Speakers raise awareness about Atlanta sex trafficking


Photo credit Angela Qiu

Jamie Selby and Haley Vincent help expose human rights violations.

Sex trafficking, though it may seem like an issue that is worlds away, is more prevalent in Atlanta than in almost every other American city and leaves victims desperate for help. That was the message left by sophomores Jayme Selby and Haley Vincent, along with Youth Spark executive director, Sharon Joseph, in Thursday’s assembly.

The assembly proved eye-opening for students, most of whom did not know about the rampant trafficking that takes place in the city.

“I was aware of the issue on a global level, but was not aware that it was happening in Atlanta,” said sophomore Anish Dayal. “I thought it was a fantastic assembly and Haley’s personal stories from Calcutta definitely stuck with me.”

The assembly was an initiative of the Global Woman’s Club, a Westminster club founded by Selby and Vincent with the purpose of raising awareness. While the issue of sex trafficking is central to its mission, the club is focused on any issue pertaining to women’s rights.

“We want to start conversations and empower women in that way,” said Selby. “I think it says so much that young people are speaking out for people who don’t have a voice. I hope people in those situations see people speaking out for them and feel empowered and start helping out people who are in their situations too.”

Vincent first became interested in the issue of women’s rights and sex trafficking when she read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn for ninth grade summer reading.

“I started getting interested in fundraising and sold some hair ties at the Alternative Gift Fair at Westminster,” said Vincent.  “A few weeks later, I went onto my church’s website and they were advertising this mission trip to India. It happened to line up perfectly with our spring break.”

Furthermore, the issue of women’s rights, especially sex trafficking, has piqued Vincent’s interest.

“In Calcutta, we worked at the International Justice Mission with a lot of interns and fellows, who go to India for a year and work. There are many different aspects they participate in like legal, communications, etc.,” said Vincent. “I really hope to do that one day and eventually pursue a profession in this line of work.”

As for Selby, she became involved in fighting sex trafficking when she took an art history class.

“We were brainstorming about different ways we could get involved in the community,” said Selby. “Someone mentioned sex trafficking and I was really surprised that it happened in Atlanta. A couple weeks later I saw an article in the newspaper that was written by a close family friend, Sharon Joseph, the executive director of Youth Spark. I got an internship over the summer and became head of their Youth Spark Igniter group.”

During the assembly, Vincent told many stories about girls she met in India who were victims of sex trafficking. Vincent met many girls at the Hope Café, a Café that provided jobs for victims of sex trafficking.

“The little moments were the most impactful. When we went to the Hope Café, we were able to meet a girl named Priti. She had been trafficked but escaped and was able to get another girl out by going back and then catching a cab,” said Vincent.  “One of the friends I made in India had only been there for three months and you could tell she was very shy and hard to talk, but you can see the difference in girls who have been there for a couple of years and are really bold and outgoing. You can see the recovery.”

Vincent believes that focusing on the cases of the victims is the best way to go about addressing the problem.

“It’s important to have organizations that work with specific girls,” said Vincent, ‘taking their cases to court, making sure that their traffickers get sentences, and they get the aftercare that they need.”

Selby, on the other hand, thinks that awareness is the key to solving this global issue.

“When girls do run away and become involved in the situation, it’s really surprising to me that in a way they didn’t want to leave their so-called pimps,” said Selby. “People need to know that this is a possibility and that they can trust the police and not their pimps. Awareness is definitely the most important thing to change.”

According to Selby and Vincent, the Global Woman’s Club will be launching a number of initiatives this year to fight sex trafficking locally. Anyone interested in combating the issue should join the club, including those with no previous affiliation.

“We are going to do a lot of fundraising and trips through the Global Women’s Club as well as sell stuff at the Alternative Gift Fair,” said Vincent. “We really want more guys to sign up! Global Women’s Club means for women, not just for women members.”