longer plead ignorance. I can no longer be silent. I can no longer stand on the sidelines. My days can no longer be peaceful and uneventful until I have done my part to bring a bright light to this ugly secret, until I have done my part to bring to an end this exercise of “power and control” that is destroying generations of God’s little children.
So, now you know, what are you doing about it?
4Sarah is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Faith-based tax exempt organization whose mission is to empower change in the life direction of women and girls who are adult entertainers, prostitutes, escorts or victims of sexual exploitation by offering a holistic approach as well as an educational, emotional, physical and spiritual support system. 4Sarah will affect the life direction of women and girls involved in the sex trade industry by offering resources through our outreach, intervention and scholarship programs. We need volunteers for our outreach team, intervention team, care team, and scholarship committee members. To get more info or to get help please visit www.4Sarah.net or call our hotline: 470-362-8808 Email: 4Sarahinc@Bellsouth.net
Founded September 12, 1999 with the mission to serve, empower and equip women to make a positive difference in the lives of other women and girls, Circle of Friends has three main programs: Living Water for Girls serves girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been the victims of sex trafficking. Living Water Learning Resource Center serves girls and young women, ages 16 and older, who have had life challenges and/or survived violence, street life, or child sex trafficking. Living Water Training Enterprises serves the girls and young women from our two sister programs. We also serve the community by strengthening families, educating and training local and federal law enforcement, educational institutions, and religious communities, and inviting citizens to come together to combat this heinous crime and protect our children. Learn how you can get involved at www.cofcl.org or call 404-627-0225
Susan Norris is the author of the must-read Rescuing Hope: A Story of Sex Trafficking in America. She is an outspoken advocate for the protection of victims of child sex trafficking, speaking across the United States and internationally on sex trafficking and empowering women. Susan works alongside other organizations to address child sex trafficking, while lobbying for stronger laws to protect victims and investing herself into the lives of rescued girls. Susan@susannorris.org www.susannorris.org
The mission of Out of Darkness is to reach, rescue, and restore victims of commercial sexual exploitation, that the glory of God may be known in the Earth. We reach through jail ministry, medical trainings, and a weekly street outreach called Princess Night. We rescue by operating a 24-hour hotline and picking women up when they call for help. And we restore by taking rescued women to a safe home where medical, emotional, and spiritual needs are addressed. www.outofdarkness.org For more information, email Jeana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Street Grace is a faith-based organization leading churches, community organizations and individual volunteers on a comprehensive path to end domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) through awareness, empowerment, engagement, and social change in Metro Atlanta and throughout the United States. Street Grace is helping end DMST through training, lobbying, feeding vulnerable children, and collaborating with the Governor’s Office of Children and Families, Department of Education, and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. Through the Father’s Against Child Exploitation (FACE) program,
Street Grace is developing a platform for empowering men with a “male focused” program aimed at ending demand for DMST. To learn more about Street Grace, visit www.streetgrace.org or call 678.809.2111.
Synchronicity Theatre activates communities toward social change through powerful, transformative theatrical experiences. In collaboration, Synchronicity supports women artists, forges long-term and effective community partnerships and develops new work. Now in its 16th Season, Synchronicity offers cutting-edge plays for adults, a renowned Family Series and award-winning educational programming, including Playmaking for Girls (PFG). Created in 2002 to uplift the voices of ‘at-risk’ (we prefer the term ‘with hope’) girls, the PFG program has expanded to include two-day workshops at Regional Youth Detention Centers and group homes, an after-school program for middle-school girls, designed to impact their lives before they get into trouble, and a summer public performance by girls on probation, presenting plays created in the workshops alongside poetry, music and dance. This performance is FREE and open to the public: join us this year on June 7. These three components provide a continuum of service that seeks to empower young women’s voices and break the cycle of those who are often without a voice. www.synchrotheatre.com
Tapestri helps immigrants and refugees that have experienced domestic violence or human trafficking. We provide direct services to trafficking victims, including assistance with basic needs and immigration relief. Tapestri also partners with agencies to provide direct services to trafficking victims in HHS Region IV. Our domestic violence advocates help survivors with emergency assistance, translation, and legal assistance. Our Family Violence Intervention Program offers classes for batterers. Lastly, we conduct outreach by speaking to various groups and providing material printed in 22 languages. We encourage interns and volunteers that can give at least 10-20 hours a week- please fill out the application on the website. https://www.facebook.com/TapestriInc www.tapestri.org office: 404-299-2185
The Mercy Project seeks to open the hearts and minds of our community to the growing problem of modern-day slavery both here in metro Atlantaand worldwide. We seek to unify Christians and pursue true worship of God as talked about in Isaiah 58:6-7 by freeing the chains of those unjustly enslaved. We strive to accomplish this with educational outreach, anti-slavery partnerships, financial contributions, and direct service to victims. We are dedicated to ending one of the greatest human tragedies of our time.” www.themercyprojectatl.org
VOICE Today is a non-profit organization breaking the silence and cycle of child sexual abuse and exploitation through awareness, prevention and healing programs. Tragically 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by their 18th birthday and only 1 in 10 ever tells. Between 80-90% of children sexually exploited have been sexually abused at an early age. Even more alarming is that 93% of abuse is by someone the child knows. The VOICE Today awareness programs help adults understand every child is at risk, the educational training programs educate how to predict and prevent CSA and the healing programs give aftercare in community. VOICE Today offers support groups, healing
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.