I have become more aware of the industry of sex trafficking as a result of living in metro Atlanta. What sex trafficking really involves sank in deeply when I saw the movie Taken in 2008. It is horrifying to know that this is going on all over the world. It is especially atrocious knowing it’s in my backyard and possibly being participated in by people in my own neighborhood.
Having a daughter and knowing that children her age and younger are being abused is a big impetus in my desire to be involved in fighting sex trafficking. I do not want her or any of her friends (or anyone at all, really) to become a victim of this terrible industry. It’s a very real threat. Statistics state that every month 7,200 men in Georgia purchase sex from a minor. Another study found that 65% of men who purchase sex with children live in suburban areas (outside of I-285). That is my area.
I have continued to think about why this issue strikes so close to home. Being a woman (80% of victims are women), a mother of a daughter, and living in Atlanta should be reason enough to want to be involved. I very recently realized that I also care as much as I do because there’s a possibility that I could have become a statistic myself.
I studied abroad for a semester during my junior year of college. I lived in Santander, Spain and took trips around the country and to a few other countries with fellow students during my stay. One of our class trips took us to Barcelona and all of its amazing architecture. I had a very bizarre encounter while we were touring Guell Park. Below is my journaled account and a few photos of that day.
November 9, 2002, age 20
I was walking around with [a fellow study abroad student] and then she headed up the stairs and I went straight. This older man (60s) asked me if I was Spanish and then asked me a few other questions. He asked me if I had seen the Gaudi museum here and I said that I didn’t know where it was. He said he’d show me and tried to take my hand but I refused. So he ended up grabbing my arm and heading toward some stairs. I was a little weirded out but then thought maybe he was just being friendly. [Why I thought some random man grabbing me and leading me in an unknown direction – which I just now realized was the opposite direction from my friend – wasn’t something to get away from fast, I don’t know.]
He asked me if I was here alone and I said I was with a group. We chatted while we walked. That question got me wondering what was up so I made sure we were around people. While we walked he’d kind of squeeze my arm like he was trying to feel it. I wasn’t sure what was going on but was really feeling quite uncomfortable. I was trying to figure out how I was going to be able to break away from him when [someone from our group] called my name and I saw her and [another student]. So I told the guy that they were my friends and broke away. I walked up to them and have no idea where he went. I didn’t see him again the rest of the time we were there. [The girl who called my name] said that they had seen me and followed us because they thought something wasn’t quite right. I am so glad they did.
Sure it doesn’t seem like anything really bad could have happened because he was older, but there is always the possibility that he did have some motive and was doing some sort of thing with other, younger people. I had only thought about the possibility of being robbed, but so much more could have happened. And I am in a foreign country. That’s way too scary. Maybe my thoughts are way out there, but I don’t know what the guy was thinking. I am always trying not to offend people. I think in this type of situation I just need to tell people I’m not comfortable because, I mean, I don’t know them. If they are normal people they should understand just fine. I really don’t want to think about what kind of danger I might have been getting into innocently.
I will thankfully never know what might have happened. At that time I didn’t even know trafficking was a thing. Now that I know, I want it to stop. There are many ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking. There are a number of organizations one can partner with and opportunities to spread awareness in the community.
Last year I partnered with Dressember. I wore a dress every day in December and shared facts, information, and companies whose profits fight trafficking or who employ survivors of trafficking. This year I will once again be donning dresses in December to continue to raise awareness and funds. I would love it if you would consider joining me in this cause by either participating with me or donating to my campaign. Last year my goal was $1000 and I reached it, thanks to my many wonderful sponsors! This year my goal is $2000. Please help me achieve my goal!