By Laura Phillips, Staff Writer—
On Jan. 21, UTC hosted a Human Trafficking 101 event to bring awareness to a very prominent problem in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s “2013: The Geography of Trafficking in Tennessee” lists Chattanooga as a “mid-way point between Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA, two hotbeds of sex trafficking.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 165 cases of human trafficking were reported in Tennessee in 2018.
Stephanie Rowland, UTC’s Title IX Coordinator, planned the human trafficking event after a recommendation from a student.
“A UTC student reached out to me in late October, early November regarding human trafficking and what she felt was a need for more awareness on campus,” she said. “ I planned this event for January because it is Human Trafficking Awareness month.”
This event was held in the hopes to educate students about the dangers of human trafficking and how common it is, even in their own communities.
According to the Executive Director of Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking and speaker for this event, Natalie Ivey, 600 thousand to 800 thousand individuals are trafficked in the U.S. each year. Ivey also said traffickers are very clever.
“Traffickers are lazy, but they are not stupid,” she said. “They know how the system works.”
During her presentation, Ivey explained how traffickers prey on individuals who are easily taken advantage of such as children in foster care, individuals with special needs, and runaways.
“It’s about exploiting the vulnerability,” she said. “It’s using vulnerability to make a connection.”
Ivey also listed two ways to recognize human trafficking: accept it’s happening and pay attention to your surroundings.
Some students who attended the event said they were surprised about a lot of the information given about human trafficking.
“I was really surprised to find out how subtle it was,” junior Danielle Kaul said.
Another student, sophomore Emma Sargeant, came to the event because she said that human trafficking is very interesting to her.
“I was shown a video about trafficking in high school and I felt anger,” she said.
Sargeant said she thinks students always need to be paying attention to what’s around them. She also hopes that more can be done about this issue.
“You always have to be aware of your situation,” Sargeant said. “I think advocacy is good, but also trying to figure out ways to do something about the situation.”
Rowland suggested that students learn more about what to do if they think they see someone in a dangerous situation.
“I would recommend that all students take a Step Up! bystander intervention training to learn more about how to safely intervene to help our fellow community members,” she said.
According to Step Up!’s website, it is a program developed by the University of Arizona C.A.T.S. Skills Program along with NCAA that “educates students to be proactive in helping others.”