By Derri Smith
Many agencies, including some in our area, focus on national and international anti-trafficking work. And that’s fabulous! I directed the human trafficking work at an international agency.
But WE focus exclusively on trafficking right here in Tennessee. Just as locally grown produce, and local businesses produce high quality, our community-based effort focuses on applying local resources to local needs. Our knowledge of the issue in this region is deep and specific.
Small is good because it takes more than a brightly-colored Band Aid to cover gaping wounds. It’s a messy and time intensive process. It starts by building trust with people who have absolutely no reason to trust anyone again.
We ‘ve developed effective working relationships with LOCAL service providers. With TBI, Tennessee legislators, regional media and other change-makers so we can bring about needed systemic changes. This collaborative regional approach WORKS. Three years ago, for example, Tennessee’s human trafficking laws received a grade of C, but today Tennessee laws earn the top score in the nation.
Law enforcement knows and trusts us. So our Intervention Specialist- who is a survivor herself- is called and on the scene immediately to comfort and meet the immediate needs of a newly released victim.
We’re in the courts advocating with attorneys, judges and judicial staff who often know us or have been to one of our trainings.
We train thousands of local professionals every year, using specific Tennessee laws and information.
We help family members cope with their own victimhood. You who are parents or grandparents can imagine what this would do to you.
We work with partner agencies to empower youth to avoid being trafficked in the first place. This fall we’ll be bringing our ten week small group prevention program to Salaama Urban Ministries, working with parents, staff and children.
Real healing takes time, knowledge, partnerships and trusted caring people who will be there for the long haul; who will be from the beginning and stay all the way through to the other side of trauma , into healing and hope.
And that is who we are.