I have decided to continue to display the pinwheel in my monthly articles as reminder of the great childhoods that all children deserve and the need to continue the conversation about the protection of children 365 days a year, and not just in April.
On April 18th, I attended the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy’s Change Makers Breakfast and was moved by the compelling story of the guest speaker, Rachel Thomas. Rachel, a beautiful young woman, is a survivor of sex trafficking. Rachel shared her story of growing up in California with her parents and sister. She came from a middle class family and had her sights set on attending college. She was accepted at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. and was thrilled to be living her best life. Rachel shared that one night while out with friends, she was approached by a man that introduced himself as a talent agent. He told her that she was beautiful and asked if she had ever considered being a model. Rachel had heard this line before and did not want to go down that road again. Later that same night she was approached by a young woman who shared that she was with the man that approached her, that he helped launch her own modeling career, and that she should consider his offer. She invited Rachel to join them in the VIP lounge where this man gave her his business card and asked her to call him. Rachel hesitated at first, but the next day she called the man and he shared how he could launch her modeling career. Fast forward. Rachel’s “career” started with professional photo shoots, later dancing in night clubs and then being led into sex trafficking. Rachel’s story left me and others in the room in awe of her courage. She contemplated suicide because the last thing she wanted to do was disappoint her parents. With the support of her parents, friends and her faith, she was able to help prosecute this criminal and begin the healing process. I shared Rachel’s story because this is the story of so many young men and women who are seeking fame and fortune and end up in despicable situations.
Accusations against R. Kelly sound very similar to Rachel’s story. R. Kelly would allegedly seek out young women, groom them with attention and suggest that he could help launch their music career. He would gain the trust of the parents of these young women and use this as an excuse to get permission to spend time alone with the young women. Then the isolation from family and friends would begin as well as the sexual abuse.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of children-The buying, selling or trading of sex acts with a minor (person under 18 years of age) also known as child sex trafficking
Human Trafficking-is modern day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. 85% of confirmed sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens and mostly runaway children.
Indicators of Commercial Sexual Exploitation:
Branding or tattooing; victim branded by their pimp with tattoos that include a male name, street name, gang or money symbols
An older boyfriend or male friend or relative
Hyper-vigilant or constantly on alert
Hostile or fearful toward those in position of authority
Withdrawn and uncommunicative
Possession of large amounts of money
Poor personal hygiene and/or inappropriate dress
Runaway or lack of adult supervision/support
Praise your child!!
Talk openly and often with your child
Stay interested in your child’s life
Give your child power over his/her own body
Be careful who you allow in your child’s life
Watch out for grooming behaviors, i.e. adults singling out your child with gifts, money, special privileges or just wanting to spend time alone with them
Do not allow your child to be in one-adult, one-child situations
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-843-5678)
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-373-7888); text 233733
Call to Action: What will you commit to doing this month to protect a child?
If a child is in immediate danger, please call 911. To report abuse or neglect in Georgia, please call the Georgia DFACS Call Center at 1-855-GACHILD (1-855-422-4453) 24 hours/7days a week
If you need help or a referral, please call 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373).
In His service,
Please feel free to contact Virginia for further information at [email protected]