“How is this happening?” First lady Marty Kemp tackles trafficking

Newly formed Grace Commission aims to combat the issue
Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp discussed the Grace Commission with members of the Junior League of Cobb-Marietta. Photo: AikWah Leow

Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp discussed the Grace Commission with members of the Junior League of Cobb-Marietta. Photo: AikWah Leow

Soon after assuming the role of Georgia’s first lady, Marty Kemp made combatting human trafficking a key project.

What she’s learned so far has been harrowing.

“It is such an evil industry,” she said. At the first meeting of her newly formed Grace (Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education) Commission, members heard from a trafficking survivor pushed into the trade by her own father.

"How is this happening?" said Kemp during a visit to the Junior League of Cobb-Marietta this week. The average age of trafficking victims is just under 15, she has learned. Half of the time, family members are the culprits.

“Human trafficking is not just in the metro area,” Kemp added. “It’s all across the state.”

She hopes training to recognize the signs of possible trafficking will soon be available to civic groups such as Junior Leagues.

“I really look forward to working together,” she said. “I want these survivors to know they have someone fighting for them.”

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Marty Kemp with Junior League of Cobb-Marietta members Ni’Cole McCrae, left and Kim Cortes and 2019-20 League president Katie Stieber.

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Coincidentally, the day after Kemp’s visit, the office of Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard announced the conviction of Christopher Jackson, 56, on charges of rape, trafficking a person for sexual servitude, kidnapping, aggravated assault, pandering by compulsion, pimping and possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a felony.

In 2017, Jackson met a woman through social media and started what she thought was a “serious romantic relationship,” the DA’s office said. Jackson invited her to Atlanta, promising to buy her a BMW. Instead, the DA’s office said, he forced her at gunpoint into sexual service.

“Jackson forced the victim into an abandoned warehouse and the trucks of a number of men where she performed oral sex for cash,” the DA’s office said. “The ‘johns’ paid the defendant $20 for the victim’s sexual services. This continued for several hours until Jackson and the victim were picked up by a friend of the defendant.”

Jackson then raped the woman and locked her in a bedroom. She managed to contact a friend and family member, who alerted police. Jackson was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 75 years.

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In her first interview as the head of Georgia?€™s first human trafficking prosecution unit, Hannah Palmquist talks challenges in the courtroom, specifically when it comes combating how jurors view victims and how victims view themselves.

Kemp has made animal rescue another part of her official duties, hosting adoption events for shelter animals at the Governor's Mansion. The most recent saw a number of dogs and cats - and even a hamster - heading to their forever homes with new owners.

The Governor’s Mansion is home to the Kemps’ golden retriever, Bailey, and Rhett the German shepherd.

The Kemps have three daughters, Jarrett, 20, and Lucy, 18, who are in college, and Amy Porter, 16, who is in high school.

“They remind me every day I’m not as cool as I think I am,” Marty Kemp said with a laugh.