The Fight Against Human Trafficking: Advocacy, Rescue, and Support
Knoxville Museum of Art – Human Trafficking is Modern-Day Slavery
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transport, transfer or harboring of persons for commercial sex or labor exploitation. This can occur in a variety of settings including exotic dance clubs, hotels and restaurants. It can also happen in domestic settings such as massage parlors and nail and hair salons.
TCTA agencies provide housing and counseling for victims of human trafficking. They also support survivors with advocacy, education and prevention programming.
Operation Cross Country X
In a sting operation during Operation Cross Country X, FBI agents helped rescue minors who were trafficked into the United States. These victims were advertised for sex on social media apps. The FBI’s child exploitation task forces and state and local law enforcement agencies partnered with victim specialists during the operation to locate victims, gather intelligence, and build criminal cases.
The FBI says it located 84 minor victims of human trafficking and 141 adult human trafficking suspects. The average age of these victims was 15.5 years old.
Victim specialists work to help these children overcome the psychological trauma of sex enslavement. They also help them find services that can help them reintegrate into society. These services include counseling, housing, and employment. The FBI is continuing to work on this issue year-round. It believes that behind every statistic there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live free from sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, plain and simple. It’s happening here in East Tennessee and we need everyone to be part of the solution. “These individuals need someone to advocate for them,” said Rana Zakaria, a community educator with the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
She and her colleagues at CCAHT are raising awareness by educating the public on what to look out for. They also train community members to identify red flags and offer resources. They are the single point of contact for the Tennessee Counter-Trafficking Alliance (TCTA) for 33 East Tennessee counties.
On February 21, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation human trafficking agents arrested a teen and two adults during a traffic stop in Hickman County. They were charged with trafficking in commercial sex acts with minors. They are now in custody at the Hickman County Jail. Their bond is set at $120,000 each.
Grow Free Tennessee
Across the state, communities are using the Red Sand Project to honor human trafficking survivors, raise awareness and provide resources. Participants use natural, non-toxic red sand to create art installations in sidewalk cracks and host events. The project also encourages people to learn more about the issue by visiting local Welcome Centers and checking out online resources.
According to the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT), there are 85 minors in East Tennessee being exploited each month. Zakaria says that this underreported crime is much more common than most people realize.
CCAHT is working to change that. The organization is the single point of contact for all counter-trafficking referrals in 33 East Tennessee counties. It also provides on-the-ground comprehensive and specialized support to victims. This includes case management, safe shelter, food and clothing, mental health and substance abuse recovery, legal services, education and job training. The group also partners with law enforcement in stings and trainings to increase the likelihood of survivors cooperating with police.
The Knoxville Museum of Art
The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, explores the region’s artistic affinities with international art and operates ethically and responsibly as a public trust. Activities include exhibitions, tours, workshops, artist residencies, concerts, classroom programs, family activities and outreach. KMA is a member of the Association of American Museums and is supported in part by the Aslan Foundation.
In addition to the Red Sand Project, communities across the state will create sidewalk installations of natural, non-toxic red sand to recognize and bring attention to human trafficking. The sand represents the people who fall through the cracks of our society and have been exploited.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Lisa Bolton is a passionate pursuer of hope and works to unite and equip her community to end modern-day slavery while offering survivors individualized, relational care through Grow Free Tennessee’s direct services program. She is also a board member of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.