January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

The month is dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking, otherwise known as modern slavery.

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice found at least 100,000 to 300,000 youth are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation annually in the U.S.

There is a misconception that human trafficking does not happen here, but as our sister paper The Valdosta Daily Times reported, “sex trafficking is real,” said Ashley Lindsay of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Lowndes County.

The FBI has identified Atlanta as among 14 cities with the highest incidence of sex trafficking activity in the U.S., according to state officials.

Many people think a victim must cross the border for the crime to be considered trafficking, but that is not the case, officials say.

Another misconception is victims are always physically restrained, but many times the victim is detained through mental coercion. Victims fear being without food, shelter and other resources if they leave those who are trafficking them.

The Treehouse, Thomas County’s children’s advocacy, works to reduce trauma for sexual assault survivors. They also can put victims in touch with Georgia Cares and victims advocates at the district attorney’s office. They can help victims get resources they need. Victims can reach the center by calling (229) 236-5437.

January became National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month following a Dec. 28, 2016 proclamation signed by President Barack Obama.

The proclamation read: “Our nation wrestled with the issue of slavery in a way that nearly tore us apart — its fundamental notion in direct contradiction with our founding premise that we are all created equal ... But today, in too many places around the world — including right here in the United States — the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric.”

In Georgia, first lady Marty Kemp is co-chair of the GRACE Commission. The Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education Commission was created to thwart the threat of human trafficking in the state. The commission is made up of public officials, law enforcement, for-profit and non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions, and subject matter experts.

We urge anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or anyone who believes they may be witnessing a case of human trafficking to contact authorities for help.

To report human trafficking, call 911 or the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services at 1-855-422-4453.

The Thomas County 911 Center is available at (229) 227-3376.

A simple phone call could save a life, could free a life.

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