Story by: BECKY CAMPBELL

Human trafficking is something that may be unfamiliar to many East Tennesseans, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of the crime that trap victims for years.

The Johnson City/Washington County Family Justice Center has partnered with the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking for an educational event called “Human Trafficking 101 and Community Night” on Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 5-7 p.m.

Natalie Ivey of CCAHT will present “Human Trafficking 101” — an in-depth look into human trafficking in the Northeast Tennessee area. The presentation covers the prevalence of human trafficking across the region, as well as how to identify and report suspected cases.

“I’m excited to educate the community at large on this very serious crime, and to help dispel the many common misconceptions the general public holds to be true about human trafficking,” Ivey said.

The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking was founded in 2009 after a severe need for resources and help for human trafficking victims was identified in East Tennessee. The organization serves to build awareness, conduct trainings, engage in successful intervention and provide adequate aftercare for the victims. CCAHT prides itself on being client focused, collaborative and passionate about its cause. For more information, visit ccaht.org.

In a Q&A, Leslie Earhart, public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which takes a proactive role in preventing human trafficking, answers some of the basic questions regarding the crime:

What is human trafficking?

Sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion if the victim is 18 years of age or older. Any minor who performs a commercial sex act is defined — under federal and Tennessee law — as a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion.

The term “commercial sex act” is the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothing, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act. Commercial sex acts may include prostitution, pornography and sexual performance. Some forms of sex trafficking include pimp-controlled trafficking, gang-controlled trafficking or familial trafficking. In some cases, minors engage in “survival sex” in order to meet basic needs such as food or shelter.

Where is it happening in Tennessee?

It is happening all across the state, from Memphis to Mountain City.

How does it happen?

Each case is unique. Some victims are kidnapped and forced into the industry. However, the most common cases involve traffickers taking advantage of individuals who are vulnerable. For example, 25 percent of children who run away from home are propositioned by a sex trafficker within 48 hours of leaving home.

Who are the traffickers?

A trafficker may be a pimp, a parent or relative of the victim, or part of an organized criminal network.

Who are the victims?

While there are similarities among many victims — including drug addiction and a history of sexual abuse — other victims have little or no past experiences with either. They may simply fall victim to a trafficker who lures them into a lifestyle through other means.

Does it always involve multiple victims?

No, many times it involves a single victim. In some cases, human trafficking involves a parent selling their child in exchange for drugs or money.

How do they become trapped by the trafficker?

Traffickers know how to exploit weaknesses. They are master manipulators who work to gain complete control over their victims. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon at all for minors to engage in “survival sex” in order to meet basic needs.

The following link will explain more about the warning signs:

https://ithastostop.com/the-problem/about/warning-signs/

How do investigators find the traffickers?

In addition to following up on tips from the public, the TBI also conducts human trafficking operations in an effort to rescue victims, address demand and arrest traffickers.

Tuesday’s event will also be an opportunity for citizens to tour the Family Justice Center, located at 196 Montgomery St. in Johnson City. Please RSVP by calling 423-722-3720.

Click here to read the original story.