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Speaking out, staying connected: January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Guest columnist

Julie Wade

Executive Director Tharros Place

About ten years ago, I saw firsthand the impacts of human trafficking in our community and just how ill-equipped we were to handle it. A (police) sting on a human- trafficking ring landed two young girls – around 12 and 13 years old – in a local emergency room for evaluation. Over the next 36 hours, these frightened and victimized girls were re-victimized by the very system that was supposed to protect and help them.

That tragic incident – right here in our backyard – began a 10-year conversation about how we could build a culture of courage in trafficked girls by providing residential, trauma- informed, and customized services for each survivor. The ultimate goal? To transform those girls from victims to young women brimming with confidence, self-respect, and courage.

That initial conversation with lofty goals finally manifested itself last fall when Tharros Place welcomed its first residents into a beautifully renovated building, a place that will provide a safe place to learn and heal. Named after the Greek word for courage, we are open 24/7 and staffed by trained and licensed professionals providing trauma- informed, client-centered care to girls ages 12 to 17.

You may be asking yourself if a place like Tharros is even necessary. Does human trafficking even happen in our community? You may think it’s a problem relegated to big cities and Third World countries exclusively.

I’m here to tell you that human trafficking is real and is happening to girls (and boys) in our own neighborhoods, schools, churches, and communities. In 2022, 494 minors with an average age of 14 were identified as victims of human trafficking in Georgia; Chatham County ranked fourth in the state for the number of sex trafficking cases of minors, second outside of metro Atlanta.

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a presidentially designated observance designed to educate the public about human trafficking and the role you can play in preventing and responding to human trafficking. This month’s theme is Activate Connections to Prevent Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking cannot be prevented by any one individual, community, organization, or government. When we partner to prevent, we can enhance our efforts to keep everyone safe from human trafficking and we can create a world where lives are transformed and where young people are heard, supported, and empowered.

Tharros Place would definitely not be here without strong community connections, and it will take sustained community connections to carry us forward. And while we are proud of what we have already accomplished, the real work begins now.

To learn more about human trafficking and its impacts in our community, as well as the events planned this month, visit

Julie Wade is executive director of Tharros Place, a 501(c)(3) that takes its name from the Greek word for courage. In 2023, Tharros Place opened a 12-bed residential home to address underlying trauma and cultivate a culture of courage for girls ages 12 to 17.

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