traffickers

In the News

TBI obtained indictment for Wilson County man accused in connection to ongoing sex trafficking investigation.  Read the full article here.

Read about an undercover investigation in the Interstate 24 Exit 4 area that led to the arrest of a Kentucky woman and Knoxville man, both charged with human trafficking of a 17-year old girl. 

TBI, TDT, and TDOT announce a new initiative to spot and get help for sex trafficking victims at Tennessee rest stops.  Read more.

Tennessee man sentenced to 50 years in prison on human trafficking and drug distribution charges.  Read the rest of the report here.

Tullahoma woman and man are facing 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to exchanging sex with their teenage daughter for crack cocaine. Read the full article here.

Seventeen people arrested in East Tennessee over the past week as part of an operation to address commercial sex trafficking in U.S. Read here.

Nashville man racks up 18 charges, including promoting prostitution of a juvenile and trafficking for a commercial sex act, after a Donelson motel prostitution sting.  Read more.

The Most Powerful Weapon

In the fight against trafficking the most powerful weapon we have is prayer!! In fact, it's the most powerful weapon we can use against any form of evil.

I must admit, though, that there are times I get so overwhelmed by the idea of young children being used as sex slaves that I just don't know what to pray. That is when I remember Romans 8:26-27...

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (NIV)

During my prayers for the victims (or as I call them, "innocents"), I also pray for those who work to set the prisoners free. I pray they will have wisdom and discernment. I pray for their safety. I thank the Lord for their willingness to go into potentially dangerous places to rescue the women and children.

I also include in my prayers those who work with the innocents after they are rescued. I thank the Lord for their abilities to help these dear ones to be restored to wholeness.

There are others involved in trafficking I pray for sometimes, but they are the hardest ones of all for whom to find the words...the perpetrators. I'll be honest; I do not want to or like to pray for them and I don't pray for them as often as I pray for their victims. But, maybe to some extent, they are the ones who need the most prayer. If the Lord changes their hearts and attitudes, then there will be fewer women and children who become victims of this horrendous evil.

I believe with all my heart that prayer can and does change things! Sometimes not as fast as we like, but everything is in God's timing! So, pray, pray, pray!! It's a powerful weapon!

 

This post was originally published at Nana's Notes

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.

In Her Own Words...Part 3

Karen:  Most people who are involved with the abolition of human trafficking and slavery know the horrors of this crime from books, movies, videos, on-line accounts, etc.  However, on one night in January, some of the volunteers with End Slavery TN met these atrocities face to face.  We were invited to spend a few hours with a victim of human trafficking. We sat mesmerized for two hours listening to a beautiful, courageous young woman, whom I shall call “Carrie” and what have been the horrors of her life.    She talked about her drug addicted mother and alcoholic father, and how at the early age of six, her mother told her to go into a bedroom with drug suppliers and “play doctor” with them.  “Carrie” had never been taught the values that most of us are brought up with, the value of one’s body and soul. She was a very bright, pretty girl and by the time she was twelve or thirteen, after having lived with other relatives in various places, been raped by her older brother, and abused by others, she became involved with a pimp and a life of prostitution.  Over the next five-six years she was forced to have sex with “more men than she could hope to remember.”  She was moved from city to city, was branded on her body and face, had both feet broken when thrown out of a moving car, had her teeth broken, and was beaten repeatedly for “not making her quota” or disobeying her pimp!   From the time she was sixteen, she tried to break away from this destructive life.  After being arrested and treated like a criminal, however, she would call her pimp to bail her out.  After all, who else would help her? Until one day, she encountered a woman from law enforcement who offered to help her escape.  In an agreement for testifying against several pimps, she was placed several times in foster homes or half-way houses where she was mistreated, eventually retreating to her pimp, because “at least he would feed her.”    “Carrie” has, in her early twenties, finally escaped, but at a cost.  She has been placed here in TN where she knew no one, can never go back home, can never contact her family, and fears that she will be found and killed.  She is courageously trying to begin a new life as a college student and working to help other victims.  However, it is hard!  She feels alienated from most people because of her past, feels she may never have a normal relationship with a man and has difficulty with trust.  Despite everything, she is upbeat and hopeful.   I personally came away heartbroken for “Carrie” and all the “Carries” of this world.  Most of us will never know the realities of trafficking, can never fully understand the dynamics that land victims in this path, or fully comprehend the consequences.  We can, however, learn from these victims, share their stories, come to their assistance, continue to educate others, and do everything in our power to end human trafficking.  There are laws in place against this crime.  WE have to work to ensure these laws are enforced!  Thank you “Carrie” for sharing your story and for your courage to escape and help prosecute these criminals!

In Her Own Words

Members of the Nashville Volunteer group had the rare privilege of hearing, in her own words, the horrific story of a rescued victim of human trafficking, and to be inspired by her courage. Below are the accounts and reactions of a few of those present that day:

-----------

Beth: 

At first I was sure there was some mistake.

The young woman I’d just met was a vivacious, energetic college student.  She was very much like every other college student I knew, though perhaps even more passionate about life.

Could she really have been held as a slave for all of her teenage years, trafficked across multiple states, her body sold to the highest bidders, night after night?

I had the privilege – and heartbreak - of hearing her story personally, and now I have the responsibility to share her story with the hope of preventing other tragedies like this one…

****

Angel* had the misfortune of being born to a mom who was a drug addict and a dad who was an alcoholic.  She was raped at 13 by a family “friend” and later by her own brother.  When she was forced to leave home because she couldn’t pay the rent demanded by her father, she was enslaved by countless pimps, some “meaner” than others.  They at least kept her fed and clothed… as long as she followed their every command. 

Pimps became her “daddy”… sex a commodity.

She worked the “track” every night (every city has one), not able to rest until she’d earned the minimum required by her master.  Then she showered and was raped by her pimp (to make sure she wasn’t hiding any of “his” money).  If she didn’t toe the line (in any real or imagined way), she was brutally abused.  Among the physical assaults she described were: 

  • Her face and body were “branded” by one pimp leaving deep scars.
  • Her jaw and front teeth were broken from repeated kicking by pointed boots
  • She was beaten until she nearly bled to death, miscarrying her baby
  • Unspeakable things were done to her with a hairbrush.

And, perhaps saddest of all, some of her girlfriends, trapped in this hell on earth with her, just disappeared without notice, never to be seen or heard from again.  Angel knows what happened to them, though she doesn’t want to think about it. But for the grace of God, she too may have ended up in a shallow grave.

Now in her early twenties, Angel has a passion to help others.  She’s in college, majoring in social work.  And she’s pursuing speaking opportunities, as painful as it is to relive her past.  In addition to speaking to our Not For Sale community activist group, she’s also spoken to groups of young people, warning them about how easy it is to become trapped in this vicious underground world where one human being “owns” another.

Angel is out to save other girls from the nightmare she’s endured.

* Angel is not her real name. 

...To Be Continued

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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnK5mOgYI4c&feature=player_embedded]

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 www.3MTL.com 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!

Derri

What Does Your Money Do?

I’d like to start the New Year off expressing my deep, sincere gratefulness, and that of all of us on the End Slavery TN team, for the generous outpouring of donations we received last year, enabling us to concentrate on the task at hand. We are greatly encouraged. If you are a donor, you rightfully want to know what your money is being used for. This entry is intended to answer that question. If you are not a donor, this may be of interest nonetheless, as an overview of the work of End Slavery in Tennessee. PREVENTS slavery

Keeping people from being trafficked is even better than rescuing them. We’re designing/adapting materials and, in 2010, will be using them to teach the tactics of traffickers to

  • Children and youth
  • Parents
  • Inner city and immigrant service providers
  • Teachers
  • Others who work with young people

HELPS VICTIMS in transition

One girl rescued from sex slavery told us she knew some trafficking victims who later turned to prostitution because they didn’t have a toothbrush. In other words, no one was looking out for their physical needs as they transitioned back into normal life. After years of a trafficker controlling their every move, freedom can seem overwhelming. Better that they feel overwhelmed by how we care for them.

We’re working with the FBI and others to provide direct help to rescued victims. We also offer training, encouragement and financial support to those establishing shelters in Tennessee

MOBILIZES and EQUIPS an army of volunteers

ESTN is all about grassroots activism and we have an exciting and ever growing network of activists, each of whom is playing their part in ending slavery.

Your donations 

  • Allow tools for communication and information to flow.
  • Provide general and specialized volunteer training for core volunteers and those involved in research, advocacy, community education and (future) working directly/ indirectly with victims.
  • Provide resources for activists to carry out their work on college campuses, in faith communities, with professional groups, in the workplace and among artists.

TRAINS people likely to encounter trafficking

We train groups of professionals who are likely to make contact with victims or see the suspicious signs of trafficking, so they can correctly interpret what they see and know how to provide help. Examples of groups we’ve trained include apartment managers, medical personnel, teachers and community leaders. Your donations provide training materials.

EDUCATES the next generation

End Slavery Tennessee provides books and media on modern slavery to university libraries, so the next generation, tomorrow’s policy makers, is not blind to this travesty. Your money makes this happen.

SPREADS AWARENESS to the community at large

Once they discover the facts, some choose to directly engage in the movement to end slavery, others use their knowledge to affect public policy, buy differently and/or spread what they learn to their sphere of influence.

Your gifts provide supplies, handouts and travel costs for group speaking engagements (about 50 in 2009). This is in addition to meetings and other communication with individuals, student interviews, radio (78 stations) and TV interviews, newsletters, etc.

ENABLES RESTORATION and hope – a new life for rescued slaves

Donations provided "seed money" to start Freedom Parties and Presents with Purpose events, selling items made by rescued slaves, enabling them to earn a living and restore their lives. These products are purchases from around the globe, as well as right here in Tennessee.

UNCOVERS TRAFFICKING in our own backyards

Donations provide posters with hotline number and red flags for victim ID. Police say these posters are useful for victim identification. Volunteers – truck drivers, student and church groups, apartment managers – place these posters throughout the state.

In addition, specialized training by experts in the field enable us to catalogue and research local activity, providing useful information to overworked law enforcement officers, with the goal of leading to prosecution (expanding in 2010).

ABATES DEMAND-  

Local activists teach at the Nashville “John’s School” for men convicted of soliciting prostitutes. These activists teach how choices feed the monstrous machine of trafficking and the organized crime behind it.

WORKS GLOBALLY-

Slavery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Many factors, including poverty, contribute. Victims overseas often end up in wealthier receiving countries, like the U.S. (Conversely, we’ve heard of streets in Mexico lined with trafficked US children, for example.) Goods made by slaves overseas end up on our store shelves, immigrants flee to the US for a variety of reasons and find themselves deceived and trapped into slavery. And those who remain trapped overseas are generally in nations without the will and /or resources to help.

A minimum of 10% of all donations go to support international initiatives. Some donors designate additional funds to specific projects, like a border crossing in Nepal where survivors of trafficking work in conjunction with border police to identify traffickers and their victims in transit to India. (In just one year, donations helped our colleagues on the border rescue 1,747 girls from the sex trade!)

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.