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Dave McCleary Leads Rotarians in Fight Against Human Trafficking

At our online meeting on August 7, Atlanta West End Rotarian Kevin Wilson presented Mr. Dave McCleary, our speaker. Dave, former President of the Roswell Rotary Club in 2011-12, leads one of 27 Rotary Action Groups throughout Rotary International, the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery, which began under Dave’s spirited leadership in 2013. Dave explained that he felt an irresistible pull to fight hard against the enslavement of girls into the sex trade industry when he discovered a pre-teen who was a babysitter in North Fulton County – near his own home – had become abducted into this horrible enterprise. Since, he’s chosen to fight for the lives of these children. Dave reported that the movement within and beyond Rotary gained huge momentum in 2017 through a candlelight vigil that he staged in Centennial Olympic Park. He expected 2500 people, but some 14,000 people joined the vigil! He says human trafficking now has as many as 40 million people enslaved with the vast majority (71%) being women. Of that total about 5M are used in sexual exploitation. The trade is generating more than $1B in annual revenue. Dave noted that Rotarians have built wells in other nations where woman are afraid to draw water from for fear of being attacked and raped. But he said the fight is on - being staged at several levels, including in state government. He lauded GA Attorney General Chris Carr whom he described as tireless in carrying the battle legally. Also, the GA General Assembly has magnified the penalties for conviction in sex crimes to possible life in prison sentences, thanks to GA State Senator Renee Unterman. Previously there were only slaps on the wrist. There’s a huge Lobby Day at the Capital in February to continue promotion of awareness. QuikTrip provides food and helpful information to girls who are vulnerable. And Dave noted the accomplishments of Ms. Dorothy Jones, who was deeply trapped in the sex industry, but managed to free herself, succeeding through strong determination at Morris Brown College, earning a degree, and now working as a criminologist. Making people aware creates tremendous impact, of which Dave himself is a prime example. Schools have curricula on sex trafficking, and the Alonzo Crim Open Campus of the Atlanta Public Schools has a ‘drop-in center’ were students receive important information. Dave emphasized that, practically speaking, lack of a decent job is a huge barrier to enslavement, because when kids are in dire need of money for survival they are easy targets for pimps, who seem to sense and move in on people in desperation. Dave also mentioned with gratitude the work of WellSpring Living Woman’s Academy in Atlanta. Founded in 2001, Wellspring Living is a non-profit organization in Atlanta that provides domestic sex trafficking victims and those at-risk with specialized recovery services through residential and community-based programs. The programs provide transformative care through therapeutic services, education, life skills, and personal and professional development. The focus for each participant is on developing their courage to move forward and their confidence to succeed. Through operating best practices and with highly qualified staff, Wellspring Living programs are statistically proven in providing restorative services that yield positive, life-changing results. Wellspring Living’s vision is to live in a world where every victim of sexual exploitation has access to transformative care. Wellspring Living is a leader in the nation for residential care and, through the Wellspring Living Institute, is able to educate, train and mentor organizations around the world. Some of WellSpring’s work is through DMST - Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. DMST is defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, reauthorized in 2008, as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” where the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under age 18. DMST occurs when minors are forced, coerced or otherwise involved in the commercial sex industry. Despite how it may sound, trafficking does not require movement. A minor can be trafficked anywhere at any time and doesn’t even have to be moved beyond the boundaries of their own home to be a victim. President Kimberly and Kevin concluded the meeting by thanking Dave for his exemplary dedication. Echoing the hand claps from all of our Club participants, Kimberly and Kevin congratulated Dave on the successes achieved in the past seven years during which he has worked relentlessly,  

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
August 7, 2020 2:00pm

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