Photo by Shade Narramore / MTSU Sidelines
Story by KeWana McCallum / Contributing Writer
The MTSU Beta Psi Chapter of the Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity teamed up with End Slavery Tennessee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources for trafficking victims, on Wednesday at the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building to spread awareness of human trafficking.
Jill Rutter, the director of community outreach for End Slavery Tennessee, spoke at the event. Rutter explained that she decided to start her service with the nonprofit when she was overseas in Cambodia and saw human trafficking with her own eyes.
“In that country, it’s illegal, but it’s also expected,” Rutter said. “They can’t really do a whole lot about it.”
After finishing her volunteer work in Cambodia, she came back to the United States and was later asked by the CEO of End Slavery Tennessee to become the director of community outreach.
Rutter defined human trafficking as the modern day form of slavery. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. 17 percent of girls are trafficked and 10 percent of boys are trafficked, globally.
“Trafficking is an unreported crime,” Rutter said.
Labor trafficking is when victims are forced to work long hours with little or no pay. These victims often have no knowledge of where they are or where they live and are often confined to small spaces or rooms, according to Rutter. She explained that trafficking is a hidden crime because it’s a low risk and high reward business. A police officer can physically see if someone has drugs in their car and can make an arrest. With human trafficking, the traffickers can easily make up a story about why they have the victims with them, and victims will be too intimidated and afraid to speak up and say anything.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, only 54 cases of human trafficking have been reported in Tennessee since June of this year. Rutter stated that Shelby, Davidson and Coffee County are some of the top sex trafficking counties in Tennessee. According to Rutter, in Coffee County, there are motels that are just off the highway exit that are used to trade and sell victims.
According to Rutter, only one percent of victims are rescued from human trafficking.
“Anyone can be a victim,” Rutter said.
Many traffickers use the internet to lure victims in, Rutter said. They prey on people who are vulnerable. The traffickers will build relationships with the victims and, over time, will start telling victims to do certain things, like sending pictures. Because the victims feel that this person has their best interest, they willingly do it. Eventually, the trafficker asks the victim to meet up with them in person, and once the victim realizes that the person isn’t who they said they were over the internet, it’s too late.
The different red flags for signs that someone could be a victim of human sex trafficking are signs of physical trauma, a sudden change in behavior, fear, timidity and submissiveness. According to Rutter, some human traffickers will even label victims by marking them with tattoos to show ownership of the victim.
“This is such an important issue,” said Cody Keck, the scholarship chair of Phi Sigma Pi. “If just one person can help a victim later on because they have the information now, (it would be) really great.”
Anyone who knows someone who is a victim of human trafficking can call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.
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