ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - In the next two weeks, Georgia's First Lady plans to announce who will take part in a special commission created to address human trafficking in the state.
"People don't want to talk about, [be]cause they don't think it's going to happen to them," said Marty Kemp. "We've had it happen in Athens. We've had it happen in Atlanta personally, with people that I know and I'm close to in my staff. So, you know, it's right at our backdoor and we can't ignore it anymore."
Last month, Governor Brian Kemp signed an Executive Order creating the GRACE Commission. GRACE stands for Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education. Mrs. Kemp will co-chair the group, along with Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds and State House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton. The commission is tasked with meeting with law enforcement, public officials, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders to identify ways to reduce human trafficking in Georgia.
This week, Kemp visited Wellspring Living, a residential rehabilitation center in metro Atlanta for girls ages 12 to 17 who are sex trafficking survivors.
"It's so wonderful to have leadership recognize the issue and then partner with not just with non-profits, but also those that are in government agencies and having them come to the table and coming up with a solution together, and then we'll all be better," said Wellspring Founder Mary Frances Bowley.
Wellspring also offers services for adult survivors as well as prevention education for students in vulnerable school populations.
The Gwinnett-based non-profit group Street Grace estimates that human trafficking in a $290 million industry in Georgia each year, though it is difficult to put exact numbers on the problem. According to the Cobb County District Attorney's Office, they had nine human trafficking cases in 2018. The Fulton County District Attorney's Office had 18.
"The girls and even the women that we've worked with will tell us of how many more are out here," said Bowley. "So, it's definitely a big issue and one that we just know has to end because no child, no person should ever be treated this way."
Mrs. Kemp said the GRACE Commission will have a multi-prong approach to dealing with the issue.
"Definitely prevention/awareness. I think is what I've listened to along the way, is huge," explained First Lady Kemp. "Then, of course, the victims, unfortunately, just giving them a better life, but completely holding bad actors accountable is critical, but just completely ending the evil industry is the ultimate goal."