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.