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STOP hosts conference to inform community about sex trafficking

Mercer’s Sex Trafficking Opposition Project recently hosted Justice Week, a three-day conference with domestic and international organizations intended to address the issue of global sex trafficking.

On the Jan. 26, Redeem the Shadows and Rahab’s Rope gave presentations about sex trafficking in India.

Thursday, Paul Bowley of Wellspring Living discussed the importance of rehabilitation for trafficking victims.

Friday, David Cooke, the chief of the Special Victims Unit of Houston County’s District Attorney Office, discussed domestic sex trafficking laws. Kaffie McCullough of "A Future, Not a Past" concluded the week’s events with a discussion about the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

STOP President Alvin Huff said he thought it was time to increase Mercer’s awareness about domestic and international sex trafficking. He said, “I was interested in doing something big this year because it has been 2 years since the first conference so half the people who attended are already gone and have moved on in life.”

With the help of Caitlin Childers of Baptist Collegiate Ministries, the conference was planned. About Childers, Huff said, “She had a similar idea as me and said that she wanted to put on the conference. She was passionate about the issue and wanted people to know about it.”

Sophomore sociology major Caitlin Childers said she learned about sex trafficking in high school and has wanted to help ever since. She explained, “Paul Bowley, the speaker from Wellspring Living, had introduced me to the topic back in high school during a youth bible study that he helped lead. After hearing his passion for the issue, and how it goes on all around us, I couldn’t help but want to do something. I’m outreach leader for BCM this year so after tossing around the idea with the leadership I got in contact with the other religious life groups on campus and also STOP”

Dr. Andrew Silver, co-faculty advisor for STOP. and the chair of the board for MG ALERT, the community’s response to the campus organization, said, “I had nothing to do with it. It was fantastic. There’s been a real renaissance of the STOP group. They picked some really wonderful speakers, too.”

Paul Bowley’s mother started Wellspring Living in 2001 for the rehabilitation of rescued trafficking victims. He said, “Our program is a residential program. We have a home where we can house 12 women.”

Wellspring Living partnered with children’s homes to bring youth victims of sexual exploitation out of detention centers. Through government funding, Wellspring Living helps rescued exploitation victims transition back into their communities, find therapy and earn high school credit to get them back on grade level.

“The main goal is to return these girls to their families,” Bowley said.

“With success in regards to amount of information learned, Friday night was by far the most informative night. David and Kaffie did a great job at really explaining the issues,” Huff said.

Cooke went into detail into about how prosecuting the “traditional route” is actually very bad for the trafficking victim as it ends up with little more than a small fine for the john, no problems for the pimp and nothing but negative ramifications for the victim

Cooke explained the manner in which they go about prosecuting pimps (and to a lesser extent, johns) in Atlanta when he was a prosecutor there

“David talked about the changing laws and how a pimp several years ago might have had to pay a $50 fine. But with newer legislation, heavier penalties are being given out. He talked about one of his previous cases in which a guy ended up with life without parole,” Huff said.


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