To Whom it May Concern (which really is EVERYONE!):
My name is Rabbi Erin C. Boxt. I am one of the rabbis at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia. I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, attended the University of Georgia and then was ordained a rabbi by Rabbi David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Having been raised in the south, my values and ethical ideals have been shaped by so many types of people from different faiths, cultures, etc. However, there is one issue that I believe should be addressed - and SHOULD be important to everyone: Human Trafficking.
Yesterday, Sunday, November 4th, I attended a Human Trafficking Summit at The Temple in downtown Atlanta. I was extremely satisfied to see so many people present. However, I was also mortified that there were empty chairs. Truth is - no one building should have been able to house us. This is an issue that is of utmost importance and needs to be talked about - no matter how uncomfortable it is to talk about. Here are some harrowing statistics: Worldwide 600,000 - 800,000 victims each year; 14,500 in the USA alone; 240 under-aged children EACH HOUR in Georgia. These numbers represent the number of people who are trafficked - for sex and other purposes each hour/year.
Granted: not all of those trafficked are for sexual purposes. Some are just modern day "slaves." Here is another fact - the Hebrew word eved meaning slave is found in the Bible. However, the word is used to describe someone who works off a debt or is responsible for paying back a debt after breaking a law. He is not the property of the person he is working for. And, in many cases, the person is to provide housing and food for the eved. Now, if we look at the way we use the word slave today, it has a totally different connotation. One is sold into slavery...becomes the property of his/her owner...and is often tied to that person for their lives (or until they are no longer of any use and are often times murdered).
You know what? It really does NOT matter. Human trafficking is a problem whether it is for work purposes or for sexual purposes. A research study conducted by the "Juvenile Justice Fund" of Atlanta produced these research highlights:
1) 7200 men account for 8700 paid sex acts with adolescent females each month in Georgia (about 300 each day)
2) 42% of these "Johns" are found in the north metro Atlanta area (outside I-285)
3) 28000 men pay for sex with adolescent females each year in Georgia. Nearly 10,000 of these men purchase sex with adolescent females multiple times per year.
Many of these victims are runaways who see no hope in their future. They are often looking for a way to "better their lives," only to find themselves caught in a trap of lies, despair and ultimately death. The average age of a girl lured into the sex trade in the United States is 13. This life of prostitution usually is a death sentence as the average lifespan of a girl exploited in this say is only 7 years. So...do you find yourself disgusted? Are you trying to figure out what to do? Is your stomach turning inside and out? Good...read on for ways to get involved.
#1 - Contact your state reps and senators. Tell them how this is important to you. After all, the more of us that are affected, the more our leaders will focus on this issue.
#2 - Contact any number of organizations to volunteer: Out of Darkness: www.outofdarkness.org, the Juvenile Justice Fund: www.afuturenotapast.org, Youth Spark www.youth-spark.org, Tapestri www.tapestri.org, Open Jewish Project www.trafficking.openjewishproject.com
#3 - Talk, learn, teach, educate, look. Get involved.
So, really, we have two major issues/problems/challenges here in Georgia (as well as in the United States and in the world): 1) Human trafficking in general and 2) more specifically, the sex trafficking of adolescents. Both of these problems are horrific and disgusting. I urge every one of us to get as involved as we are able. This is a problem that we can only get rid of by talking, learning and getting involved.
I urge ALL of our elected officials to take these challenges seriously and help to truthfully make an end to this disgusting and downright awful behavior.
Rabbi Erin Boxt