Education and Raising Awareness of Sexual Exploitation is not going to be an easy event, but it's an important one, says organizer Marie DeRamus. Learning about child sexual exploitation is never easy. But it's an issue she wanted to alert the community about because it's so prevalent.
"Georgia is one of the leading states in the Southeast for sexual exploitation," says Deramus, who organized tonight's event with Ramona Lord and a seven-member committee. "Just recently there was a 13-year-old girl involved with a 40-year-old man. There was a prostitution ring in Commerce. It's moving further and further out from Atlanta."
Coming to tonight's meeting are representatives from three Atlanta non-profits, all of which work with children or women who have left or wish to leave the sex trade. BelovedAtlanta, 4Sarah.net and Wellspring seek to empower women and children involved in sex trafficking so they can regain a normal life. Also attending is Sara Thompson, a GBI agent who works in the child exploitation crimes unit., and Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.
"We want people to know what to look for and to
get involved in trying to make a difference," said DeRamus. "Human slavery goes on in the US, and today it’s sort of hidden. I'm talking about sexual exploitation as well as labor slavery."
DeRamus's church, Briarwood Baptist, is helping to sponsor the event, and the Applachee Baptist Association is renting the Oconee County Civic Center. A nurse as UGA's Health Center, DeRamus said she felt compelled to get involved after meeting a law student who planned to combat human trafficking.
"I first prayed about it," she said. "And then I felt I had to do more."