NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's a crime that impacts nearly 100 children each month in Tennessee, yet it often goes undetected and undiscussed. State and local leaders hope National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11 brought more attention to the crime.
The Tennessee Department of Health identifies human trafficking as “modern day slavery,” and the sale of another person for sex. Victims can be male or female and range in age.
“The Tennessee Department of Health recognizes human trafficking is a public health concern and we’re working with community organizations and local health departments to provide education and resources to help fight this issue in our state,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD.
The crime may occur in local hotels or motels, but victims are often lured online.
Margie Quin currently works as a consultant for End Slavery Tennessee, but during her 21 year career with the TBI, she worked with several victims of human trafficking. She said the stories she heard from victims were often the same.
“The most difficult thing is when you interview a child victim, and listen to them talk about what happened to them in their terms,” said Quin. “They know what happened to them, but they think they don’t matter. It’s up to us to remind them they matter.”
Victims may show signs of physical abuse, or appear malnourished. They may have very few personal possessions, and then suddenly have an increase in money without an explanation. They may fear authority figures or seem withdrawn or checked out.
The Tennessee Department of Health said the state is taking a proactive approach to stopping the problem, including progressive legislative efforts and comprehensive research to gather data to inform projects. New laws have been passed in each of the last eight years including efforts to assist victims of human trafficking and enhance penalties for traffickers.
If you see someone who you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, call 9-1-1 or the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.
For more information on End Slavery Tennessee visit: https://www.endslaverytn.org/
The TBI also has additional resources here: