AUGUSTA, GA. (WJBF) – One local hospital is gearing up their team to better assist the community on child sexual exploitation and how to help someone who might be in that situation.

In the state of Georgia, Richmond County falls as number one as the highest referrals for the commercial sexual exploitation of children and here at Doctors hospital, they’re learning how they can help to decrease those numbers. 

That statistic stated by leaders with Children’s Advocacy of Georgia. 

“Concerns surrounding commercial sexual exploitation in Augusta and the surrounding counties is absolutely a significant concern,” Statewide Care Coordinator at Children’s Advocacy of Georgia Kathleen Cleveland-Kennedy said.

Wednesday morning, staff at Doctors hospital listened as folks from the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia spoke. 

“Today’s presentation is about what to look for when– if you’re looking for signs for commercial sexual exploitation, as well as talking about our statewide response and how our team– in partnership with child enrichment– responds to concerns of sexual exploitation in the CSRA,” Cleveland-Kennedy said.

And Kathleen Cleveland-Kennedy wants people to know this issue is happening right in their backyard. 

“I think a lot of times when people think about sex trafficking and CSEC, it’s a very difficult conversation to talk about. And so a lot of times the default is to say ‘well that doesn’t happen here, that happens in other places like New York or Atlanta. However, last year in Richmond County we had the most referrals out of Richmond County– of any county– in the state of Georgia,” Cleveland-Kennedy said.  

Folks with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia and Doctors Hospital say these courses are useful because it reminds them to be aware of the signs. 

“Many times, we are the initial contact and point person and we have a lot of time to assist and engage our patients. And so, providing our staff with the tools that they need to be able to discern those subtle signs– sometimes they’re not very obvious, they could be very subtle signs as mentioned with tattoos, clothing[s], or specific types of injuries or complaints,” Trauma Program Manager at Doctors Hospital Laura Lunsford said.

The average group that the organization serves is 14 years old, and if you want to be a part of helping to change this statistic, visit or call 1-866-END-HTGA.