Columbus community discusses preventing sexual exploitation of children

Published: Apr. 19, 2016 at 11:16 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2016 at 11:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The city of Columbus is getting a lesson on how to handle child sex trafficking.

People from across the state of Georgia participated in a community roundtable at the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road on Tuesday to learn more about this issue and how to handle it.

While a lot of the resources to help child sex trafficking victims are available in the metro Atlanta area, several groups are working to find solutions to help and prevent sexual exploitation of children in the Chattahoochee Valley area.

Georgia ranks high on the list for sex trafficking with authorities working nearly 500 cases a month most of those n Atlanta.

But Columbus is experiencing its own share of sex trafficking crimes involving minors.

"The more awareness we have, the more we are able to educate, what to look for and what questions to ask and how to help victims understand that they are victims, the more we are going to really see and realize we really have trafficking here," said Bobbi Starr, Team Lead for Set Free Columbus.

Set Free Columbus is a ministry that seeks to end human trafficking-specifically commercial sexual exploitation of children.

"These kids have been stigmatized for so long-that they are just bad kids and they come from the wrong side of the tracks. So getting the conversation started has taken a really long time," said Starr.

To help with their goal, they brought together law enforcement, health officials, social work groups and the faith-based community to discuss the issue locally. Camila Wright has prosecuted more than 30 human trafficking cases in Georgia.

"The girls and boys that they sell are the commodity they are selling. And they are going to do whatever they can to sell and exploit their vulnerabilities and make money. But it's a business and a demand side of it. The demand  is from those who purchase sex," said Camila Wright, Human Trafficking prosecutor for the Georgia Attorney General Office.

Human sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollars business in Georgia.

Set Free Columbus also wants to house victims of sex trafficking in a safe environment, where they can restore and rebuild their lives.

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