Editor’s note: the following blog post was written by Bridget Smith, a policy and research intern at youthSpark. This summer Bridget is working on assessing Georgia’s policy gaps in combating youth sex trafficking, as well as helping to coordinate a research study on offenders.
As a rising senior at Elon University, I am in the process of figuring out what exactly I want to do with my life after graduation. Despite changing my planned career path several times already, the one thing that has remained consistent in my mind is the idea of promoting human rights. In order to hone this interest, I spent the spring of 2015 studying human rights and social justice in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, two of my classes in particular allowed me to explore different facets of international human rights and the ways in which individuals can help promote these rights.
The first was a class that focused specifically on human trafficking. We analyzed several international treaties related to trafficking, how different countries respond to trafficking, and how individuals and organizations can best help victims. Although I came away from this class disheartened by the overwhelming difficulty of combatting human trafficking, the class also gave me insight into the hopeful fields of policy and victim advocacy.
The other class was a study of migrant and refugee children in Europe that introduced me to international child advocacy issues, focusing on the rights of children involved in migration, trafficking, war, and child labor. We looked at relevant treaties, laws, and policies, and analyzed situations in which children experience exploitation.
These two classes struck a chord with me about the need for action to bring about the end of child sex trafficking. All around the world young girls are being sold or forced into the commercial sex industry, and human rights standards are being disregarded. I read about children being forced to work at brothels in Cambodia, children serving as sex slaves to warlords in Africa, and children being sold by their own parents for survival in many poor communities. However, child sexual exploitation and trafficking is certainly not only an international issue. It occurs domestically within the United States, and Atlanta, specifically, is a hub that experiences it at an alarming rate. Young girls in our own community are being exploited on a regular basis and organizations like youthSpark seek to put an end to sex trafficking in Atlanta.
This summer I am hoping to expand my knowledge on the domestic side of human trafficking by interning with youthSpark. Their dedication to ending trafficking, assisting survivors, and supporting at-risk youth takes an innovative and hopeful approach to reducing child exploitation and sex trafficking in Georgia, and I am excited to be a part of this mission.