Thursday, February 12, 2015

Trafficking Children in Tennessee

Imagine being a 13 year old girl or boy whose family has betrayed you in some way, maybe by sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, or through neglect.  Now imagine an older teen girl or guy, befriends you, acting like they really care about you, and you are starved for attention.

Then, all of the sudden, your life changes dramatically.  You are driven or flown to another city, conscious or unconscious, then used and sold as a sex slave.  You have become a prisoner of a sick, big business, called human sex trafficking.

Trafficking happens all across our nation, here in Nashville and throughout Tennessee. Selling bodies crosses all lines, including socioeconomic, racial, religious, age and geographic boundaries.  No longer is this something that happens to someone else. This happens here. 

A  state-wide victim advocacy non-profit organization, You have the Power, has partnered with several other community groups and private parties to spotlight this ever-growing, inhumane system by creating a documentary film called, No Girl’s Dream. No child asks to be sold into a life full of violence, fear and entrapment. This nightmare can damage their lives forever.  

Recently, spokespeople from End Slavery Tennessee, The Hannah Project, and the TBI reported horrifying statistics like 1 in 3 runaways are enslaved with 48 hours of leaving home.

The good news is that several groups have gathered to create more powerful laws that seek to punish those who buy and sell people in the sex industry. The courts also order “johns” to pay for and participate in a program that teaches them that what they are doing is re-victimizing kids who are already victims.  Coordinating this training is Magdalene, founded by Becca Stevens, a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. All men who trade money for sex need to understand that they are not paying a kid to help them have nice things.  Rather, they are supporting sex slavery.

These children have no choices, they are tortured with weapons, threatened and raped if they try to leave the system that traumatizes them.  Some who have been victimized by this system move up the ladder and become pimps, perpetuating violence just like they have received.

Only when we work together as a community, and when men and boys can challenge each other about their behaviors, can we decrease the sale of human bodies.  Men and women in power and consumers of such services need to intervene in the functioning of this monstrous business.

Let us help Tennessee and our nation become healthier places for all people, finding ways to enforce punishment and treatment for abusers and continuing to develop and fund treatment programs for victims. If you want to become involved, contact End Slavery Tennessee (, The Hannah Project Nashville, or the Magdalene program (

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