AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – “It was the mom and the mom’s boyfriend who were doing this,” said “Lena”; her adopted daughter is a child trafficking victim.
To protect her identity we’ll call her “Lena”. Her adopted daughter from Augusta was trafficked by her biological mother and the mother’s boyfriend.
“They would give her alcohol or marijuana and would take her to a hotel. She was less than 10,” said Lena.
It’s an unthinkable crime, one that’s committed all too often by family members.
“It’s just a safe place for them to come. Just to let them know that they’re okay here, they’re safe here,” said Michelle Derrick, Founder of ‘Hope for Hooves’.
Michelle Derrick uses her horses as therapy for young victims like Lena’s adopted daughter.
“That horse just has that sense of, there’s something different about this child and I need to give them a little extra love, or hugs, or whatever it may be. I really don’t understand it. It’s just the way that God created them and it is absolutely amazing,” said Derrick.
In the few years Derrick has been operating ‘Hope for Hooves’ in North Augusta, she’s seen incredible transformations in the victims she helps. The program takes 20-30 kids at a time and offers one-on-one mentorship for several months. It includes bible study, crafts and time with the horses.
“Horses are actually able to feel what we feel. So, if we’re scared, they know. If they’re happy, they know,” said Derrick.
The need for outpatient care is huge – but the need for immediate care is also great. That’s where Ginger Amerson with i-Care comes in.
“We have a team of ladies who have been trained to respond. And we wait, we wait through the night as law enforcement is doing their job. And then we get the call to go pick them up. The largest number that we’ve ever picked up has been 5 women with 2 children, and 2 of the women were pregnant,” said Ginger Amerson, Co-founder of i-Care.
And these are all local cases. Amerson says at any given time i-Care is helping 30 to 40 girls. About 45% come from Richmond County, another 35% from Burke County. Many are in their safe house called ‘River Tree’ for 2 years.
“Honestly, the victims are getting so much younger that we are seeing the need for them to go longer than 2 years. Because if we have children that they don’t have a safe family to go home to then they may need to be with us until they graduate,” said Amerson.
Trafficking has no boundaries. No race, demographic or child is immune to this horrific crime.
“It has brought us to our knees quite frankly. We are based on prayer because we are faith based – but the level of emotional disgust that we see. The harm that we see coming to the children has brought about anguish in our souls because we do not want to see this happen to the children. We do not want to see this grow in our community,” said Amerson.
It’s why organizations like ‘i-Care‘ and ‘Hope for Hooves‘ work so hard to help heal these children. In Lena’s case, her adopted daughter still has a long road of recovery ahead. Her innocence may have been stolen but the chance for a future full of hope and joy has not been.
“Her brain is trying to figure out what’s normal and what’s not. And it will probably take a lot of time for her to realize what life should really be like,” said “Lena”.
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK (October 24th): Barclay Bishop talks with a woman who was trafficked as a child and the warning she is sharing with others.
i-Care is hosting a training in January to learn more about Human Trafficking:
Learn more about the ‘Shed Light’ conference – HERE
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911
If you’re a human trafficking victim or have information about a potential trafficking situation:
NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Submit a tip online: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/en/report-trafficking
To report trafficking in Georgia
*Press Option #1 to report a tip to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
*Press Option #2 to report a child sex trafficking case directly
*Press Option #3 if you’re an adult requesting assistance from a trafficking situation
South Carolina 2022 Annual Report: Human Trafficking Task Force