Dave McCleary, program founder for the End Human Trafficking Now campaign, recently spoke with the Dougherty Rotary Club about the movement. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Following its fight to help end polio worldwide, there is another cause Rotary International is beginning to push.
Dave McCleary, program founder of End Human Trafficking Now, was visiting with the Dougherty Rotary Club recently to explain what the movement is and why it’s significant.
There are various ways in which youngsters can get involved in the commercial exploitation of children, ranging from street hotels, to club and escort services or the Internet, McCleary said. It can start with a girl getting involved with an older boyfriend who charms them, only to later abuse them and take advantage of them.
“I didn’t think it happened in my neighborhood,” McCleary said. “… We need to tell people it is a problem. Law enforcement has statistics showing this is a problem everywhere in the state.”
McCleary said that children who are walking the streets hungry, or are not getting much attention at home, are often among those who get involved. Statistics handed out at the meeting show that 90 percent of runaways become part of the sex industry within 72 hours of leaving home, and that seven years is the average life expectancy if a girl is forced into prostitution.
“Once they are involved, they can’t get back out,” he said. “Even if it is at a swim meet, tell others about (the movement to end it).
“We only launched this a year ago, and we are getting calls from all over the country. It is amazing to see the hope we give these kids … It’s not race, economics, it’s not religion. It’s everything. We see it in all kids.”
Information available from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows that more than 100,000 children are at risk of being commercial sexually exploited annually. The average age of commercially exploited children is between 12-14 years. Those who walk the streets alone, have unsupervised access to a computer, have a relationship with a much older boyfriend, dress provocatively, have drugs and alcoholism in the home are also among those at risk — and get involved through avenues such as peer pressure, parents selling their children, false advertising, seduction, enticement through chat rooms and kidnapping.
In 2013, the industry is estimated to have generated revenues close to $40 billion, officials with the movement say.
The Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Governor’s CSEC Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are among the partners currently involved. For more information, visit www.endhtnow.com.