Mayor proclaims July 29-Aug. 3 as Human Trafficking Awareness Week

Published 8:45 am Monday, July 29, 2019

Across our country, local communities and states often designate a day, week, or month to celebrate special anniversaries or achievements or to help bring awareness to important issues. Some of the ones many are familiar with include Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Wear Red Day for heart health awareness, and National Suicide Prevention Week. This week is one such week across our state, and it serves to bring awareness to a subject that many of us in rural communities may not give much thought to — Human Trafficking.
Human trafficking is the practice of illegally transporting people from one area to another, typically for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of human rights.
In years past, human trafficking was something we only heard about happening in foreign countries or major US cities. Now, the problem has spread across the country and into more rural areas. Even our local region has seen arrests made related to human trafficking. This is no longer just a problem in highly populated areas, it is a problem everywhere.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been working to understand and combat this problem in Tennessee. According to TBI statistics, human trafficking is the second-fasted growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking. According to information from the TBI, in the United States, on average, every two minutes a child is bought or sold for sexual exploitation and the average age of a child sold as part of human trafficking is just 13 years old.
Victims of human trafficking may be of any age, gender, race, or background; and the most vulnerable are victims of child abuse, runaway youth, people without homes, and victims of domestic violence, conflict, or social discrimination.
This is a horrible crime and one we need to be more aware of, especially as it expands into small rural communities.
Earlier this year in January, the Tennessee Department of Health recognized human trafficking as a public health concern as it directly relates to the incidence of unplanned pregnancies, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, involvement in unhealthy relationships, and sexual violence. The Tennessee Department of Health partnered with the TBI for the “It Has To Stop” campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking.
As part of that campaign, communities across the state are being asked to declare a designated week to help promote education, resources, and community efforts which will provide Tennesseans with the knowledge to identify and prevent human trafficking.
I have proclaimed the week of July 29 through August 3 as Human Trafficking Awareness Week in Carter County, and I would like to encourage all of our residents to learn more about this horrible crime and take a stand against it. If you suspect someone is the victim of human trafficking, please call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55TNHTH or call 911 to speak with our local law enforcement officers.
(Rusty Barnett is Mayor of Carter County)

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