Sex trafficking is by now a well-known issue in the Atlanta metro area. The staggering statistics --- 300 to 500 girls trafficked in Atlanta each month, 42 percent of calls for trafficking services coming from Atlanta suburbs -- are documented right here in the AJC and other publications.
Much of that local awareness has come from one woman, Atlanta-based Mary Frances Bowley, founder and president of the 15-year-old non-profit, Wellspring Living, which helps victims and those at risk of sex trafficking.
"People are much more aware that children are being exploited and they want to do something," Bowley said. "We have found that if we can find a tangible way people can be involved, they will rise to the occasion and do phenomenal things."
Bowley has written several books on the topic and is back with a third book released on Jan. 5. It has already become a sell-out on Amazon.
" Make it Zero: The Movement to Safeguard Every Child by Mary Frances Bowley, Jennifer Bradley Franklin," (Moody Publishers, $13.99) is on sale now at Barnes and Noble and select Christian booksellers (Amazon is re-stocking.)
The public is invited to a launch party tonight at 7 p.m. at Westside Market, 1530 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd NW, Atlanta . Books are available for sale through FoxTale Book Shoppe and 10 percent of any sales from Westside Market (furniture, decor, etc.) goes to support Wellspring Living.
The book is designed to serve as a guide to readers looking for simple ways to help combat what has become a huge social problem.
"The biggest need right now with children who are being exploited and those who have grown up in that, is that young women need to be able to re-enter the community where they can be successful," Bowley said.
Many of the examples in Make it Zero demonstrate how it can really take just one minute of your time to change the life of an at-risk child, she said.
The stories in Make it Zero are not just the stories of sex trafficking victims, but of people who have overcome or helped others overcome the many factors that can lead girls and women to sex trafficking. Those factors include poverty, hunger, abuse and isolation.
For each area that puts a child at risk for sex-trafficking Bowley and Franklin offer an action plan for one person or a group of people to make a difference.
"I see this as giving and equipping people with tools and ideas to make a difference.
We encourage readers to look around you. What is the closest thing you can see?" Bowley said.
Maybe there is a homeless family in your neighborhood that you can support? Can offer assistance to a foster family? Tutor a child or babysit for a working parent? How can you get your children involved to make sure a new generation continues to combat the issue?
Stories in the book come from across the country, including Ruth Riley who grew up food insecure and went on to play for the WNBA; a family who adopted seven young women about to age out of the foster care system and started an organization to equip other families to do the same or the Atlanta-based Randstad Staffing executive who created a program that gives at-risk women office and career training while also placing them in Fortune 500 companies in career-track jobs.
"Sometimes when people hear about trafficking they think it sounds really heavy," said Franklin. "They think there is no way I could be involved in making a dent in an issue like that. The action items in the book are simple things."
In other words, you don't have to be a one-man or one-woman missionary operation to bring change, now or in the future.
"The book is focused on safeguarding every child, but it is also about the people those kids will grow up to be," Franklin said, "creating an America where people are equipped to be adults and will care about the next generation.”