ATLANTA (CBS46) –
With Atlanta being dubbed the “sex trafficking capital of the U.S.”, many city and state officials have come together to tackle the problem.
“I moved out of my parent’s house abruptly when I moved in with him, so I moved all my things into his hotel room and then a few short hours later I was turning tricks,” Alexa Taylor said.
Taylor took us on a trip down memory lane, but the stories were dark. Many of them highlighted in this book memoirs of a teen sex trafficked.
She said it all began with her feeling unloved and turning to the internet to fill the void.
“I met my first boyfriend when I was 15,” Taylor said. “We dated for a few months then broke up. We rekindled our relationship and he introduced me to sex trafficking. I was getting in and out of cars with people I didn’t know. It was definitely nerve wracking. I had never even walked in heals before”
That boyfriend was a grown man, much older than Taylor. It’s a situation Jeff Shaw from the Out of the Dark Outreach Program said is common.
“The average age of recruitment in the U.S is 11-14 years old,” he said. “Social media is a huge area and we have to be aware and we have to be couching young people how to be safe and how to not meet up with strangers.”
According to statistics, more than 100,000 kids were trafficked in 2017. Because of Georgia’s proximity and international airport, officials said many of those children are either from here or brought here.
“It’s only mid-March and already we’ve received about 400 calls to our state-wide hotline number, and that has resulted in almost 150 referrals for youth,” said Heather Stockdale with Georgia Cares. “And now typically we would be seeing those numbers in like May of the year but it’s happening much quicker this year so we are trying to keep pace with staffing to meet the demands”
That increase has helped the state become what some call the U.S. the sex trafficking hub. Stockdale with Georgia Cares, the only statewide victim service for trafficked youth, said everyone should be vigilant in spotting the signs.
“Children that have actually been trafficked would be in new shoes, new clothes or have cash but they can’t explain where they got it from,” she said. “One thing that we typically say is a significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend. You and I both know that a 35 year old has no business being with a 16-year-old girl and that’s not her boyfriend like she thinks might be.”
As for Taylor, she said she’s sharing her story in hopes of dispelling the myths about sex trafficking and possibly prevent teens from entering the lifestyle.
“A lot of people assume sex trafficking is just like something that happens overseas or they think it happens to people that are not from good economic status,” Taylor said. “I’m from a really good family and a really good part of town. “Everyone in my family has gone to good Ivy League schools.”