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The Perpetrators: Three Short Stories

#1 Picture a nice rural high school, surrounded by lush farm land. As is so typical  at this age, a sixteen year old girl is flattered when she is romanced by a boy at school . The boy brings the girl home to meet his mother, but instead of sitting down to a nice lunch and a chat,  the mother pops an ad up on the internet advertising the girl for sex, and drives the teen to a hotel where she is sold to 20-30 men. An anonymous tip prompts police investigation which reveals that this family team was doing the same thing with a number of other 16 and 17 year old high school girls.  This is the mother, son and daughter, who was also involved. 

#1

#2: A 18 year old girl ,who I’ll call “Mary”,  living with her older sister, is taking a class at church and is pleased  by the attention of a woman in the class. They become friends. One day after  class, her new “friend” briefly introduces Mary to two men who, unknown to her, follow the girl home. Later in the week, when she is home alone, the men come back, tell Mary to pack her bags and come with them or they will kill her sister. She is terrified and does what they demand. For the next three years, Mary is shuttled from one location to another, to keep her disoriented and without a support system. She’s sold to be raped on average of 7-8 times a day,  while the men pocket the money. To keep her compliant, they stab her with an ice pick, torture her, beat her and continued to threaten the lives of both her sister and her parents. These are the men. 

#2

# 3: Now picture a young woman, full of ambition, getting off a bus in a new city, needing a job and a place to live.  She’s been chatting with a young man who seems friendly and interested in her well-being. In the course of the conversation the young man says he knows of a friend who might be able to help her get a job. Grateful, the girl follows up on the job lead—and ends up locked in a motel room waiting for clients to arrive in response to an on-line ad the “friend” put on the internet advertising her sexual services. Thankfully, the girl was able to get the attention of a motel worker who called for help and she was rescued, along with three other not-as-fortunate girls being held by this young man and his father. These girls  had been dragged from town to town and sold for sex over a period of years. One of these girls, when rescued, was sobbing “I just want to see my mother!” This is the son in that father-son team.

#3

And this one is a customer. Without him, the perpetrators would go out of business. 

#4

All of these stories are true. But what might surprise you is to learn that all of them happened in middle Tennessee . Stories #2 and 3 took place in Nashville. The high school in the first story was in Robertson County, NW of Nashville, and the hotel was in Murfreesboro. All happened within the past year– two of them in the last few months. 

Human Trafficking and slavery is real, it's everywhere, and it's growing.  If you live in Tennessee, you WILL find it, when you look.  It happens here.   To see other victim stories, visit  slaverymap.org.

Beyond Running Around With a Mop: Next Steps in Ending Slavery in Tennessee

mop1 Those of us involved in anti-human trafficking have been working hard to rescue and aid a few victims, and that is marvelous. Every human life freed from bondage is cause for great celebration. Every victim needs a wide array of care and to know that people care about them. Recently, for example, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of donors providing household goods and furnishings for a rescued victim who was moved to a town in Tennessee for her protection.

But this approach is rather like running around with a mop to clean up after an overflowing toilet. At some point, we need to shut off the water!

Next steps Here are the next steps that End Slavery TN (ESTN) is focusing on:

  • Training: We provide training for the people likely to make first contact with victims or to see the suspicious activity indicating trafficking. Currently, ESTN is training apartment managers, medical professionals, teachers and university faculty, pastors/priests, and law enforcement students. A recent Health and Human Services grant will provide training for law enforcement officers throughout Middle Tennessee, which is a big step in the right direction. Perhaps you will be the one who will open the doors, making it possible for cable installers, social workers, postal carriers and others to receive training.
  • Demand Abatement: ESTN volunteers are teaching men in the John School (for men arrested for soliciting prostitutes) how their choices feed into the monstrous machine of human trafficking and support organized crime. Marna Jane said several in her audience were clearly shocked and moved and one man spoke to her of his horror at thinking of his own daughters and grandchildren being victimized.
  • Prevention: We need teachers/education students/curriculum specialists/good writers to develop a curriculum that can be easily implemented by volunteers, to teach at-risk youth, parents, and staff/volunteers at immigrant and inner-city service providers about the tactics and dangers of traffickers.
  • Research: Modern slavery is a hidden crime and uncovering it is the first step towards ending it. We do research to reveal trafficking patterns and aid effective strategizing.
  • Spreading the Word: We speak frequently to high school and college campuses, professional organizations, civic groups, and faith communities. Everywhere we go, the most common response is “I had NO idea!”, followed by “What can I do about it?”*

Lack of awareness leads to low levels of victim identification, even by those who come in contact with them. Volunteer Lucia created a poster with the national hotline help number and tips for identifying victims. Volunteers, from truck drivers to student groups, place these posters in strategic locations, and others are translating them into languages used by area immigrants.  Another friend, Daniel, donated 200 posters and arranged for at-cost printing for 1,000 more. According to police, these posters are a very effective tool leading to victim rescue.

*There is still so much to accomplish and there is a place for everyone. Let us help you find YOUR part the work to end modern day slavery in Tennessee and beyond. Write to us at info@endslaverytn.org