Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 7, 2020

Health Department raising awareness of human trafficking

The Red Sand Project uses artwork to raise awareness about human trafficking. - Photograph provided

The Hamilton County Health Department has partnered with local community organizations to raise awareness about human trafficking through the Red Sand Project.

The Red Sand Project uses artwork to spark conversations about human trafficking in Hamilton County. It is also an opportunity for people to learn about vulnerabilities that can possibly lead to human trafficking and exploitation, says Calvin Bibbs, health department educator.

“We cannot end human trafficking without the vigilance of everyone in our community,” Bibbs says. “The clues are subtle, and if you notice or suspect something, then report it.”

The Trafficking Victims Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

According to nonprofit Polaris, which operates a national human trafficking hotline, 180 cases of human trafficking have been reported this year in Tennessee.

Although anyone can be trafficked, the most vulnerable include victims of child abuse, runaway youth and the homeless.

Warning signs that someone is being trafficked include injuries, brandings, malnourishment, a lack of ID, possession of a prepaid cellphone, few personal possessions, multiple hotel keys, unexplained increases in money, clothing or jewelry, provocative clothing and wearing the same clothing on multiple days.

Victims tend to avoid eye contact, fear authority figures, have inconsistent stories, are unable to speak for themselves, are not enrolled in school, seem to be withdrawn or depressed, have sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites, talk about having an older boyfriend or sex with an older man, claim to be an adult – even though their appearance suggests they are an adolescent – and claim to be visiting but are unable to say where they are or how long they have been there.

Other signs include a pre-scripted manner of speaking and an inability to come and go on their own.

People who suspect someone might be trafficked or know someone who is can contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855 558-6484 or text “BeFree” to 233733.

Source: The Hamilton County Health Department