A report ordered by the General Assembly and released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation last year revealed disturbing findings about human trafficking in Tennessee. Seventy-eight of the 95 counties in Tennessee, representing 85 percent of the total counties in the state, reported at least one case of human sex trafficking in the last 24 months. Sixty-eight counties, representing 72 percent of the total counties in the state, reported at least one case of human sex trafficking involving a minor child, while Shelby, Davidson, Coffee and Knox counties reported more than 100 cases.
Some of the measures rightfully taken by state lawmakers to fight this hideous crime can be found below:
1. Human Trafficking/Victim’s Defense: House Bill 2 states that it is a defense to prosecution when a person charged with prostitution is charged for conduct that occurred because a person was a victim as defined under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
2. Human Trafficking/Sexual Servitude: Similarly, House Bill 2493 was approved which replaces the existing Class B felony offense of “trafficking for sexual servitude” with “trafficking a person for a commercial sex act” and adds the attempt to subject, benefit from or attempt to benefit from another person’s provision of a commercial sex act. The bill clarifies that the offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex act would be a Class A felony if the victim is a child under 15 years of age and adds that the offense is a Class A felony if the offense occurs on the grounds or facilities or within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, secondary school, preschool, child care agency, public library, recreational center or public park. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that one in four children who run away are approached for commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home.
This new law also adds the offense of advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor, which is committed when a person knowingly sells or offers to sell an advertisement that would appear to a reasonable person to be for the purpose of engaging in what would be a commercial sex act with a minor. The bill prescribes a violation would be a Class C felony upon conviction. In addition to any authorized period of incarceration, advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor would be punishable by a minimum fine of $10,000 under the new state statute.
In a prosecution for advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor, the legislation says it is not a defense that the defendant did not know the age of the minor depicted in the advertisement.
3. Human Trafficking/Civil Recourse: Legislation was approved during the 107th General Assembly that gives victims of human trafficking a civil cause of action to sue the person who has victimized them. The purpose of this new law is to help restore trafficking victims financially at the expense of the trafficker.
4. Finally, human trafficking legislation was passed which calls for a plan to be developed in the Department of Human Services for the delivery of state services to victims of human trafficking passed this year. The bill seeks to give victims assistance in identifying any services the state offers which will help them recover from this crime.