Clayton school counselor joining fight against 'sex trade'

Kemp Elementary Primary Counselor Annette McCraw said she jumped at the opportunity, when she was sent information on an upcoming seminar addressing "Human Trafficking."

McCraw said she attended the first session of a four-part training seminar on the topic, "Atlanta's Human Trafficking Problem," that was sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education.

"It's reported that approximately 5,000 girls a year are believed to be at risk to be trafficked in Georgia," McCraw said.

The fist part of the series, held last week, only addressed human trafficking on the international level, she said. McCraw said two detectives from Scotland Yard, in London, England –– who are part of law enforcement's International Human Trafficking Team –– presented information on how individuals, particularly children, are sold into sex slavery. They showed video clippings of actual victims of sex rings, she said.

McCraw noted that, during the presentation, the detectives said children as young as 8 years old are sold into sex slavery. She said youths, who are either runaways, or in the foster care system, are the primary targets of sex-trafficking rings, and that more girls than boys are victims.

"... Girls [who are victims] often seek out other young girls, and lie to them about a glamorous life," McCraw said. "Then, these girls find themselves enslaved."

She added that the detectives said some children are even tattooed or branded by their pimps to show ownership.

According to an Atlanta web site set up to combat human sex trafficking, Atlanta Magazine named the City of Atlanta as "Sex City," the capital of sexual exploitation in the United States. Atlanta is also known as the No. 1 "hub" of human trafficking and child-sex exploitation in the country, according to the web site.

The web site also said that it is a regular occurrence for men to travel to Atlanta to have sex with children. The men, the web site said, are picked up at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by a pimp, who takes them to have sex with a child sex slave. Once the arranged sexual encounter is over, the men are taken back to the airport to fly home.

To help put an end to children being trafficked, McCraw said, she has joined the Georgia Task Force. "I'm very excited," she said, "it's something I always wanted to [do.]"

Before becoming a school counselor for the Clayton County School System, McCraw worked for the Atlanta Job Corps program. During her time there, she would hear stories of young women turning up missing. "I heard of rings of people doing [sexual acts] with girls –– I thought it was atrocious," said McCraw.

She said that experience was a major reason she wanted to get involved with the Georgia Task Force. "My job is to empower youths, and help them grow to be successful," she said.

The next seminar will take a local focus, concentrating on human trafficking in Georgia, aiming to help educators identify key indicators of possible human sex trafficking activities, as well as trafficking victims in schools.

This seminar will be held in December, she said. To get more details about the seminars, McCraw said, visit the Georgia Department of Education's web site at www.gadoe.org.