I had the privilege to speak on a panel called The Intersection of Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking on Friday during the Netroots Nation conference. I was not familiar with the conference previously and came to understand it as fostering grassroots and collective action on a variety of serious civil and human rights issues facing our country and beyond. Joining me on the panel is Jewel Allen, a tireless advocate for victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse in Georgia, and Paula Amor, a victim of child rape and trafficking, who writes and speaks on the topic around the country.
I recently took a three-hour course on child sexual abuse and human trafficking since many, many trafficked girls especially come from homes or backgrounds typified by molestation or other abuse. So, I felt prepared to speak on the topic peripherally, at least. What I already knew is this: Atlanta is a trafficking hot bed because of its access to ports, the I-95 corridor and the world’s busiest airport. It’s a trifecta of misery for trafficking victims. And because I work in sports, I am aware of the very large opportunities for trafficking to flourish amongst a massive and transient customer base during two of the largest national sporting events the city will host in 2018 and 2019: The College Football Playoff National Championship and the Super Bowl.
Pimps will set up shop in any and all available spaces around metro Atlanta – motels, hotels, apartments and even million-dollar homes in the suburbs – to capitalize on the influx of potential clients. So, yes, I see a darkness descending around events that are supposed to bring joy and fun to the city. But, I also see opportunity to educate and raise awareness about trafficking in a way that no piecemeal efforts could ever accomplish.
The experience and the discussion began a flurry of thoughts and ideas in my head and I am hoping to get in front of some of the key planners for both events. Now, more than ever, event organizers are seeking ways to give back to the communities they visit. But they tend to stay on safe, feel good topics. Human trafficking is both seedy and heart breaking in the destruction it brings to victims and to our communities. In essence, it’s time to get real about real solutions and I’d be completely hypocritical not to make an attempt to get the conversation going. So, mark it down, I’m on the clock. Let’s see what inroads can be made.