Emmy Award-winning television journalist Shaun Robinson has put human traffickers at the top of her Most Wanted List. More than that, however, Robinson is fighting to rescue the girls and young women these depraved traffickers are buying and selling like so many bags of potato chips.
Robinson brought her S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls program, “The Empowered Girl: How NOT to be a Victim of Human Trafficking” to Spelman College’s Sisters Chapel, where three valiant women recalled horrors so intense, so disturbing that it reduced Robinson and members of the audience to tears throughout the program.
“As you know, Atlanta is considered to be, according to statistics, to be the No. 1 city with the problem of human trafficking,” Robinson said. “There is no better place than Spelman College, my alma mater, to hold this forum. Because even at colleges, there are people on college campuses preying on young girls.”
Human sex trafficking is another brutal form of slavery, and it has quietly become a greater epidemic in America than opioid addiction.
By the thousands, young, scared prepubescent girls are forced to engage in sexual intercourse multiple times a day, every day, for years. And it is happening when a young girl is kidnapped and manipulated into engaging in sexual acts against their will.
Many people are scared of being captured and trafficked when visiting foreign countries, but human trafficking is a skyrocketing enterprise right here in the United States.
Last year, there were more than 5,000 reported victims in California. It has become a billion-dollar industry and is ranked right under drug trafficking in world crime.
In fact, Robinson said that trafficking in young girls (and boys) has become so popular and profitable and positive on the risk-reward scale that some human predators have discarded the drug game altogether for trafficking in humans.
“Drug traffickers are moving out of drugs and into sex trafficking because it’s harder to get caught in sex trafficking and a lot of times, the women won’t testify,” said Robinson, also adding that it is easier to justify to the police having a young girl in the car than it is to explain away stacks of cocaine. “There are stories of traffickers getting a million dollars a year with four women.”
As Robinson greeted the crowd, three human tragedies sat stoically up on stage at Spelman College, their meticulously applied makeup and neat dresses helping to camouflage the deep emotional wounds these women suffered after spending years the victims of sex traffickers.
One victim of sex trafficking had the audience transfixed as she wove a harrowing tale of being beaten and forced to have sex with three or four different men a night — every night — and had been chased down, set on fire, thrown out of moving cars and other forms of violence when she disobeyed or tried to leave.
Another woman, raised in a strict religious home and yet got addicted to the ATL’s world famous strip culture because of the easy money, peeled back the cover of strip clubs to uncover a wretched, grotesque, blood-curdling underbelly.
She told of how one innocent stripper had her eye put out because of violence, and how another woman needed reconstructive facial surgery because she was beaten until she was unrecognizable by a customer inside the strip club’s VIP room — all while the club was packed.
Atlanta is the third stop in Robinson’s tour. She began in her hometown of Detroit and also held a sex trafficking forum in her adopted home of Los Angeles, two other cities where the illegal sale of girls have become an epidemic. More sobering is the fact that, despite its relatively small size, Atlanta has become the number one city in America for the predatory practice of trafficking.
“We have to get out of our heads that sex trafficking only happens in other countries,” said Robinson before talking about awareness and combating this crime wave saturating America’s landscape. “Number one is awareness, number two is knowing not only who your child’s friends are but who their friends’ friends are. Number three is making sure you have an open line of communication.”
Another way in which agencies, agents, and advocates are fighting back against trafficking is the growing awareness of the problem, coupled with the enforcement of laws that now have teeth.
“If an individual is charged with human trafficking, it is now a felony, versus in the past pimping was just a misdemeanor,” said panelist Renea Green of Georgia Bureau of Investigations Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit.
Also, the awareness of available resources or help centers for young women who may feel powerless, unloved and helpless to get out of the poisonous web they’ve gotten entangled in.
One of the victims, weary and worn out and war-torn from years on the streets, said she found Beloved Atlanta, founded by Amelia Quizz, after seeking temporary refuge at the Salvation Army. She counted her time at Beloved Atlanta as the catalyst for her “breakthrough.”
“They provided housing, transportation … I had no money, no food or anything. I had no diploma and they helped me get my G.E.D. And now I’m on my way.”
Robinson, best known for her 16-year run on “Access Hollywood,” is trying to give access to a better life to those young women and girls who may not have had the opportunities that Robinson was blessed with as an alumna of Spelman College — or those who may have taken a detour from the path to greatness and wound up on the streets, as one of the female survivors revealed.