By Jeffrey Davis
With April being Anti-Child Sexual Abuse month and March having been Women’s History Month, members of the Dunwoody Student Government Association and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society held “The Truth about Modern Day Slavery” discussion panel on March 29th.
SGA Senator Christine Becker, a former missionary for the Wellspring Living Center, helped to create the event because she wanted to continue the discussion of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) at GPC.
Becker personally worked for three years fighting against CSEC in foreign countries, such as Australia and Mexico. Her continued efforts to fight against CSEC as a student at GPC include attempting to create anti-human trafficking clubs, with the help of the Wellsprings Living Center, on the different GPC campuses. These clubs would be able to sponsor events that could help raise more awareness about human trafficking and CSEC in the Atlanta area.
The guest panelists included: Angela Williams and Tom Scales of the Voice Today organization, the Governor’s Board of CSEC, Debbie Cannon of the Out of Darkness organization and Merideth Thomas of the Wellsprings Living Center.
The discussion kicked off with a video from the Wellspring Living Center that helped to clarify many misconceptions about CSEC in the Metro Atlanta area. According to the video, most of the victims of CSEC were not just young foreign nationals but also included a majority of native Georgians from the Atlanta area.
The CSEC industry has been proven difficult to fight against because the young children that fall victim are manipulated by their pimps to prevent them from reaching out for help from either the police.
The Out of Darkness organization has had great success with the rescue of six CSEC victims since last December.
According to Cannon, 90 percent of the girls that are CSEC victims were originally runaways, but now pimps have begun recruiting young girls at malls, schools, and many other places in broad daylight. These pimps have even used the internet to recruit children for this illegal industry.
The average age of the girls that are dragged in to CSEC are fourteen years old, with many of them not living for more than seven years.
Roughly 43 percent of the pimps that partake in this crime come from north of the perimeter of Atlanta.
According to Voice Today’s panelists, there are 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse. The effects of the sexual abuse leave the survivors feeling “dirty, damaged, and devalued,” which leads to the repression of their abuse experiences.
Among families where sexual abuse cases have happened, the family denies any wrong-doing by the accused member of the family.
Such acts of sexual abuse within families cause many children to run away from their homes and become caught up into the CSEC industry, with 60 percent of CSEC victims becoming prostitutes before their 18th birthdays.
Tom Scales stated that, “by putting human trafficking out of business, the amount of CSEC incidents will dramatically fall.”
Another issue within the CSEC discussion was the problem of young boys also being brought into the sexual exploitation business. Boys have more difficulty with reaching out for help because of society’s roles and stereotypes about males.
Scales said, “We are not talking to just students; we are talking to future parents.”
The Wellsprings Living Center helps to offer a place for girls and women that have not only been victims of CSEC, but also victims of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.
Merideth Thomas, a missionary with the Wellsprings Living Center, stated that the girls that live in their center are CSEC victims between the ages of 12 to 17, while the women that live at the center are between eighteen to thirty five.
The Wellsprings Living Center helps these young girls by providing a safe place for them to live at, instead of sending them back to the families they ran away from to escape sexual abuse. This center is the largest of its kind and is funded through donations and its thrift shop.