By Elaine Rackley (80)
As of Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Sex trafficking has maneuvered its way into Georgia, but there is an organization in Henry County working to rescue victims of the sex trade.
“We rescue American girls who are victims of prostitution, commercial exploitation and sex trafficking,” said the executive director and founder of Living Water for Girls, Lisa Williams. “When we first opened Living Water for Girls, our first three referrals were from Henry County.”
Living Water for Girls is a private, non-profit, faith-based agency that provides services to American girls (ages 12 to 17). There is a residential facility in the greater Atlanta area, which houses 10 girls at a time. It provides individual, family and group counseling, along with medical, dental, and mental health services, equine therapy, performance art therapy, home school education, and life-skills training.
The group hosted “Freedom and Expression: A Celebration of Girls, Freedom and the Arts,” last Sunday in Atlanta. The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, an organization founded in 1979, and has the largest sex trafficking hotline for victims in North America. It receives over 10,000 calls per year, according to Lee.
Lee knows what Williams has done, and came to Atlanta to honor Williams. “[She] is one of America’s natural resources, required to rescue American children from prostitution … She is about saving the individual child, even if that requires sitting down and combing lice out of their hair,” said Lee.
Williams said there are so many victims of sex trafficking, but most of the time, people do not report what they see, although they may find a scenario disturbing. “If it seems suspicious, or disturbing to you enough to make you stop and think, and it should,” she said, “pick up your cell phone and call 911 and say, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but she looks like she’s only 13-years-old, something is not right, can you come and check it out.’
“That could be the phone call that saves her life,” Williams said during a recent interview at her church, McDonough Christian.
Williams began the rescue group in 2007, with the blessing of her pastor at McDonough Christian Church, Paul Leslie. “He said, ‘Our arms are all around it, tell me what you need us to do, and we will do it, ’” recalled Williams.
She said others often tell her they do not have the same problems as most major cities, such as Atlanta. She said she then explains that if their community has human beings, and access to the Internet, they have the same sex trafficking issues.
“Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean that it’s not there,” said Williams. “The truth of the matter is, that you can buy and sale girls and boys over the Internet, in as little as three minutes, and people do,” she said.
“The problem is that people do see young children out on the street at night perhaps dressed inappropriately, and they may wonder why is she out here this late at night, and they may find what they saw disturbing, but they keep on going, and forget about what they saw,” she said.
Child victims of sex trafficking for prostitution, have sex with 20 to 30 men per night, according to Williams. “They are not having sex with her, they are raping her,” explained Williams.
She said there are times when young victims are kept in deplorable conditions by their pimps. They are handcuffed to beds, or kept inside a dog cage, and some are branded with dollar signs, or “property of” tattoos.
“These things are done to remind the young girls they are moneymakers,” said Williams. “If they defy their pimp, they are gang raped by other pimps, to remind them they are not in control.
“Three of the worst things that can happen to a child is molestation, rape –– and inaction,” she added. “Let us not be guilty of inaction.”