The most common type of human trafficking — selling a person, particularly a child, for sex — is committed by the people that child should be able to trust without question, according to the director for a community outreach organization that targets the crime.
“It’s familial,” said Natalie Ivey, director of advocacy and outreach for the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking. By familial, she means parents, grandparents or other relatives, who sell their children out to strangers for sex.
And if anyone in East Tennessee doesn’t believe it happens here, they’re in denial.
Ivey presented a public education seminar Tuesday at the Family Justice Center in Johnson City. Center Director Heather Brack said the agency has helped victims of human sex trafficking in Washington County since opening its doors in 2016.
Brack asked Ivey to bring the educational program to Johnson City in hopes of giving residents an understanding that it’s a real issue in this community.
“There are two types of human trafficking,” Ivey said. “There’s labor trafficking and there’s sex trafficking. When we talk about sex trafficking, we recognize through studies and statistics that rural communities are high risk for sex trafficking to be occurring. It’s most often familial trafficking, where the family member is the trafficker. That means mom or dad, brother or sister is the one who is trafficking the victim.”
Too often, Ivey said, human sex trafficking is thought of as smuggling victims, kidnapping and crimes like that. More often, the trafficker is in the same home. Also, at any event that brings large crowds to a town – whether it be sporting events, business conferences or festivals — it’s highly likely there is a presence of human trafficker’s selling their products.
Elements of Human Trafficking
Traffickers use these methods to gain control over another person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
Who Is At Risk
Children in foster care or group homes,
Those with previous history of physical or sexual abuse,
Children or adults with special needs,
Anyone with a vulnerability that can be exploited.
Ivey said her job at the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking is to educate the public about human trafficking and what signs could indicate it’s occurring.
“We offer this course as our baseline public education course about human trafficking to deal with a lot of the misconceptions and to talk about the reality of it in our community to help people really understand what it looks like and also how prevalent it is,” Ivey said.
But the seminar also gives people information about what to do if they see something that seems suspicious.
“It’s a terrifying topic. It’s not a comfortable topic, but we want our community to feel empowered to respond to it appropriately,” she said.