With Atlanta being one of the FBI's 14 U.S. cities with the highest rate of children used in sex trafficking — many of whom are transferred to another county or state, according to the Center for Public Policy Studies — the congregants of Ringgold United Methodist Church are taking matters into their own hands.
RUMC is hosting a domestic sex trafficking awareness event Sunday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. to discuss the tragic reality of child exploitation in the state of Georgia, and what members of the community can do to help reduce the numbers.
"We must be more aware of what is passing through our communities so that we can work together to stop DMST," said RUMC youth minister Bobby Fleck.
At the event, Street Grace, a Georgia-based nonprofit that works to raise national awareness of domestic minor sex trafficking, as well as representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement will be on-hand to provide information as well as feedback to questions.
Fleck said he realized North Georgians needed a night of awareness after attending a similar event and having his own eyes opened. He and his wife Tiffany have been aware of the global problem for years, following Tiffany's time in Thailand working in a rescue house for sex traffic victims, but it's not a problem that exists solely outside U.S. borders.
According to Street Grace, 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being victimized by DMST in the U.S. every year. In Georgia alone, 12,400 men pay for sex with a minor in any given month, the Center for Public Policy Studies reports.
"As a father of three girls, I am appalled that even my children are vulnerable to DMST," Fleck said. "I am hopeful that as we become more aware of what is happening, we can better fight this evil."
The event is free and open to the public. In addition to statistics and what is being done to fight DMST, attendees will learn how they, too, can help.
Register at myrumc.org. RUMC is at 7484 Nashville St.
Email Alexandra Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.