The sex-trafficking problem Rome Cares is seeking to combat is not limited to major cities like Atlanta.
Pastor Doug Crumbly, president of Rome Cares, told Rome Kiwanis Club members Monday that one of the cases he was called to by local police involved a young woman he had baptized about 15 years ago.
“Imagine the emotional turmoil that would put you in,” Crumbly said.
While he was imploring the young woman to leave the seedy motel she was staying in, Crumbly said, she was insisting she would go only if she could take a man with her.
“It was her pimp, he was trafficking her. It was her boyfriend, who was pimping her out to other guys here in Rome, Georgia,” Crumbly said. “We weren’t able to do anything for her and she’s still out there on the street.”
That situation opened Crumbly’s eyes to the fact that sex trafficking was not just something that happens somewhere else.
“It’s heartbreaking and eye-opening,” said Kiwanis member Tonya Davis after the presentation. “Honestly, I never would think of something like that happening in a town the size of Rome.”
“I had goose bumps the entire presentation,” said Heather Henderson-Keller. “It’s frightening and overwhelming to think about this so close to home.”
Crumbly explained the scenario is not unusual, and is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome.
The girls are convinced that there is some bond between them and their captors.
Trauma therapy and counseling will be a big part of the services offered at the new Rome Cares facility, which is slated to house at least a dozen sex-trafficking victims and their children. Many are likely to be in counseling for years, Crumbly said, because of the trauma they are put through, sometimes forced to perform 10 times a day.
Rome native Beth Bradfield Wright, a volunteer with End Slavery Tennessee in Nashville, also spoke on the issue,
She said the Tennessee initiative tries to address the problem on the front end with a program called Turning off the TAP — an acronym for training, aftercare and prevention. Training is aimed at educating young women to recognize the situations before they are taken into sexual bondage.
“Aftercare is what you’re talking about here today, providing a safe place for survivors,” Wright said.
Prevention could involve legislative action, such as a proposed constitutional amendment on the Georgia ballot in November. If approved, a fund would be started with proceeds from a fine of $2,500 levied against anyone found guilty of sex trafficking and a fee of up to $5,000 for adult entertainment shops.
The Safe Harbor Fund would provide restorative services to victims of sex trafficking.
“Because it’s a constitutional amendment, it’s set up so that nobody else can take that money,” Crumbly explained. “All the money goes to the recovery of these kids and girls.”
Proponents of the Safe Harbor Fund estimate it will generate $2 million annually.