'Epidemic' of child sexual exploitation gets Atlanta's attention
Published: July 24, 2012
ATLANTA (CNS) -- Sitting on the bench of the Fulton County Juvenile Court in 2000, then-Judge Nina Hickson saw 12- and 13-year-old girls with the "look of death" in their eyes. Those eyes were empty, as if "whatever life was there was gone," Hickson said. Usually repeat offenders for underage drinking, fighting or truancy, the girls showed little emotion when appearing before the judge, accepting her instructions with barely a nod or a word. "It was just heartbreaking that I would see these young girls who, it would seem, didn't have any kind of life," she said. Hickson started asking court officials, prosecutors and law enforcement authorities why the girls were in the court in the first place. What she learned, she said, was shocking. In many cases, the girls were victims of sexual exploitation, recruited by predators running sex trafficking networks as a business. Hickson learned that Georgia law for prosecuting the predators was weak. "It didn't seem right that (the girls) were being brought into the system and the adults exploiting them, nothing was happening to them," she told Catholic News Service. Hickson's discovery led her to write an op-ed column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper under the headline "An Epidemic of Tragic Proportions." It served as a call to the community to create awareness and fight what is now widely known as the commercial sexual exploitation of children, or CSEC.
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