Human Trafficking on Rocky Top educates large crowd

KNOXVILLE– Students of various majors – and schools – gathered on Nov. 17 to attend Human Trafficking on Rocky Top.

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Students wait anxiously for the program to begin.

The event was located at the Baker Center Auditorium at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The idea for the program originally began in Professor Misty Anderson’s 411 British Literature, 1660-1740.

The class was reading “Oroonoko,” Aphra Behn’s 1688 story of an enslaved African prince. This novel sparked the discussion of modern day slavery within the class.

Not only did this discussion catch students’ attention, but several UT students, such as Sarah Primm, Becca Payton, and Ben Riggle, took their newfound awareness and developed Human Trafficking on Rocky Top into their final project for the class.

The Baker Center Auditorium was packed with students to the point that many had to stand outside the door or sit on the floor during the presentation.

Professor Misty Anderson started off the event and gave recognition to the students who made this night possible.

“I am very proud of my three students who organized this event. This event has helped all students connect what was happened in the past with what is happening now in the present,” she said.

Human Trafficking on Rocky Top had its own slogan for the evening: “We have a problem, let’s talk about it.” The audience was encouraged to tweet about the event with #openyoureyes.

The first speaker was Kate Trudell, who is the Executive Director for Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

“I hope this event inspires students to get involved in how to stop human trafficking,” Trudell began. Trudell went on to tell the audience how human trafficking is defined, and said it fell under two categories:

First there is human trafficking, which is when an individual is forced into working hard labor. Second, there is sex trafficking, which is when an individual is forced into performing a commercial sex-act in exchange for something of value. This may not only be money, but food, shelter, or clothes as well. Sex trafficking is also 85%-90% of human trafficking seen or reported.

In many cases, the victim may be under-aged and being forced or brainwashed into trafficking.

Trudwell told the audience, “Globally for human trafficking, there is around 27 million people [that] are enslaved. This is more people who are in slavery [than] at any other time in history.”

Many of these crimes still go unreported, even if law enforcement has made many improvements on how to recognize this type of crime.

A majority of people in the United States believe human trafficking only happens overseas, but it is happening even in Knoxville. Knoxville is extremely close to major highways and is a tourist area, making it easy for traffickers to sell humans for their own personal gain.

Many drug traffickers are now participating in sex trafficking due to being able to sell a woman for sex 25 times a day.

Trudwell also explained how sex trafficking is less risky than trafficking drugs.

“If they are pulled over, it looks a lot better to have a woman who can be seen as their girlfriend in the passenger seat instead of a bunch of drugs in the back,” she said.

Later in the presentation, a short clip of a documentary about sex trafficking was shown to visually display what life was like for some of these girls.

Many of the girls after being trafficked felt like they had no other purpose for their own life, one even saying, “my whole body felt dead, I just wanted him to take it, and give me money.”

Trudell explained how many girls who began to be trafficked are usually runaways or have been put in foster care for the majority of their life. This can make them an easy target, especially when they first run away from home.

Special Agent Cynthia Deitle speaks on the horrors of human trafficking.
Special Agent Cynthia Deitle speaks on the horrors of human trafficking.

Traffickers will groom these girls or young women into believing they know what is best for them and that they will take care of them, but it is too late for these girls to leave once they discover it is all a lie.

After Trudell finished her part of the session, Special Agent Cynthia Deitle of the FBI followed her, explaining what a victim of sex trafficking may look like, or where they may be.

Deitle said, “In Tennessee, there is not any more or less cases of sex trafficking.”

Where one may see a victim of sex trafficking could be in an emergency room, a help hotline, or even arrested as a prostitute. However, in many cases, these women have refused to identify themselves as victims.

Deitle told many stories concerning this issue. “I’ve been told no, and to go away more than any of them have asked me for help,” Deitle said.

Human trafficking does not only affect women and girls, but men and boys as well who are being forced into performing hard labor or other tasks.

As Deitle continued her presentation, she stressed, “This is a 34-40 billion dollar industry selling humans!”

Then Deitle explained to the audience things they can look for if they see a woman or girl out in public who may be a victim of human or sex trafficking:

  • A young girl or woman who appears to be quiet and withdrawn
  • Large visible tattoos, normally with money signs or a man’s name
  • Under the influence of drugs
  • Looks very lost behind their eyes

After explaining this, Deitle stressed the motto, “See something, say something.”

Tennessee has a hotline for any possible observances of human or sex trafficking, or its victims: 1-855-558-6484.

The final speaker for the event was Jonathan Scoonover, CCAHT Board President and Program Officer for the Equitas Group.

Scoonover was working in Haiti, but then became interested in figuring out what was happening locally with human trafficking.

Presenting other ways to put a stop to human trafficking, Scoonover explained how if one is mindful about the brands and food that they buy, they will stop supporting some of the companies that use slaves to create these products.

Individuals can visit to see just how many individuals in slavery may be working for them.

Scoonover ended his session by stressing how much influence individuals possess, and the resources that they have to do more research about this rapidly growing crime industry that happens both all over the world and right next door.

One way that people can raise awareness for human trafficking is to sign up for Run 4 Their Lives, a race to benefit the anti-trafficking movement at Market Square in Knoxville on Jan. 30 at 10 a.m.

Registration for this 5k can be found at The race will support local organizations such as the Community Coalition against Human Trafficking and Street Hope.

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