Human trafficking forum Feb. 1 at Cornerstone

by Sarah Fay Campbell

The public has been invited to a Human Trafficking Symposium on Feb. 1 at Cornerstone United Methodist Church.

The symposium will feature a panel discussion with speakers, and a schedule that will include questions from the audience, breakout sessions, lunch and a keynote speaker.

The city, including the greater Atlanta area, is considered a major hub for human trafficking. In October, two men and a woman were charged with trafficking a 15-year-old girl at a Newnan motel.

“We want everybody to come. We want educators, physicians, attorneys, and law enforcement there,” said Ginger Jackson Queener, president of the Coweta-Fayette Rotary Club, one of the sponsors of the symposium.

“We encourage teens and seventh- and eight-graders to attend,” she said. “We hope the youth can learn how to spot signs of abuse in their peers.”

“Anybody who has an interest in learning how to combat this — we want them there,” Queener said.

“For somebody coming to this event … there is the possibility that this person can save a life,” Queener said. “Literally, that one person coming to this event or one law enforcement officer learning how to better investigate could save a life and keep a child from being trafficked.”

Speakers include Ga Attorney General Sam Olens; Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge; Mary Frances Bowley, founder of Wellspring Living, which provides a home for victims of trafficking; a member of the Ga Bureau of Investigation; a representative from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Bruce Deel of City of Refuge.

Brandi Harvey, executive director of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, will be the keynote speaker during lunch.

There will be four break-out sessions — one for teens and youth, one for attorneys and law enforcement, one which will describe where victims can go for help, and one on “the defenders,” hosted by Shared Hope International.

End Human Trafficking Now is a new initiative of Rotary International, and the symposium is being sponsored by the Coweta-Fayette Rotary Club, the Newnan Rotary Club, the Peachtree City Rotary Club and the Fayette Daybreak Rotary Club.

Queener said the symposium is the first of its kind, and they hope to host several more in the future. “This is something we hope grows across the country. We’re hoping this is going to take off in several communities as a collaborative effort."

“Given what happened in October, I think this is a way for the public to realize this is happening at our back door, and it’s not just adults. It’s children.”

The average age of a trafficked child is 12, Queener said.

“The message we’re trying to get across is — let’s try to save our children,” she said. “Let’s try and keep that child who has an insecurity with food … that child who has self-esteem issues … let’s keep them from being trafficked because somebody paid them attention in the wrong way.”

Oftentimes, the children are “groomed” by the pimps, who show them kindness and buy them nice things.

The event will begin at 9:30 a.m., but attendees are invited to arrive at 9. There will be several informational booths set up, Queener said. The event is expected to conclude around 1 p.m.

RSVPs are required. To RSVP, or for more information, e-mail or call 770-253-9478.

The symposium is free. However, attendees are asked to bring a packaged food item for the Backpack Buddies and Joshua’s Gift programs that help combat food insecurity in children.

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