recruitment of children

Learning the Lingo

Awhile back, some of us with End Slavery TN got a lesson in terminology from a survivor of sex trafficking.  We learned a lot more than words in the process; we learned a lot about the world of a victim. Read it, and weep. Then, for heaven’s sake, DO something to help.

  • Bottom, or Bottom Bitch: A person appointed by the pimp/trafficker to recruit potential victims, report violation of rules, and often to help punish.
  • Branded: A tattoo on a victim indicating ownership by a trafficker/pimp.
  • Daddy: A term a male trafficker /pimp requires his victims to call him.
  • Family or Folks: A group of victims under the control of a trafficker/pimp. The term is an attempt to recreate the family environment.
  • Gorilla Pimp: A violent trafficker/pimp
  • Lot Lizard: Derogatory term for prostituted women and children at truck stops.
  • Pimp Circle: Describes a situation where pimps circle around a victim to intimidate and discipline them, using verbal and physical threats/action, i.e.beating with wire coat hangers, defecating and urinating on victims
  • Quota: The amount of money a victim must give to their trafficker/pimp each night. If a quota is not met, the victim may be made to work until it is, or may be beaten or otherwise disciplined.
  • Seasoning: The process of breaking a victim’s spirit and gaining control over her, using rapes, beatings, manipulation and intimidation. There is actually a manual for pimps on how to season victims.
  • Stable: A group of victims under the control of a pimp.
  • Trade Up/Trade Down: The act of buying or selling a person for a pimp’s stable.
  • Turn Out: To be forced into prostitution; also a person newly involved
  • "Wifey" or Wife-in-law: A term prostituted women and children are required to call the other females in the “stable.”
  • Kiddie Track or Runaway Track - Just what it sounds like it means.  

Wanna Save Some Kids from Hell on Earth?

It’s a whole lot better to actually prevent someone from being trafficked than it is to rescue them after the fact, and it’s one of the most effective ways we can work in our communities.

Let’s think about the ways people get trafficked and what types of preventative measures might be useful.

In the case of sex slavery, sometimes girls* are recruited by a cute boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in them, a man who serves as a father figure, a girl who acts like a girlfriend or a woman who seems safe.  Did you see the movie Taken?  Remember the boy at the airport who shared a taxi cab with the two girls when they arrived from America for a European holiday?  That boy was a recruiter. 

 There are cases in which a “girlfriend” invited the victim to her home for a sleepover, then the man who was allegedly her father (but really wasn’t) popped a drug into her drink.  She wakes to find herself being raped by a succession of men. 

Often kids from abusive homes are befriended by a charmer who poses as a boyfriend.  He “loves” this girl and makes her feel special.  Over time, he says that if she loves him, she will sell herself for sex to make the money they need to buy a house and live happily ever after.  He becomes increasingly violent.  He follows tried and true methods for breaking a girl into sex slavery.  (There’s actually a manual to tell him how.  For real.) 

What if these young people—and their parents and teachers—had seen a presentation in school about the tactics and dangers of traffickers?  If we simply opened some naïve eyes, how much heartache might be avoided?

My dream is to create a presentation to do just that, and bring it to schools, youth clubs, inner city and immigrant service providers and the like.  It would take so little, to do so much good.

This project is very do-able, very affordable, and can be very effective.  Like the idea of a slave-free community?  Me too. Let’s make it happen! 

Here‘s what you can do:

  • Act in a short drama portraying the tactics of traffickers
  • Direct this drama or write the script.
  • Use your musical skills to write and/or perform a song that will stay in kids’ minds after the presentation, causing them to think twice if they encounter red flags.
  • Once polished, video the presentation so we can distribute it more broadly.
  • Take leadership. Organize and oversee this project.
  • Donate toward the cause, to "work of Derri Smith for prevention."

Contact us here

* Boys and men are trafficked too.  Because 80% of victims are female, I choose to use the feminine nouns and pronouns for victims.

A Glimpse at Grassroots Activism: The making of “Stolen”, the song and music video

End Slavery TN abolitionists recently completed participation in a project that epitomizes the grassroots nature of our work. The fruition can be found in the song “Stolen” and accompanying music video: WARNING. POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES. NOT FOR CHILDREN. [youtube=]

The process, in microcosm, looked like this:

I shared some of my Power Points, information  and the story of a local victim with a local pastor.

The pastor, Michael Reddish, talked to his congregation about Human Trafficking, and told the survivor’s story.

A musician in the audience, Brian Terry, heard the story, talked to me afterward, and bought the book “Not For Sale.”

The story inspired Brian to write the song “Stolen.” Reading the book burned the issue into his heart, inspiring determination to do whatever he could to cripple slavery.

3 Minutes to Live band members joined Brian, who is their lead singer,  in performing and recording the song. Some who heard “Stolen” encouraged the group to create an accompanying music video.

I sent word out to our network of area abolitionists and:

  • An apartment manager, Diana English, arranged for us to use one of her show apartments as a location.
  • Bill Harding, a student and colleague working with Stop Child Trafficking Now, took on the role of videographer and was able to use his school’s equipment because he made this his class project.
  • Marla Shelton, who works in the Service Learning Dept. at Volunteer State Community College, got the word out to students about volunteer needs. (Marla, and many of the students involved also heard me speak to their classes about Human Trafficking and were informed and eager for a chance to engage. )
  • These students, along with Marla and other area activists and some of Brian’s friends and family, and the band members of 3 Minutes to Live, played the parts of victims and traffickers, made signs, took out trash, created bruises and black eyes from make-up , took down and set up furniture and props and did everything else needed for this work-intensive weekend. Other team members included: Kate Harris, Jamie Burton, Tina Newman, Amber Terry, Adam Wolfe, Brittany Bertolli, Isaiah White, Jerry Martinez, Megan Mitchell,  Kiersten Joyce Butler, Leslie Zellaya, Raymond Wolfe, and Samara Williams.
  • (I don’t want to brag, but I actually had the most important role as “Official String Cheese Provider” for the cast and crew. I did make people string their own cheese. Can't do everything.)

So now we have a powerful tool for raising awareness of this heinous crime and raising funds for anti-slavery work.

But the grassroots effort is not done. Now it is YOUR turn. You determine the effectiveness of all the work done thus far.  Please send this blog or the link to to everyone you know. Or send them to our website where recipients will find the link and ways to become further informed and involved.  If you have media connections, send the video to them. Rate it on YouTube to help it get more exposure there. Post it on your social networks.

Don’t wait for “someone”  to do “something!” WE are the “someones” who can make ripples—and waves—with far reaching consequences for good. Take 5 minutes to pass this on, and be part of the grassroots movement to end slavery in our lifetime.  Thanks, team!

To Abolition!


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. 


#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. 


# 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.


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


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

Vulnerable Populations

Danger clip art

So who is at risk for trafficking in Tennessee?

Runaways  1/3 of all runaways are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home! 90% eventually end up in the commercial sex trade.  Clearly, we need to warn young people and parents of the tactics and dangers.

Children on the fringes– These kids might be from abusive homes or have immigrant parents working two jobs to make ends meet, not able to keep close tabs on their children. Or it might just be that slightly chubby kid who doesn’t quite fit in at school.

Traffickers often use recruiters. ( If you saw the movie “Taken”, the guy at the airport, who took the girl’s picture and shared a cab with them, was the recruiter.) This might be a cute guy who acts like he has a romantic interest in a girl. Or a girl about the same age who becomes a girlfriend. Or a woman. Someone who seems safe and acts as if they will provide the love, care, affirmation and protection the child longs for. They often  invest time in a child, until the day when the child trusts the recruiter enough to  be put in a position where they can be handed  over to the traffickers, and everyone’s true motives are revealed.

In a recent local case, a boy recruited 16 and 17-year-old girls from his rural high school in Robertson County. His mother then trafficked them from a hotel in Murfreesboro.

Immigrants -  Unfamiliar with local customs and laws and struggling with the language, immigrants are prime targets. They often have their identification and passport taken from them through force or deception, and are told lies about what would happen to them if they spoke to the police. Traffickers also frequently gather information about a victim’s family members in their home country and threaten reprisals against them. 

Anyone - It’s true that traffickers are less likely to recruit from neighborhoods with social power. It’s riskier. A wide spread search is more likely.

But I talked to woman a few months ago who lived in an expensive, exclusive neighborhood and whose father is an executive for a big corporation. She was trafficked by a boy in her high school.

I’ve read about traffickers targeting girls in rural Minnesota because they are sweet and wholesome. Sweet wholesome virgins bring the highest prices. Traffickers are driven by profit, so sometimes they’ll take the risks.

These predators will recruit from malls, schools, playgrounds, theatres, churches, skating rinks, college campuses, bowling alleys– anywhere children, young people, disdplaced people and other vulnerable populations can be found.

Human Trafficking and Slavery is real, it's everywhere, and it's growing.


[youtube=] Of the 27 million slaves in the world today about half are children.   According to research by the University of Pennsylvania, at least 100,000 AMERICAN children PER YEAR are used for pornography or prostitution.   And here’s a simple statistic that never fails to pierce my heart:  Two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute   Traffickers typically use recruiters. That might be a 16 year old boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in a girl. Or a girl around the same age as the targeted victim , or a woman. Someone who seems safe and who acts like they are the ones who will provide what the child is longing for: love, protection, affirmation and attention. Recruiters invest time cultivating a child’s trust until the day comes when the child is in a position to be handed over to a trafficker. Then everyone’s true motivations are revealed.   So who’s vulnerable?

  • Runaways   1/3 are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home! 90% eventually end up in commercial sex trade. We need to warn young people and parents about the tactics and dangers of trafficking!
  • Children on the fringes. These may be kids from abusive homes or those neglected by harried immigrant parents working two jobs to make ends meet. Or it may just be the chubby child who doesn’t quite fit in.
  • Anyone

Traffickers are less likely to recruit from neighborhoods with social power. It’s riskier and a wide spread search is more likely. But I talked to a woman a few months ago who lived in an expensive, exclusive neighborhood and was trafficked by boy in her high school. I’ve read of traffickers targeting girls in rural Minnesota simply because they are sweet and wholesome, and sweet wholesome virgins bring the highest prices. Traffickers are driven by profit, so sometimes they will take increased risks.   In our most recent local case, 16 and 17 year old girls from a rural high school were the victims. Anyone, of any race, in any locale and with any socio-economic status can become a trafficker’s prey. Traffickers will recruit from malls, schools, bowling alleys, skating rinks, playgrounds, theatres– anywhere children can be found.

In Their Own Words #3: Broken Promise

broken 4 blogJust a couple of hours into the long drive from Columbus to Florida, the young girl sensed that she had made a dangerous mistake. The 14-year-old, who had pretended to be 18, admitted her real age to the people who promised to make her a star model and asked them to return her to her extended family in Columbus. The student lived in a middle-class neighborhood with her parents in another state but had been visiting family in Columbus.

Alan Townsend was enraged by the girl's plea. According to FBI records, slapped her face and told her that he was going to keep her.

Just a few days earlier, the girl encountered Townsend and his recruiter, Courtney Shine, on a social-networking page. First came a wave of e-mails, then a cell number, and then the girl met Shine in a park. Townsend typically used Shine to make the initial contact with young girls to make them feel more comfortable.

Shine assured the girl that she would be safe and everything would be "cool" on the trip to Florida. During the drive, the girl said Townsend continued to slap her and attempted to fondle her several times.

Townsend, Shine and the girl arrived in Gainesville, Fla., on June 13 of last year.

The girl was soon given a condom and told to offer sex for $150 to the first man who walked by their cheap hotel room.

"I'm a virgin!" the girl pleaded. "I'm a virgin."

The next night, the girl again refused to solicit men in a hotel parking lot and began to cry.

"Stop being a bitch," Townsend said.

Both Townsend and Shine attempted to have sex with the 14-year-old, but she again fended them off.

Finally, after a stop in Orlando, they arrived in Daytona Beach, where the girl was able to break free and use a stranger's cell phone to call police.

The girl was unharmed and returned to Columbus. Both Townsend and Shine were arrested and recently plead guilty to sex trafficking.

Now, Townsend, who admitted to being involved with at least six other girls, is serving an eight-year prison term.

"I wasn't gonna just give up, 'cause I was like, 'I brought this girl all the way down here,' " Townsend told detectives in Florida. "I might as well get something out of it."

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009

In Their Own Words #2

Chelsey lived a seemingly “normal” middle class life with her family in Georgia, but at age 10 her life forever changed when she was sold as a prostitute by her own father. Chelsey’s story is one of redemption. After her escape, she managed to graduate from high school and received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. Chelsey is now working on her master’s degree. The following is an excerpt of a journal passage Chelsey wrote during her unfathomable ordeal: “As I hang from the beam of a dim, musky, cold basement, I think of as many descriptive words as possible for the body parts I loathe the most. I have endured 14 hands, 70 fingers, all the while my hands are tied. They are numb from being laced above my head and are exhausted from supporting the rest of my body. I am naked, beaten, bleeding, and alone. Sunshine creeps in through the holes in the shades and amplifies my new wounds. I am coming down from a large dose of cocaine and I hope that at least one pair of hands returns to feed me some more. I close my eyes because the drips of sun, of life hurt, and I begin thinking of names of presidents and countries. Dusk approaches with footsteps. I count 14 feet, 70 toes, returning for another round. I inhale, I exhale, I brace myself. I close my eyes, ask silently for death, and hope they have enough blow to get me through the night. I am twelve years old.”

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009

In Their Own Words

child prostitute photoFrom time to time, between my own musings here, I will post examples of actual trafficking scenarios. This will, I trust, help all of us remember that when we talk about human trafficking/slavery, we are talking about real, flesh and blood human beings , not merely cold statistics. The following is a quote; a victim's own words, describing one way traffickers recruit needy children who are hungry for someone to love and care for them: "I was 14 years old and the way the pimp came at me was that first I didn’t even know that he was a pimp. He came at me like a boyfriend. Yes he was an older boyfriend but he cared about me...6 months later he told me ‘Let’s run away together. We can have a beautiful house and family.’ And I did believe him, and we ran away and then the story changed and I met the other girls that he had in his stable. And I had to go out every night and work the streets—the alternative was being gang raped by a group of pimps while everyone watched"