Approximately 7,200 men in Atlanta knowingly and/or unknowingly purchase sex from underage females each month according to a study conducted by The Schapiro Group. The same study revealed that approximately 400 adolescent girls are exploited each month to fulfill this demand.
“Pimps require that these girls meet a quota of $1,000 per night which is generally between ten and fifteen men a night,” said Pattie Harrelson, director of residential services, communications and events at Out of Darkness. Out of Darkness is a local nonprofit organization devoted to combating human trafficking by providing 24-hour response to trafficking victims. Their services include victim rescue and safe accommodations for transition as well as identification of physical and internet sites where children are being sold for sex, exploiters who are selling them and johns who are buying them.
According to Harrelson, the average age of exploited girls is 12. Harrelson, a visual artist who graduated from Florida State University, got involved with the cause against human trafficking six years ago after reading “Not For Sale,” a book outlining human trafficking or what is commonly referred to as the modern day slave trade. Harrelson was so moved by the book that she hosted a gathering at her house to educate her friends about the issue.
“For the event, I painted an art piece of a girl who was bound at the hands as a way to express my anger,” Harrelson explained. “The painting was inspired by a girl who had been trafficked over and over. Her captors would keep her in a hotel room. They literally bound her with duct tape and kept her beneath the bed frame in a box. They would get her out for clients. That just tore me up that this existed and I didn’t know anything about it.”
According to Women’s Funding Network, an organization who supports women’s issues around the world, the words “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking” typically conjure images of an overseas sex trade involving foreign women and children who are brought into the United States for sexual exploitation. The truth is that Americans are trafficking other Americans in the form of sex acts for pay and video-recorded sex acts.
“If a girl runs away from home, within 72 hours there is a 90 percent chance that she’s going to be picked up by a trafficker. That’s just how prevalent the traffickers are,” said Harrelson. Whereas, in the past, Georgia law enforcement focused primarily on arresting exploited girls, HB 200 or the Human Trafficking Bill signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal in 2011, punishes those who coerce and exploit children. Harrelson and Out of Darkness say that more needs to be done to target the demand side.
“We feel that teen pornography is a part of why demand is so high,” said Harrelson. “About half of our middle school boys are addicted to porn and they are able to download content onto to their smartphones. A middle school boy is going to be drawn to a girl who is their own age. Men search out internet porn for whatever reason and often want to watch younger girls. After a while, it gets to the point where watching just isn’t good enough.” Currently, there are no laws or safeguards in place which limit the access to porn on smartphones.
Xvideos, the largest porn site on the Web with 4.4 billion page views per month, is three times the size in page numbers of CNN or ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit as reported by Extreme Tech, a community of experts who study trends in the world of technology. “Are we, in America, creating our own predators and I would absolutely say yes, we are creating our own predators,” Harrelson said.
For more information about sex trafficking and the fight to end child exploitation, visit http://www.outofdarkness.org.