solving sex trafficking
Human sex trafficking occurs in the United States.
It occurs in east Tennessee.
Awareness of this issue and encouragement to become a voice to end it were the focus of a panel discussion hosted by Second Life of Chattanooga on the Lee University campus Friday.
“Sex trafficking in the U.S. is the hot social justice topic right now,” Jerry Redman, managing senior partner of Second Life said.
“We’re talking about not a decades old problem, or even centuries old problem. We’re talking about a problem that has plagued mankind since we have been. The fact it is a problem in the U.S. is still new to most people.”
The event began with a showing of “The Candy Shop,” a film produced by a church in Atlanta. The film highlights the sexual exploitation of children though the allegory of a candy shop.
Panel members encouraged students and community members present to become a part of the efforts to end sex trafficking.
Redman said sex trafficking is not simply an urban problem. It is an issue that can be seen in suburban and rural areas.
“Tennessee is one of the leading states to address this issue,” Redman said.
Trafficking in Tennessee is being addressed by legislation. Tennessee Bureau of Investigationis also training its officers in this issue.
Training for law enforcement seeks to have officers look beyond prostitution to consider if the situation is really trafficking.
“A person just doesn’t say, ‘I want to be a prostitute,’” Carmen Hudson of Partnership for Families, Children and Adults in Chattanooga said.
“Something caused them to be at that point in their lives. And some people say it might be because of drugs. Well who started them on drugs. A lot of times it’s the pimps who start them on drugs, in order to keep that connect with them.”
Hudson said some rape and domestic violence victims who come to Partnership are also sex trafficking victims.
“Any time a child is used for a commercial sex act, that’s trafficking,” Redman said.
Adult sex trafficking occurs when force, fraud or coercion are involved in a commercial sex act, according to Terri Self, senior partner of Second Life.
Self said some indicators of sex trafficking for a college student may include a sudden change in attitude, appearance and behavior.
A student will become detached, begin skipping class and seem extremely tired, she said. A new tattoo of an unusual design may also be an indicator.
“Branding is part of what goes on in human trafficking,” Self said.
She said building trust and asking questions to find out what is going on is important.
Self said the victim will be afraid to say anything to anyone.
She also encouraged students to tell someone qualified so help can be provided to victims.
Redman said ending trafficking will only be possible through partnerships.
“Every single person can do something,” Self said.
Redman said each person has some way that they can do something about ending this.
“The business community has to step in. We are seeing this more and more in this area,” Redman said.
Teachers and educators also need to be aware and involved.
Redman said he would like to see churches in southeast Tennessee become a part of addressing this issue and raising awareness.
“We’ve really been waiting for them to step into the issue — the way they need to,” Redman said.
Those present were encouraged to speak about the issue at their churches and talk to their pastors about getting involved.
“A key to solving this is awareness,” Self said.
She said the more people who are working to end trafficking the less power traffickers have.
Self said as awareness grows victims are given more power.
Hudson said students have great energy to work toward making a difference. She encouraged those present to volunteer with the Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking and other organizations that help victims.
Self encouraged listeners to study the issue and determine how best to get involved.
Redman said every medium, such as art and music, can be used to bring awareness.
To truely bring an end to sex trafficking, law enforcement will need to go after those who pay for the service and sex traffickers, Redman said.
He said this is starting to happen as laws change and work is being done for harsher sentencing for those participating in trafficking as perpetrators or traffickers.
State Rep. Eric Watson was unable to participate in the panel because of business in Nashville.
Second Life of Chattanooga: http://secondlifechattanooga.org/