Georgia’s First Lady fighting to end human trafficking in the state

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Human trafficking has been in the headlines a lot recently, and Georgia’s First Lady, Marty Kemp sat down with us on The Means Report to discuss her fight to end the practice in the state. She tells us about her work with the GRACE Commission and its efforts to tackle trafficking and help those victims. We also learn about the Receiving Hope Center – a great resource and place where these victims can go and get the help they need after they’re pulled out of that world of trafficking. Plus, we look at legislation Mrs. Kemp and her husband, Governor Brian Kemp, support and that will hopefully fly through the General Assembly.

Brad Means: First Lady Marty Kemp, you were in “The Means Report” studio right before your husband got inaugurated way back when, and now we have to do this thing virtually, but I really appreciate you coming back and being with us.

Marty Kemp: Hi Brad, I’m glad to be here today. Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Absolutely.

Marty Kemp: I remember being there. That feels like it was about 10 years ago, wasn’t it?

Brad Means: It feels like it. I was thinking about it today, and it was just eons ago. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing y’all in person again soon.

Marty Kemp: Oh, we are too. Thank you.

Brad Means: Listen, I want to just start the show by telling you that we’ve been praying for you. I know that you have gone through a lot personally lately. We all know politically what you’ve been facing with the presidential election and the Senate election, but then the tragedy that befell your daughter’s boyfriend. I just wanted to stop and say we know that you’re hurting and I’m sorry that all that’s happening to you.

Marty Kemp: Well, I really appreciate that very much. We are grieving. He was an outstanding young man, and he’s very, very much missed. We loved him dearly.

Brad Means: Oh my goodness, well, I appreciate you letting me take a moment to say that and remember that everybody is praying for y’all. I want to talk about-

Marty Kemp: I appreciate you saying that. Thank you.

Brad Means: Oh, yes ma’am, absolutely. So you’re here to talk about human trafficking, this crime that impacts more than 300 girls in Georgia every month. You’re talking about an average age of a victim of 12 to 14 years old, and going back to that time when we first met, before Governor Kemp took office, this has been something that you have been pushing. What prompted it? What made you say, okay, I want to shine the spotlight on human trafficking?

Marty Kemp: Well, actually, when Brian was elected, the girls, we have three daughters, and we went to a press conference in Atlanta before the Superbowl, because the Superbowl was in Georgia in that January of 2019. There was a press conference that had represented 72 buses, which showed 3600 children, boys and girls, that are taken away and taken into trafficking every year in Georgia, and I was not aware of that. We were just shocked that nobody was talking, that I didn’t feel like I had heard about it, campaigning out there for two years, that it was just terrible. Really, once you learn about it, you have to do something about it. I felt like nobody was really talking about it, and I didn’t understand why, so we were just gonna talk about it. We formed the GRACE Commission, which has 26 members. Everybody that’s an expert in it when I was learning about it, and we just brought them all to the table, and I just wanted to see what the need was, what we could do, and we were going to talk about it and just make people aware of it so that they could help us as well.

Brad Means: Well, I think a lot people feel like you did that day at the Superbowl, where they just have heard the words human trafficking, but aren’t really sure what it is, so let’s just try to put a face on it so people can understand, and then I do want to talk about the measures that are being pushed through the General Assembly that can hopefully help. What is human trafficking? What happens to these children when they get taken into this dark world?

Marty Kemp: Well, I read the book “Rescuing Hope” that Susan Norris wrote, and she has a non-profit. It really opened my eyes to understand how these girls get in this, and a lot of them are trafficked, unfortunately, 50% of them are probably trafficked by their own family members. I had a lady come up to me at a CJCC meeting and said that her daughter was sold by her aunt, by her own sister, and she was trying to get her back. It’s just an evil industry that, I’ve been told that the average young lady is trafficked, 40 times a night, 365 days of the year.

Brad Means: My word.

Marty Kemp: And it’s just people don’t want to talk about that. And I understand that, but I am gonna talk about it, because I want to help these individuals to know they have a choice to not get in this.

Brad Means: So they sell them for sex, we understand that part. They sell them for labor as well. What do they make these children do?

Marty Kemp: Well, I mean, awful things, that I don’t know if you would want me to talk about that. But anything, I mean, there’s nothing that surprises me anymore.

Brad Means: Just to clarify, I’m sorry to interrupt, I mean, from the labor standpoint, are these jobs that we might see in businesses that we frequent? The sex side, we do, unfortunately understand and can probably imagine, but the labor side, what is that?

Marty Kemp: Well, the labor side I haven’t really gotten a whole lot into because I want to keep them completely separate, and I don’t necessarily know a lot about that side of it. I’m assuming that it is human trafficking within the labor work force, bringing over from other country to have, I guess, a less inexpensive labor, and then there’s human trafficking involved in that there. I don’t have any expertise much on that. The GRACE Commission is for human trafficking, and then the labor, that will be a whole other commission.

Brad Means: Sure. Where do these girls come from? Is there a profile of a trafficking victim?

Marty Kemp: No, I mean, it affects everyone. It’s not just low income, it’s middle, it’s high. That was what I was so worried about with the Superbowl, was that’s entertainment, apparently, for some of these corporations and businesses. It’s just not acceptable. But nobody is exempt from this at all. That’s the sad thing, is that … And they don’t really understand, because they’re groomed is what they call it, and they think that the boyfriend really loves them and really cares about them and buys them gifts and grooms them into it, and then they start selling them, and then they’re just confused, because they’re like, I thought you loved me. It’s just very hard. It’s very brainwashing, and it’s just very disturbing.

Brad Means: Yeah, it’s like this psychological advantage that their captors have over them. I was thinking maybe that they were just constantly given drugs so they would stay in this detached state and have to go through these horrible things, but it’s really just someone they know or love taking complete advantage of them, right?

Marty Kemp: Right, and there are drugs involved. I mean, it’s with the gangs, there’s drugs involved. And Susan Norris’ book, like I said again, “Rescuing Hope”, it really opened my eyes and helped explain it to me. And I made Brian read it, and he would dread every morning getting up to read that book. But I really encourage people to read it, and it will help you understand, and then take our education piece, because if you learn about it, and then all of a sudden, Delta did a great education piece. They really are spearheading this effort as well, because they have trained their flight attendants, any of their employees to be able to recognize it. Actually, two of their employees were going to a seminar down in Florida. They stopped at a McDonald’s, they saw two girls. It was straight out of their training, and they had this gut feeling, they called the police. The car had been stolen and the two girls were being trafficked, and they saved them.

Brad Means: Oh my goodness.

Marty Kemp: Can you imagine? Saving someone’s life is just unbelievable.

Brad Means: Yeah, those education efforts are working. The GRACE commission has been huge on pushing a state-wide education program. Are a lot of people taking advantage of that? Are companies and churches getting that program in and making their people watch it?

Marty Kemp: I have been so excited that it’s a 30 minute training piece. It’s really for young. All ages can really watch it. Very informative as things that you can look for, and then when you’re out in your everyday life, if you see something and you get that gut feeling, better safe than sorry to call police. If you’re wrong, that’s fine, but if you’re right, and you can save somebody and get them out of this horrible industry, I mean, that is just fabulous. That would just be wonderful.

Brad Means: What do they look like? The next time we go to a truck stop or a gas station, what should make our radar go off?

Marty Kemp: Well, obviously if you see a man with a younger child and she’s not making eye contact, and she seems, you know, he speaks for her, she doesn’t speak when spoken to, things like that. You can just tell just by the look on her face that he’s controlling her. Or him, we have, at the Receiving Center, I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about that either, but there’s been a young man that they have brought in to help.

Brad Means: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, the statistics.

Marty Kemp: Yeah.

Brad Means: I was just going to say the stats will tell you that girls and boys are taken into the world of trafficking and used in the ways that we’ve been talking about. Why is Georgia such a hotbed for this? I know in many people’s minds, the state of Georgia is Atlanta and the rest of the state. Is all this bad stuff just because of the big city where you are now, or is it everywhere?

Marty Kemp: Well, we have one of the biggest airports in the world, and then we have all of our interstates, which just brings them all over. We had a seminar down at FLETC, and I had some law enforcement come. We had people from around the country, and it ended up that one of our law enforcement was talking to a lady in Ohio, and they were trying to find the same girls. So they were moving them around, and the girls don’t know where they are. A lot of times, of course, they’ll drug them, and then they wake up and they don’t know where they are, and they can’t get any help. They take their phones. They have no sense of communication, so they’re just stuck. And then they just get drugged. It’s just a horrible industry that I want out of Georgia.

Brad Means: Well, you know, I made a point to mention Atlanta, but people watching here in Augusta should not sleep on this either, because it hits our town as well. I20 coming right by Augusta is not good when it comes to trafficking, right?

Marty Kemp: Not at all. And we have reports, you know, there’s 159 counties in Georgia, and they’ve had reports in 145 counties, but I believe that it’s in 159 counties. I believe it’s everywhere, we just haven’t been able to recognize it, and that was really one big piece of the education piece that I talked to the Department of Administrative Services, and they didn’t hesitate. They did this great training, and they want to get it out to everybody, just so when people recognize it, they can help. But I believe it’s everywhere. I just want it out of Georgia. I want it completely out of every county in Georgia. If not, I just want these terrible traffickers to know that they need to be looking over their back and they need to take their business elsewhere, because we’re coming after them.

Brad Means: What about the legislation that Governor Kemp signed last summer that would let these victims, a lot of them, when they’re trapped or captured, will commit crimes, and he made it so that their criminal histories could potentially be cleared after they get out of that world. Have you seen any results yet? Is it too soon?

Marty Kemp: No, absolutely. We talked to survivors and we let them have a voice in this, because they clearly know what they are struggling with, and they were just so thankful, because nobody’s ever listened to them and nobody’s ever asked them. That is a huge piece of it, because they need a clean sheet to start over, and they haven’t been able to, and we needed to help explain that they needed a chance to do that, and their traffickers make them commit crimes, and we needed to make sure that those needed to be wiped clean to help them move on in life.

Brad Means: Yeah, I’m sorry, Marty. I was going to toss to break very quickly and remind everybody that we are talking with the First Lady of Georgia about human trafficking. And when we come back, we’re gonna talk about the legislation that Mrs. Kemp is pushing, hopefully, through the General Assembly that will give these survivors legal remedies so that they can maybe get some satisfaction from the court system after they try to get their lives back to normal. Human trafficking our topic today on “The Means Report”.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to “The Means Report”. Our focus today is human trafficking. Our special guest is Marty Kemp. She’s the first lady of Georgia, and she and her husband, Governor Brian Kemp, are spearheading an effort to get some legislation through the General Assembly that will help these victims of human trafficking, help these survivors. And Mrs. Kemp, one of those ways that the law might be able to be on their side is to help them change their names when they try to get their lives back on track without having to notify the public that they’re doing that. Why is that important?

Marty Kemp: Well, you know, they want to start a new life and they want to escape from their trafficker, and they don’t need to let them know where they are. So to change their name, now the law reads that you have to put it in the paper for four weeks before, and that’s just not fair. I mean, they just don’t have any rights, and they need to be exempt from that. So we talked to a survivor. They had let us know that that was a big issue with them, and so that’s just another step to try to help them get a fresh new start.

Brad Means: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You know, one of the first things we learn in journalism school is not to say the name of a sexual assault victim on television, and so I don’t think that the survivor’s name should have to be publicized either. Do law makers support you on this? Do they like that effort that y’all are pushing?

Marty Kemp: So far, so good in my legislation. I have not had one person vote against it, Democrat or Republican or independent.

Brad Means: Wow.

Marty Kemp: This is a non-partisan issue. I mean, I can’t imagine that anybody would want to make a victim have to suffer any more than they already have.

Brad Means: I wouldn’t either. What about the-

Marty Kemp: They’ve been very supportive. I’m very fortunate.

Brad Means: Yeah. What about the push to make it easier for victims, for survivors to sue their captors in court? Are there obstacles to that now? Is it tough for them to do that?

Marty Kemp: You know, I don’t believe so. I mean, it is, definitely. Well, I want to hold people accountable. Any of these hotels or any business out there that is knowingly supporting having traffickers or helping these traffickers, they need to be held accountable as well. Our community needs to help the victims get out. If they see something, say something, they need to be helping these victims and not adding to their trauma and helping these traffickers.

Brad Means: I want to go back to something we talked about in our first segment regarding how to spot a victim, and you did a great job of explaining what a victim might look like and what a captor might look like. My question is if you call the police and you say, look, I don’t know if this is a trafficking victim, but something looks unusual. Can you leave at that point? The captor doesn’t have to know you told on them, does he or she?

Marty Kemp: No. I’ve been talking and we travel around the state. We, of course, are huge supporters of law enforcement also. You know, I talk to them and I ask them do you see this, do you hear a lot of it if somebody calls, and they’re like, absolutely. We need the community to help us. We need people to call. And like I said, we’re better safe. If you’re wrong and it’s not something, but if you can help somebody out, call us and let us know, and we will go help them. We want to rescue them and get them out of this horrible industry. Law enforcement is very supportive.

Brad Means: How do you know that all your hard work is paying off? Is it just the faces of survivors that you see at the Receiving Hope Center? Is it watching, hopefully, the trafficking numbers go down? How do you know?

Marty Kemp: It’s when you make announcements like this and you have survivors text you and tell you thank you. You know, thank you for speaking up for us because nobody ever has. It’s not that nobody ever has, because there’s a lot of non-profit organizations that are helping them, but to pass laws and hold the traffickers accountable and be able to sue them and have name changes and help them move forward. If I could just help one, I’d love to help a million or more, but if we can just help one, that’s huge, to help somebody get out of this industry.

Brad Means: Yeah, I mean if you just look at the numbers and the hundreds of girls who are impacted, and boys, as we mentioned, by this in Georgia every month, somebody’s gotta be watching this. Somebody’s gotta just say, do you know what? This impacts me. I wanted to take a moment to talk about the Receiving Center of Hope, the place where these survivors can go. What do you all do there? What kind of treatment is available to help those young people?

Marty Kemp: Well, you know, they need a lot of evaluations of mental, of physical and just being safe, knowing that they can go somewhere where they can be safe. That was the first intake center in the state, which we need, unfortunately, a lot of them, and I’d like to see one in each region of the state. We’re working on that. But just to know that they can go get help and they’re safe and nobody will hurt them again. That’s mainly what the Receiving Hope Center is.

Brad Means: How long do they have to=

Marty Kemp: And to get-

Brad Means: Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry about that.

Marty Kemp: No, I’m sorry. Just to get the services that they need and the care that they need. They start them in education. I mean, they’ve not been learning anything, so they have the education piece of it. They get to start learning and just really try to feel like what it would be like to be a normal 14 year old or 12 year old, if that’s possible.

Brad Means: Have you seen that transition yet, or part of it, where you see a girl in her darkest hour, and then you fast forward months or a year or however long, and they’re a different person?

Marty Kemp: Absolutely. I mean, it is amazing. Some of them have been adopted. We’ve had great success stories, and that is just so heartfelt, and it makes you want to continue to work harder to help them, to see the success story, because they can be rehabilitated, I guess, to help them become whole again.

Brad Means: You know, a lot of times younger people don’t want to listen to us moms and dads out there, and I know with my interaction with the Kemp family so far, since y’all took the Governor’s office, everything y’all do, it seems, is a family affair. Are your girls helping you with this? Are they spreading the word to their peers?

Marty Kemp: Oh, absolutely. We have two in college, and it’s amazing here in Athens, the awareness that they have put out there. The first year I started doing this, our oldest daughter is in a sorority here at UGA, and she held an informative session in May, because she was worried about all of her friends going and studying abroad and traveling, and so we had one of our GVI specialists come in and meet with as many girls as wanted to come learn about it, and it was very informative. We just sat down and talked about it. I get reaction from them. They’ll text me, just thank you so much. I appreciate being aware. I watch my surroundings when I’m traveling or when I’m going to school or going to work out or wherever, and it’s made a big difference just even to talk about it. I’ve seen that here at the university.

Brad Means: What can we do to help you? Is it donate to the Receiving Hope Center, call our law makers and tell them they have to pass these two pieces of legislation that you just introduced? What can we do?

Marty Kemp: All of that, and encourage everyone to take this education piece. You can go to the Governor’s website, the link is on there, and just take that education piece and share it with your friends, share it with the people you go to church with, anybody that would take that. The more people can educate and be out there, boots on the ground, eyes and ears to be watching, it makes a big difference.

Brad Means: Well, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to be with us today, Mrs. Kemp, and thank you on behalf of all of those victims for your efforts, what you’re doing for them, and please give our best to Governor Kemp as always.

Marty Kemp: I will be glad to, and thanks so much for having me. This is such an important piece, and I really appreciate you reporting on it. Thank you.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Look forward to seeing y’all in person real soon hopefully.

Marty Kemp: We hope so. Thank you.

Brad Means: Yes, ma’am. That’s Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp joining us today.

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The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.