By David Pendered
Georgia’s new anti-trafficking hotline will help fight two major forms of human trafficking – sexual exploitation and labor, according to the executive director of the Atlanta-based International Human Trafficking Institute.
Deborah Richardson heads the IHTI, an initiative of Center for Civil and Human Rights. In an email, Richardson wrote that the toll-free line is a significant step in the battle against human exploitation:
- “The first line of defense in combating human trafficking is the engagement of the public, from all communities, to report suspected labor or sexual exploitation. I applaud the GRACE Commission for creating the Statewide Human Trafficking Hotline. It provides a one-call portal to receive reports on both sexual and labor exploitation.”
The new toll-free line – 1-866-ENDHTGA – is to serve as a one-stop shop for calls from victims, to provide them information and aid; and from the public, to take reports of sexual or labor exploitation that will be delivered to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
The toll-free line is part of the state’s escalating battle against human trafficking. Filmmaker Tyler Perry has stepped in, producing in partnership with First Lady Marty Kemp and the GRACE Commission a public service announcement to raise awareness that was released Aug. 27. On Aug. 19, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the formation of a unit to investigate human trafficking. In 2019, the Georgia attorney general established the Human Trafficking Unit, headed by Hannah Palmquist, previously Cobb County’s senior assistant district attorney.
Richardson described ways in which the hotline can aid in the on-the-ground fight against human trafficking:
- “We have found that there are two common scenarios: One is when everyday people see exploitation, but because they don’t know the signs to recognize it, it doesn’t raise a red flag for them. The second is, if they suspect this is an exploitation situation, they don’t know what to do about it.
- “A statewide hotline is necessary as a one-call response when a citizen sees an suspected instance of exploitation. This is why the International Human Trafficking Institute emphasizes the need for everyone from teens to adults, who are either in school, working in any industry, and/or a member of a faith or civic institution, are trained to recognize both labor and sexual exploitation. IHTI provides ongoing, in-person via zoom, as well as online, self-paced training, free of charge.”
Marty Kemp and Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, emphasized in the importance of civic engagement in fighting human trafficking when they announced the establishment of the hotline. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office released a statement Thursday in which Marty Kemp observed:
- “It’s going to allow all Georgians to play a critical role in advocating for those who are at risk and those who have been sexually exploited, increasing our capacity to address human trafficking in every community across the state.”
- “This hotline will be a direct link for anyone seeking help or to make a report to be connected to the correct resource,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds. “The coalition is taking a holistic approach to combating the plague of human trafficking, and the GBI is proud to be a partner in that fight.”
Note to readers: The number of the statewide anti-trafficking hotline is 1-866-ENDHTGA.