NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In Tennessee, 85 counties have reported at least one case of human trafficking.
It is the second largest crime on the planet, and it’s growing. It’s active in every zip code and in every community.
End Slavery Tennessee, a group dedicated to the healing of trafficking victims, educates on the signs and red flags people can watch out for, to spot children in trouble.
“The average age of entry for a girl (into trafficking) is between 12 and 14,” says CEO Derri Smith. “What 12- or 14-year-old isn’t vulnerable or looking for love and acceptance? And all it takes is a master manipulator coming along to exploit that desire.”
About 1,100 kids are trafficked in Tennessee every year. End Slavery treated and counseled 200 victims in 2017.
Smith says education and understanding the severity of the problem can lead to solving it, and stopping sex trafficking starts with spotting the signs.
If a child is missing school, suddenly has new things, understands new sexual terms, or has an older boyfriend, they may be in trouble.
“We need to make this not just the hot topic of the moment and then go on to something else, we need to actually address this, in a smart way, collaboratively, until we see the end of it in our state. And we really can do that,” says Smith.
End Slavery Tennessee operates three safe houses which actively work with victims. To maintain operations, the organization is in constant need of donations. Click here for an updated needs list.
Tennessee was recently rated number one in the country for its response to human trafficking. In 2017, there was also a 70 percent increase in survivors treated.
If you suspect human trafficking, call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.