Unsafe in Our Own Skin


When I was 11 years old, I received my first cell phone and I downloaded Instagram for the first time. Within a month of me having the social media platform on a public setting, I received a direct message from an unknown man asking personal questions about me like where I was from, how old I was, who my friends were, etc. As soon as my parents went through my phone, they converted my account to private, blocked the user, and reported the account. If my parents hadn’t gone through my phone and seen those messages, I could be another statistic of human trafficking. 

 Georgia has one of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the United States with 3.88 victims per 100,000. Human trafficking occurrences have consistently climbed, with 98 reported cases in 2012 to 276 in 2017. In a five-year span, the Atlanta trafficking industry went from being worth $232 million to $290 million, more than the revenue generated by metro Atlanta’s illegal drug and gun trade combined. 

Georgia has been considered a human trafficking hub since 2005. This is an issue I feel very connected to. Have you ever been followed around in a mall or had to worry about being abducted in a parking lot? I have and I bet many other girls have faced these situations. Many people will overlook me based on my age (13), gender (female), or size (5’8).  Meanwhile, those exact same attributes are what attract sex traffickers. Georgia may be a hub for sex trafficking, but it doesn’t stop here; Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh are in the top 10 for countries with the largest number of trafficking victims around the world. India is at the top of the list with 14 million victims, China comes in second with 3.2 million victims, and Pakistan comes in at third with 2.1 million victims. 

In 2016, the International Labor Organization estimated that there were 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally according to ACI Insights . Twenty-five percent of those victims were children. Additionally, seventy-five percent trafficked victims were women and girls. 

In the U.S., there are more than 50,000 individual victims trafficked into our country each year, many of which are through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  When I get older, I want to travel, whether it is for a job or pleasure.  Airports are one of my favorite places to be. However safe, traveling requires people to take more precautions and be aware of your surroundings.  At Hartsfield, human trafficking signs are in all the restrooms with hotlines to help detect and prevent the victimization.  When I go places older men look at me, no matter what I’m wearing.  I can’t stop to wonder if it is because they want to harm me, take me away from my family, or are just dirty old men? NO ONE should have to live with the fear of constantly being followed or watched! It’s not normal to constantly look over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t followed, but for some reason I do. 

I want to to fight against human trafficking! I try to remind myself and friends not to accept friend requests on social media if they don’t know the individual, don’t meet up with strangers, stay with friends when out in public, and never leave a friend behind.  I may not be able to do a lot now, but someday I may travel to third world countries where human trafficking has the highest rates and bust a big operation. I may become an FBI agent assigned to a human trafficking task force.  Even if I take a safer career path, I will always spread awareness and try my best to help bring human trafficking to an end.