The Jan. 22 rape and sexual assault of Jasmine Eiland, streamed worldwide on a Facebook Live broadcast from midtown Atlanta’s Opera nightclub in late January, sparked a series of concerns for Atlanta residents and visitors in the lead-up to Super Bowl LIII.

As many as 169 people were arrested for participating in sex trafficking crimes during the 11-day sting operation during Super Bowl LIII, the FBI announced. This included 26 traffickers and 34 individuals attempting to engage in sexual acts with a minor.

Nine juvenile sex-trafficking victims were recovered with the youngest being a 14-year-old, and nine adult human sex trafficking victims were identified. The sting was conducted by the Violent Crimes Against Children/Human Trafficking Program and Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force or MATCH.

Twenty-five local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and district attorney officers along with several non-government organizations collaborated to bring perpetrators of human or sex trafficking to justice.

Eiland, who was in town to celebrate her birthday weekend, was attacked by a stranger on the dance floor and then sexually assaulted on the night club’s patio, according to Atlanta police.

Eiland’s alleged assailant, Dominique Williams, has been charged with aggravated sodomy and rape. Williams, a 34-year-old Atlanta native, was indicted by a grand jury on March 29. As Williams remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond.

Eiland’s attorney, Chris Stewart, said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the indictment was “another step toward justice and protecting women in Atlanta.”  

The National Human Trafficking Hotline defines human trafficking as “a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

Approximately 374 girls are commercially sexually exploited monthly in Georgia, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Public Policy Studies. Atlanta was one of the 14 cities in the United States with the highest rates of minor sex trafficking according to the FBI.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City of Atlanta was awarded a Pathways to Freedom grant last February to create a framework to end sexual exploitation in the city. Chicago and Minneapolis were also among the cities selected to receive the Pathways to Freedom grant.

Warnock said she is working with leaders in law enforcement, housing, health care, and community leaders to help identify solutions to end the vicious cycle of people who become victims to the sex business including people of color, immigrants, indigenous populations, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, and those who are struggling with addictions.

This year, Pathways to Freedom has partnered with The NoVo Foundation in the effort to end human and sex trafficking. The NoVo Foundation, founded by Jennifer and Peter Buffett in 2006 in New York City, centers around protecting the lived experiences of girls and women from the most marginalized communities.

The foundation’s 10 years of listening and partnership with survivors found that the vast majority of girls and women enter the sex trade because of on-ramps into exploitation such as poverty, violence, discrimination, and moments when systems fail them, like school expulsion or lack of housing.

NoVo announced in February its new program, “The Life Story Grants,” a $10 million, 3-year commitment for programs in the U.S that open exit ramps and close on-ramps to commercial sexual exploitation.

NoVo’s “Life Story” program is in the process of reviewing letters of Inquiry for grants across six system-focused “moments,” including Housing, Medical Needs, Law Enforcement, Trauma and Mental Health, Immigration, and Systems Impacting Youth. The grants will range from $100,000-$600,000 per year for 1-3 years.

Through NoVo, survivors have been able to share that their pathways into the sex trade—also referred to as “the Life”— began long before the first time they had to exchange sexual acts in order to meet basic needs. They reported that if it weren’t for these systemic inequities, they would never have had to do so.

“From day one we’ve known that such a world depends fundamentally ending all forms of violence and discrimination against all girls and all women everywhere and this includes the violence of commercial sexual exploitation,” explained Pamela Shifman, executive director for The NoVo Foundation. “We know that if sexual exploitation thrives on systems failures, then systems-based solutions can create lasting change and are the key to ending commercial sexual exploitation.”

Eiland remains vigilant. “I figured that if I had not come forward and put my face forward, what would the next woman do,” she said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

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