Human trafficking is real – right here in Knoxville and Knox County, in East Tennessee and across the state. Yesterday the Rotary Club of Farragut heard from retired Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Special Agent Rick Stout. Children as young as 5 years old get trafficked, he said.
Stout, who still works part-time, said sex trafficking is the No. 2 crime in the U.S. behind drugs, and often the two are intertwined. “Most of the Johns or pimps also sell drugs,” he said. “It’s big business that operates in 78 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The gangs also are getting into the trafficking business now. It’s nothing but modern-day slavery. And Knoxville is a major crossroads point.”
He said that laws enacted by the Tennessee legislature have led to Tennessee being ranked as the top state nationally for combating human trafficking and reducing the number of crimes.
Here are other comments he made:
- “This will maybe shock you. The average age of a prostitute in Tennessee is 13.”
- Many of the women and girls have bar code tattoos and many have been branded.
- Approximately 300,000 minors are forced into this annually in the U.S.
- Tennessee’s registry for sex offenders numbers 25,785 “and it changes daily, usually growing.”
- The counties with the most cases are Shelby, Davidson and Knox.
- Many of the young prostitutes are runaways from home and that number statewide is between 1,500 and 3,500 a year. “Of those who are runaways, 30% are found by these traffickers within 48 hours and forced into trafficking and prostitution, offering them all kinds of things. They know where to find them,” he said.
Stout spoke of the great work done by the Knoxville-based Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT), the only counter-trafficking organization in East Tennessee. This agency unites and equips the community to end human trafficking, providing survivors (the victims) with comprehensive, trauma-informed aftercare services.
CCAHT serves 33 counties of East Tennessee.
He said if anyone suspects someone they know is caught up in this, to call the Tennessee human trafficking hotline at 1-855-55-86484. If the victim is under 18, call the Tennessee Department of Human Services at 1-877-237-0004.
To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, call 865-659-3562. Farragut Rotary meets each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club. Tom King, a past president of Farragut Rotary, has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.