When most people think of human trafficking, the image of a child being kidnapped and shipped overseas to be sold for sex comes to mind, said Shannon Holcombe, a sex trafficking survivor.
But for her, it all started in Bartow County.
"We want the world to know it's a real thing here," said Holcombe, who now works as an intake coordinator for Abba House, a residential ministry for women that she was in following her getting out of the sex trade in fall 2014.
"We fail to realize that a doctor, judge, nurse or lawyer could do it," the 26-year-old said, adding, however, that the majority of instances of sexual exploitation involve relatives of victims.
Holcombe spoke at a seminar Friday titled "Human Trafficking Meets Healthcare: An Opportunity for Intervention" that was attended by over 50 health and behavioral professionals along with law enforcement and social services representatives.
The event was aimed at increasing the awareness health professionals have of human trafficking and how they can be intervening forces in victims' lives.
Keynote speaker Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, who works for a number of organizations aimed at ending human trafficking, said current statistics on human trafficking likely represent "the tip of the iceberg" and there are likely more cases, which haven't reached the light of day due to the criminal nature therein.
In the U.S., the two main types of human trafficking are sex and labor trafficking, Greenbaum said. Commercial sex acts are the exchange of something of perceived value — such as drugs, money or food — but sex trafficking doesn't always come in the form of a pimp prostituting someone, she added. It can come in the form of a child who has been abandoned and lives on the streets, with circumstances, rather than a pimp, driving them toward survival sex.
Referring to labor trafficking, Greenbaum called on audience members to think of those who clean rooms at hotels or wash dishes in the back of restaurants. But she added there is variety in the type of labor trafficking occupations, it doesn't just pertain to, as commonly thought, migrant farm workers.
The intersection of healthcare and sex and labor trafficking comes when victims need medical care. These visits aren't specific to emergency rooms, but can take place at clinics, Planned Parenthood sites or pediatricians' offices, Greenbaum said. And it isn't likely that victims will confess their exploitation, especially when they can be accompanied by their traffickers, who are set on making sure they don't do it.
Additionally, traffickers purposefully instill guilt in victims, making them feel ashamed for being in the positions they are in, demeaning them to a point of self-abasement.
For Holcombe, this feeling of worthlessness began when she was just a 4-year-old, when she was molested by a teenage cousin, and continued as she was prostituted by a controlling mistress, who bounded her by feeding her drug addiction, in her 20s. It wasn't until she was aided by representatives of the Atlanta-based ministry Out of Darkness that she finally saw the value in herself, she said.
If a health professional suspects a patient is being trafficked — by picking up on certain indicators such as overdoses, suicide attempts, numerous abortions or sexually transmitted infections — it is important for them to proceed carefully in asking questions of the patient in a safe, one-on-one situation, Greenbaum said. Victims can display edgy or aggressive behavior, which they utilize in the harsh conditions they live under, and often suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, she added.
Health professionals must avoid re-traumatizing a victim where they become unresponsive to any assistance, Greenbaum explained. Ultimately, providing resources leading to a way out of their situations is the intervention health professionals can provide for trafficked individuals.
'We want the world to know it's a real thing here. We fail to realize that a doctor, judge, nurse or lawyer could do it.'
Human trafficking survivor
A Cedartown man convicted last year of stalking a Rome woman was one of two prison inmates found dead in their cells over the weekend.
The inmates were in different prisons. Georgia Department of Corrections officials said Monday they are investigating both deaths as apparent suicides. Bobby Andrew Garlin, 27, of 1381 Doyle Road in Cedartown, was serving a sentence at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville. He was found unresponsive at 1:15 a.m. Sunday and pronounced dead at 3:27 a.m. by the Tattnall County coroner, according to a DOC press release.
Garlin, formerly of Rome, was sentenced to 10 years on aggravated stalking and criminal damage to property charges for an August 2016 incident in which he violated an order to stay away from the victim and then broke out a window and cut some laundry lines.
He was additionally sentenced to five years on charges of aggravated stalking and terroristic threats and acts in connection with a March 2017 incident. The DOC listed his release date as May 26, 2019, at the latest.
Also on Monday, the department announced the death of inmate Christopher Eugene Mauldin, who was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday at Philips State Prison in Buford and pronounced dead at 3:56 a.m. Mauldin, 32, was convicted in Carroll County on burglary and other charges. His maximum possible release date was listed as Jan. 11, 2021.
Today's artwork is by Armuchee Elementary student Elan McClain.
After three Berry College Middle School teachers turned their classrooms into escape rooms, the role of game-master was then taken on by their students to create their own for each other as well as elementary students.
In brainstorming ideas for the latest odyssey — a weeklong activity at the end of each quarter that combines education and entertainment — teachers Jason Tucker, Ellice Curry-Tucker and Julianne Bailey built on their experience at an escape room in Chattanooga.
Though, they had to alter the escape room idea, since "locking kids in a room has inherent problems," Tucker joked.
So they each developed different themes for three board game escape rooms for their students to take part in when they returned from Christmas break earlier this month. Curry-Tucker stoked students' fandom of the popular TV show "Stranger Things," while Tucker's was Unfamiliar What-chamacallits and Bailey's was fairy tales.
Solving the puzzles and finding clues led to the unlocking of a handful of padlocks on boxes, from directional codes to number sequences. An example in Curry-Tucker's room was using a world map for students to find coordinates with a blacklight and figuring out it's a math puzzle for them to solve.
Not all students had success, Tucker said. And this is a great learning experience for them and something they can take with them through life, learning to make adjustments to achieve different results, he added.
Then the three teachers stepped back and handed the reins over to students to develop their own escape rooms for their fellow middle schoolers. Students not only had to think of the solutions but all the non-solutions as well as they became the creators, Curry-Tucker said.
After this, the students from each of the classrooms then had to tailor their game designs to younger audiences — elementary schoolers. This involves "higher-order thinking," Curry-Tucker said, as it puts students in the position of making an idea compatible with a particular group.
"I think it was smart of the teacher to help us adapt to different age groups," said sixth-grader Levi Pierce in his written reflection. "I think it helped people show versatility. People have to adapt in real life all the time."
Bailey said involving the entire school in odyssey activities is always the goal, but "it's a rarity to capture all of the students' imagination at once."
Students have already requested the return of the escape rooms, but it won't come back as an odyssey activity for the next three years, as the cycle dictates. However, the teachers did hint at possibly bringing it out for certain special occasions, to encourage problem solving and logic.
"My favorite part of our room that we made for the fourth-and-fifth-graders was the potions and the wands," said eighth-grader Molly Mayfield, referring to the "Harry Potter" room in her written reflection. "This odyssey was a really good one for team building."
"Overall, this was a very creative odyssey, and one where you definitely needed to use your brain," said seventh-grader Jonah Campbell.
The next odyssey for students will see classrooms, from floor to ceiling, turned into the Galapagos Islands.
Three seats on the Floyd County Commission and two on the county school board are among the vacancies local voters will fill this year.
Qualifying runs March 5-9 for the primary and nonpartisan elections scheduled for May 22.
Winners of the Democrat and Republican primaries will advance to the Nov. 6 general election. The nonpartisan seats — judgeships — will be decided in May.
Who's up locally
Juvenile Court Judge Greg Price is running for another term, as is Superior Court Judge Billy Sparks.
Price was appointed in 2012 to serve the remaining two years of retired judge Tim Pape's term. He was unopposed in 2014. Sparks was appointed in September 2016 when chief judge Walter Matthews retired. The term runs through Dec. 31.
Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston has said she will not seek another four-year term. Local attorney Emily J. Matson and Floyd County Assistant District Attorney Kay Ann Wetherington are already campaigning for the open seat.
All of Floyd County's other local seats are partisan and are filled by Republicans.
The terms of County Commissioners Larry Maxey, Rhonda Wallace and Scotty Hancock expire at the end of the year and all three said Monday they expect to run for re-election.
On the Floyd County Board of Education, members Chip Hood and Tony Daniel also said they plan to qualify in March.
The commission and school board races are countywide and terms are for four years.
Wallace, Hood and Daniel were unopposed in the 2014 general election; Maxey and Hancock each garnered more than 70 percent of the vote against Democratic challengers.
Georgia General Assembly terms are for two years and all 236 seats are up for grabs this year. The races are by district.
The District 52 seat held by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, covers all of Floyd County and parts of Bartow, Chattooga and Gordon counties.
Hufstetler said Monday he plans to seek another term.
Floyd County's state representatives — Christian Coomer, Katie Dempsey and Eddie Lumsden — also said they'll be running for re-election.
Coomer's 14th district covers a piece of southeastern Floyd County and the northern half of Bartow.
Dempsey, in District 13, represents central Floyd, including all of Rome. Lumsden's District 12 takes in the western half of Floyd and all of Chattooga County.
None of the state legislative delegates had primary challengers and only Dempsey faced a Democrat in the general election.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, also will be seeking another two-year term in Congress.
Graves' 14th District essentially covers Northwest Georgia: All of Floyd, Polk, Chattooga, Gordon, Walker, Whitfield, Haralson, Paulding, Catoosa, Dade and Murray counties and half of Pickens.
He fended off a Republican challenger in the 2014 primary but had no Democratic opposition in the general election.
Statewide races on the ballot include three seats on the Georgia Supreme Court and five on the appeals court that will be decided May 22.
In the November general election voters will choose a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, commissioners of agriculture, insurance and labor, state school superintendent and two members of the Public Service Commission in charge of regulating utilities.