Sex trafficking exists in Atlanta

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery in the United States. Usually targeting women and children, estimates put the number of victims in the millions.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing organized crime and is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. Reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that the form of slavery is a $32 billion dollar industry a year. The majority of sex trafficking is international with victims being taken from third-world or less developed areas of the world and moved to more developed countries, such as the United States. This makes it very hard to not only find and help victims but also track the criminals and pimps.

Terms such as “human trafficking” and “sex slavery” usually conjure pictures of Liam Neeson in Taken, fighting the Eastern-European gang that takes his daughter into the underground world of trafficking. Unfortunately, sex trafficking isn’t just happening halfway across the world – it’s happening down the street, in our backyard. In Georgia, over 12,000 men purchase sex with young women in a month.

According to The Schapiro Group, a consulting firm based in Atlanta, 42 percent of men who purchase sex from young women slaves are found in the North metro Atlanta area, outside of I-285. The study also shows that 23% of buyers are from the south metro area, 26 percent are inside the perimeter, and about 9 percent come from the airport area.

I was lucky to be able to speak with a former child sex slave victim here in Atlanta named Jane. Jane told me about her experience in the trafficking ring.

“My mom sold me when I was seven,” she said. “We were really poor; my dad was never around. We lived in Section 8 housing and had to get most of our food from the food bank. We were really bad off. One day a man came up to our door saying he was from an adoption agency and could offer me a better life than the one I had with my mom. It sounded too good to be true.”

“My mom paid the man a $50 ‘administration fee’ and I was picked up the following day,” she said. After that,  she was taken to a home in a residential neighborhood and was subsequently tied up in a shed in the backyard. She was only allowed in the house when she was forced to have sex with up to thirty different johns a night. “It was a nice neighborhood. It didn’t look like a crack house or anything; you would have never suspected.”

Once Jane hit puberty and was no longer desired by the pedophiles that had been raping her, she was forced into prostitution. “Prostitution wasn’t as bad because I wasn’t tied up all the time. It was still slavery, but a different form.” Jane was lucky and was able to get out of the sex industry. Most aren’t as lucky. Drug abuse and suicide are high occurrences.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI are working alongside local, state, and other federal law enforcement agencies, and victim-based advocacy groups participate in over 30 task forces in the country. The best way to combat the sex trafficking in Atlanta is to report any suspicious activity.

Jane said that might have helped her.

“The neighbors saw me living with a group of men, and they never questioned it. They thought nothing like slavery could ever happen next door. If they would have just picked up the phone…my life could have been…different.”


Editor’s note: Jane’s name has been changed in this article to protect her identity and privacy.