The Mid-State has seen two highly publicized cases of human trafficking in the last month, but victims of the lucrative industry know that is just the tip of the iceberg.
One woman who was sold for sex by her own parents told her harrowing story to Nashville's News 2's Lauren Murphy.
“I was sold and I was raped from the time I can remember,” said the Nashville woman, who legally changed her name to Hope, and declined to use her last name.
“My earliest conscious memory was probably two or three years old,” said Hope, but she is confident she was bought and sold as an infant.
She remembers being forced to have intercourse with other children, even her own brothers.
“There was no limit to the horrible disgusting things they would make us do things to each other and those were the hardest things for me.”
Hope said she was sexually abused and sold by her own parents, a word she's hesitant to use.
“According to the law, they were considered my parents, but I'd be safer on the streets from the things they were doing to me,” said Hope.
She says she was often kept in a doghouse behind the family home, deprived of food and water.
“I thought anything would be better than being alone.”
A drive down Second Avenue in downtown Nashville still triggers painful memories from more than a decade ago.
She said deals were made in private rooms of restaurants and bars.
“They would urinate on you and say they mark their territory. You're theirs and you're sold to the highest bidder.”
Home base was a small community in a neighboring state, about a two hour drive from downtown, but she said Nashville, Murfreesboro and Knoxville were on their regular circuit.
She describes the trafficking community as a highly sophisticated ring of professionals, church members, educators, even law enforcement who kept “dirt” on each other for insurance, in the form of pictures and videos.
For her safety, she declined naming the school, church, or town where this happened.
Hope has no physical evidence; the statute of limitations has long expired; she says her abusers have videos and photographs that could destroy her, possibility incriminate her.
No one has ever been held responsible, but true to her new name, Hope still believes some good will come from her story
“Justice for me would be that people stop putting their head in the sand and believing that America is a place where slavery doesn't exist.”
The non-profit organization, End Slavery Tennessee has been working with Hope on her long road to recovery.
Anyone who suspects human trafficking in their area is urged to call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH.