Southwest Georgia runaways possibly teen trafficking victims
The FBI has named Atlanta as one of the 14 cities in the nation highest incidences of children used in prostitution. Amy Boney at Lily Pad says many cases in Atlanta are runaways from Southwest Georgia.
"A lot of people think it's a big city problem. What people don't realize is how many children run from South Georgia to areas like Atlanta, L.A. and are then very quickly swooped up into the sex trafficking trade," says Boney.
Data from the Governor's Office for Children and Families shows 306 adolescent girls are trafficked in Georgia's sex trade via the internet.
"These perpetrators are able to key into an anonymous world through false names, false email addresses, public computers ... it's very difficult to try to track them," says Boney.
"We really need some type of legislation that maybe not controls the internet but where there is punishment for these types of websites that continually allow these violations," says Capt. Craig Dodd of the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.
Capt. Dodd says Atlanta is the human trafficking hub of the east coast. He says many 16- and 17-year-old runaways from Southwest Georgia get off their bus, train or airplane and end up on sites like Craigslist or Backpage.com, being sold as escorts to adults.
"They're going out into a very dangerous world. It's a world where there's nobody looking out for them. They often fall prey to these types of individuals," says Dodd.
Boney says sex trafficking is happening on other popular sites as well. She says victims have come to her after being exploited by people they met on MySpace.
"And eventually over a short period of time these perpetrators build a lot of trust with these young girls and show up at their homes and either take them from their homes to sexually assault or sexually assault them right there in their own yard or own bedroom," says Boney.
Boney says when Lily Pad talks with victims of sexual abuse and even trafficking, the group works closely with the Dougherty County Police Department.