How Sex-Trafficking affects rural areas and what we can do to help

Sex trafficking has been improving in rural areas like Knoxville for the past few years, but there is still work to do.

In May of last year, thirty people were arrested in a sex trafficking sting operation in Knox County, including two pastors. In Nashville, fourteen individuals were charged in connection with human trafficking in August of 2016. Those arrested included a high school teacher and a former Vanderbuilt football player. In February of this year, more than 40 people were arrested in a human trafficking sting in Memphis, including former MATA CEO Ron Garrison.

Ultimately, criminals of human trafficking could be people you come in contact with on a daily basis. Who’s at risk includes children in foster care, runaways, children or adults with special needs, or people with a history of physical or sexual abuse.

Kate Trudell, executive director of Grow Free TN, mentioned additional information related to victims she works with every day.

“Essentially, these women have been denied love their whole lives and have been victimized since childhood. There is some adverse experience that has happened to most of the women we work with and that was the catalyst that sent them down the path of begging to loved.”

Why does human trafficking continue to thrive? For one, it’s very profitable and is less of a risk than trafficking something like drugs. There’s no need to smuggle a person as much as you would have to hide drugs. It’s also easy to lie about a victim being a close friend or family member to the police. Secondly, the criminals are master manipulators, which means they can control the victim into doing anything because they start to believe they need them.

Challenges may arise in helping a victim, simply because they may feel a sense of loyalty to the criminal or would rather go to jail instead of asking for help.

There are many ways to spot a potential victim of sex trafficking. Signs include: drug-use, looks as if they are living out of the car, having multiple cell phones, not knowing what city they’re in, or if a person seems to be very controlling over the other.

Ways to help prevent incidents from happening are things like being aware of the surroundings, talking about the issue of human trafficking, and being willing to learn more.