2 accused of forcing woman into sex work

2 accused of forcing woman into sex work (Image 1)

A Tennessee woman and Florida man have been charged with human trafficking after forcing a young woman to work as a stripper.

Authorities in Michigan said that following an investigation by police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a Detroit suburb, they arrested Vinson Alexander, 30, of Florida and Taryn Johnson, 27, of Memphis.

While both are charged with human trafficking, Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette said that Alexander is also charged with torturing and assaulting the young 18-year-old woman.

Schuette told Nashville's News 2 that Johnson recruited the woman in December, luring her with promises of good pay.

Alexander then took the woman's earnings and threatened her with violence to control her, seriously injuring her last Thursday.

Alexander and Johnson were arraigned on Monday and they are due back in court Friday.

Advocates for the victims of human trafficking see cases like this frequently.

Colette Bercu, CEO of Free for Life International, a non-profit organization that works to eliminate human trafficking and help survivors of modern day slavery, said that over 4,000 minors are trafficked into Tennessee each year.

“The Academy Awards were on last night and three of the top ten movies in this country are about slavery,” she said. “There are more people enslaved right now than there has been in any other time in history.

She added that slavery is very much alive and is a $32 billion a year industry.

In 2011, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation did a study on human trafficking that found Middle Tennessee has a significant amount of trafficking due in part to the interstate system as well as the number of trade shows and conventions that come to the area.

The same study also predicted that sex trafficking and prostitution would increase significantly after the Music City Center opens.

Bercu noted that trade shows and conventions are prime locations for pimps to target.

“At times people check their luggage and check their morals at the same airport gate,” she said. “Sometimes people get into a way of thinking that is completely contrary to the rest of their lives.”

Bercu said parents have to be engaged in their children's lives to make sure they are not lured into the world of sex trafficking.

She said sex traffickers often hang out in places where teens gather and contact children through social media sites like Facebook.

“They don't look like the boogie man. They look like a regular person,” she said.

Tennessee has enacted laws to help prevent sex and human trafficking.

The laws also target labor trafficking where people are bought and sold to work.

Currently, there are three bills in the General Assembly dealing with human trafficking this session.

One bill proposed by Representative Debra Moody (R) District 81 would create a human trafficking task force.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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