Human Trafficking Awareness Week brings awareness, family workshops
As Human Trafficking Awareness Week kicks off across the state of Tennessee, local health departments are raising awareness of the impact of human trafficking in their communities and promoting available resources for victims.
Through Project Red Sand, a national community outreach initiative that draws attention to victims who “fall through the cracks” by pouring red sand into cracks in public sidewalks, the regional health department of Jackson-Madison County is sounding the alarm over the prevalence of human trafficking in the area.
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“Project Red Sand has been running in the state of Tennessee since 2014, and we as a department have participated in it every year because we want to raise awareness about human trafficking,” said educator Amanda Johnson. healthy in the department. “It’s just that – we want to talk to these victims.”
Mallory Cooke, the department’s public information officer, agreed.
“We want (this project) to be a visual representation to keep people on their toes,” she said. “If you see someone you think may be a victim of human trafficking, we want this to encourage you to contact the proper authorities and get help. If you are a victim of human trafficking , we want you to know that there is help and resources available.
“Human trafficking is definitely a public health issue, and we just want our community to know it’s happening in our area.”
Employees and members of the health department poured the brightly colored sand into the many lines of the sidewalks, creating a neat web along the side of the building.
Johnson explained that awareness is even more important this year, both because of the summer season and upcoming developments in Jackson.
“It’s absolutely a problem, not just in West Tennessee, but in Tennessee in general, especially in the summer when we have a lot of sporting events and concerts and that kind of thing,” he said. she declared. “We’re coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown, so we’re seeing a lot more human trafficking and sex trafficking. And we’re building the Great Wolf Lodge here, and those types of attractions, unfortunately, are ( major attractants) for predators who come to solicit.
An increase since 2020 is already visible in the Jackson area alone: in the recently published report “Crime in Tennessee”, In an annual report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation detailing crime statistics in each county, the Jackson Police Department reported nine cases of “commercial sex acts” last year.
The BIT defines commercial sex acts as “inducing a person by force, fraud, or coercion to participate in commercial sex acts, or in which the person incited to perform such acts has not reached the age of 18 year “.
And these nine cases represent only those reported to the police department. According to the TBI, in the United States as a whole, a child is bought or sold for sex every two minutes on average, making human trafficking the second fastest growing criminal industry, second only to human trafficking. drug.
Teaching Parents and Teens the Warning Signs
Due to the growing prominence of human trafficking in Tennessee, community groups such as SWAG – Sisters with Aspiring Goals – and the Jackson Parks and Recreation Department will host a “Dangers of Human Trafficking: Teen and Parent Workshop” on Thursday, July 28 at the Westwood Recreation Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Speakers will include Jackson Police Department Lt. Danielle Jones, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Amber Lawrence, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Representative Lindsey Carr and Scarlet Rope Project Director Julanne Stone.
“We are holding this event to bring awareness to our city of Jackson because it needs to be addressed because we all know that human trafficking is on our doorstep,” said SWAG Manager Ella Watkins. “They just think human trafficking is all about catching the girls. No it’s not. We need to educate parents to be aware of the warning signs. Watch out for the kids. Help spread the word.
Bridgett Parham, recreation manager for Jackson Parks and Recreation, agreed.
“(The city is involved in this) to help bring awareness to this crisis that we have,” she said. “With the dangers of human trafficking, it is absolutely vital for young people and their families to have a place where they can trust the information they are getting.”
Stone, one of the speakers at the event, is thrilled to raise awareness about the issue among vulnerable parents. She was recently interviewed by the Jackson Sun regarding the construction of Jackson’s new shelter for victims of human trafficking.
“I’m going to speak to the community about sex trafficking and the many ways it presents itself in our community and dive into some of the misconceptions we have about it,” she said. “As well as the myths and the ways people can protect themselves. And also for the parents, I just want to educate them on the ways we know traffickers get in the cracks and exploit people.
The Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-855-558-6484, with the option to text “Be Free” to 233733.
Do you have a story to tell? Contact Angele Latham by email at [email protected], by phone at 731-343-5212, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham.