On Halloween in 2014, a Bibb County school student met a man online whose actions would haunt her for a lifetime.
The man was “her newly appointed ride-or-die,” said Corey Goble, chief investigator for Bibb County schools.
The 15-year-old had been talking online for all of about 10 days before she agreed to go to Atlanta with him.
“Over the period of the next four days, the manner of the things that took place with this young lady do not bare speaking,” Goble said. “If you think it’s not happening here, it’s happening here.”
The man was charged with sex trafficking and is currently serving two consecutive life sentences in the case that involved two girls.
The same year, a marketing project called Traffick Jam was created by Mercer University students. The initiative “aims to prevent Bibb County’s youth from becoming victims of sex trafficking,” marketing professor Tammy Crutchfield said at a news conference Tuesday.
“We teach teenagers, parents and teachers how to drive out sex trafficking,” Crutchfield said.
Last year, Mary Marudas, a student who manages the program, was among those allowed at Southwest High School to mentor and educate students there about the issue.
“I know I was nervous going into this …. I had no idea what to expect,” Marudas said, adding that the program was well-received by the high schoolers. “We start out with relationship building days. The boys split up with the boys and play basketball. The girls split up with the girls and we have fun ice-breaking sessions.”
After bonding and getting to know one another, the teaching begins, Marudas said
Sex trafficking is “anytime a minor is being sold for sexual purposes, sexual entertainment or pornography,” Marudas said. “This is whether it’s consensual or non-consensual. We want to make sure they know this.”
Last week, the group started educating students at Northeast, Westside and Howard high schools also.
About 1,600 students will be educated at a cost of $5 each, student Matthew Meeder said.
Traffick Jam aims to raise $8,000 through the sale of merchandise online and on campus, fundraiser campaigns and partnerships with local businesses.
“To be honest with you, like probably most of you, I knew it was out there, I just had no idea the severity of it and how much of it was right here in the city of Macon, Georgia,” Assistant Superintendent Jamie Cassady said. “Education is power. … I appreciate you guys coming into the schools. You guys are able to build relationships that we can’t.”
For more information, visit www.traffickjamgeorgia.com.