January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a day for Americans to acknowledge the very real problem of human trafficking in this country and learn how we can all be a part of stopping it.
Textbooks teach us that slavery in the United States ended with the Emancipation Proclamation and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865. Today, many people believe these closed the book on one of the darkest chapters in American history, the idea of enslaving and exploiting another human being for profit so abhorrent it could now only happen in far away countries or by people other than Americans. However, modern day slavery happens every day in the United States, in Tennessee and perhaps right here in Sevier County.
Human trafficking is the illegal trading of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry spanning the globe and denying freedom to more than 20 million people, including thousands of people in the United States, through forms of modern day slavery.
Polaris Project, an organization named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, is dedicated to fighting human trafficking by promoting tougher legislation, conducting training, providing victim services and operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.
“People are reaching out to the national human trafficking hotline every single day and telling us that modern slavery is happening in their communities,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. “Girls are forced by pimps to sell sex at truck stops. Domestic workers are abused by their employers. Men are isolated on farms with limited access to food and water. We have identified potential cases of human trafficking in every state in the nation, and we are finding important trends that can help us stop this violence and exploitation.”
There have been more than 18,000 cases of human trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center since December of 2007, including 273 cases in Tennessee.
What is Tennessee Doing to Stop Human Trafficking?
Tennessee established the Human Trafficking Task Force one year ago, bringing together representatives from state agencies, legislators, community leaders, researchers, law enforcement, survivors and advisors. The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS), working with other state agencies, conducted a statewide study to assess human trafficking in Tennessee and developed the Tennessee Human Trafficking Services Coordination and Service Delivery Plan.
The state also maintains an “A” rating with Shared Hope International’s Protected Innocence Challenge. This annual report is a comprehensive study of existing state laws whereby every state receives a report card on 41 key legislative components that must be addressed in a state’s laws in order to effectively respond to the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking.
“We are very excited about the progress Tennessee is making in addressing human trafficking,” said Dr. Raquel Hatter, Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner and chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force. “Through solid public-private partnerships, the state has generated momentum that has established Tennessee as a leader in the nation.”
What you can do to stop human trafficking in your community:
- Visit www.ithastostop.com to learn about human trafficking in Tennessee.
- Learn how to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking at http://www.ithastostop.com/thewarningsigns.shtml
- Donate to, or volunteer with organizations such as End Slavery Tennessee.
- If you are a victim of human trafficking and need help, or would like to report a tip, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center website; call the NHTRC hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888; or call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-855-558-6484.