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Meet Susan Norris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Norris.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
In 2010, I heard the statistic that the average entry age into the sex trade in the United States was 12-14 and that Atlanta was one of the hubs for this atrocity, according to the FBI. That blew my mind. I had middle schoolers and couldn’t grasp that this could possibly happen here in the United States. I began researching to learn all I could. The more I learned the more I needed to dig. I interviewed law enforcement, survivors of sex trafficking, family members of victims who were missing, front-line organizations, and even a former trafficker. I was trying to get my mind around how this could possibly be happening here. I took all I learned and wrote the book, Rescuing Hope so that students- who were potential victims – could learn how this evil operates and hopefully, become a harder target for traffickers. The book led to victims reaching out to me for help. I began serving victims out of the trunk of my car and would meet them around the city to try and help leverage resources for them. After doing this for six years on my own, I formed the nonprofit Rescuing Hope. Our mission statement is to ENLIGHTEN the public about sex trafficking in America (over 80% of victims are American citizens), EDUCATE potential victims and first responders (the age of entry into the sex trade continues to drop according to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Georgia, and EMPOWER advocates and survivors (there are not nearly enough resources available or places who serve victims outside of residential homes).

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
This work has been anything but smooth. There are more obstacles than I ever could have imagined. I had no idea the amount of mental health training our team would need to be able to meet victims where they are and get them the services they need. There has been pushback from schools to bringing education into the students because the word sex is included, when in reality what we are teaching is prevention, awareness and safety. As a small team of women, we have had to try and raise funds to operate while still doing the work. To say that the needs always exceed our resources is an understatement. We do what we can with what we have where we are and challenge our volunteers to do the same.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works in the fight against sex trafficking. Our mission is to ENLIGHTEN the public about sex trafficking in America, EDUCATE potential victims and first responders, and to EMPOWER advocates and survivors. You can learn more about us from our website, where we have multiple videos that will further tell our story.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
COVID caused many businesses to slow down or close; however, the issue of human trafficking seemed to excel. With everyone having to go online for work, school and socialization, students were no different. Traffickers knew this and they moved their operations online predominately. They were able to recruit, groom and lure victims without ever having to leave their homes. They could solicit sexts photos and videos to upload to customers as a form of advertising. One study demonstrated a 40% increase in trafficking during the pandemic, while an Internet Crimes Against Children detective told us he saw a 400% increase in activity in his area.

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