Atlanta, GA (CBS46) Seventy-two school buses pulled out of Atlantic Station Wednesday morning headed to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
On the sides of each bus were messages against child sex trafficking. Each school bus represented 50 children being trafficked, bought, and sold for sex in Georgia.
The event called “Stop Trafficking” was hosted by the faith-based organization “Street Grace” in order to bring awareness to the perils of human trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl, which is sometimes considered a magnet for the crime.
Shemeka Dawson was once one of the children being sold into trafficking. Her abuse extended into adulthood, but today she is a survivor.
“I was an innocent child,” Dawson recalled. “A simple child playing in my front yard minding my own business. They did take advantage of my vulnerability,” she told CBS46’s Hayley Mason.
Dawson, now a mother and a local educator, is working with Street Grace to raise awareness for parents and their children.
“People who have ill-will or ill-intentions or hidden agendas or motives, they know what they are thinking, but the child doesn’t know,” Dawson said. “Parents have to keep their children safe. They have to educate them. It’s uncomfortable to talk about this, but it’s necessary to talk about it.”
She says Atlanta is a “nest egg” for trafficking criminals.
Governor-elect Brian Kemp says the City of Atlanta has become a hub for human trafficking.
Organizers with Street Grace say that 300 children are sold for sex every month in Georgia, and 7,200 men per month pay for sex with kids. Georgia is one of the worst states in the country for sex trafficking according to Street Grace. They are vowing to help make it one of the toughest states fighting against it and stamping out the demand.
“Innocent children are simply being sold for sex,” Kemp said. “Evil people are committing evil deeds all to turn a profit,” Kemp told the audience in the press event at Atlantic Station.
State lawmakers say they have worked to toughen to toughen the penalties for buyers and sellers. They are also connecting with airports, commercial transportation companies, schools, churches and social media to protect minors.
“Human trafficking and domestic minor sex trafficking will not be tolerated in the State of Georgia,” said Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula. “If you are a trafficker, an enabler, you get prison. If you are a victim, you get trauma-informed comprehensive treatment. That’s the message that we are here about today.”
Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.