Rotarians recruit local students to fight child exploitation

Scourge exists throughout North Fulton



JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – There are child predators living in Johns Creek who pay pimps to furnish them with middle school and high school students to satisfy their appetites.

Johns Creek Rotary Club North Fulton President Bob MacDonald said that situation is unacceptable in Johns Creek or anywhere else. He and fellow Rotarians are going to attack the problem through education in the high schools and middle schools using those schools’ Rotary-affiliated Interact Clubs to get the message out.

At a Sept. 16 organizational meeting among elected officials, school officials and students, the Rotary Club brought in some of the forces fighting this scourge. This includes bringing in Atlanta-based Street Grace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic minor sex trafficking.

Johns Creek police officer W.A. Ware spoke to the group, verifying that sex trafficking in Johns Creek is a serious and ongoing problem.

Johns Creek Rotary President Bob McDonald said he wants schools to play an active role in fighting the sexual exploitation of children by serving as messengers of where and how to fight that living nightmare.

“We need to raise awareness among these kids,” MacDonald said. “They need to know what will happen to them and how it happens. We need to give students the information that will help these young people escape from this kind of life. The average age for a girl’s experience of trafficking is 12 to 14 years old.”

He said these victims will open up to their peers far more quickly than they will to school counselors or teachers.

Street Grace is working with Rotary and the schools to educate the population about the problem and its scope. The facts are sobering.

Street Grace President and CEO Bob Rodgers said each night 300 minors are sold for sex by their pimps. Some 7,200 men in Georgia will attempt to purchase sex from a minor. That is how pervasive the problem is.

“The trade is not centered around Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport as so many think. It only accounts for about 9 percent of the trade,” Rodgers said. “A big part of the problem is no one talks about it. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is it is not happening in our town.”

The largest segment of exploitation occurs outside I-285 along the Cobb-North Fulton crescent. That is where the disposable income is.

“The average age for a girl’s first experience being sold is between 12 and 14,” he said.

Jennifer Duncan, director of outreach for Street Grace said there is an acute need to raise awareness among students starting in middle school.

Parents hand them the perfect tool for getting seduced into that seedy world – the cell phone.

“Many times the kids are lured into doing the stupid things kids do. They get talked into sending nude pictures of themselves or videos doing suggestive dances,” she said.

Next, they are being blackmailed with the threat the pictures will posted on the school website or to their parents, she said.

The average take for a child trafficker is $33,000 a week. Traffickers will do whatever it takes to keep clients satisfied with younger girls or boys.

Rodgers said the key to reducing the exploitation is to reduce the demand – the buyer. There needs to be tougher penalties and more vigorous prosecutions.

“This crime thrives on secrecy and anonymity,” he said.

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