State Senator Bill Ketron received the 2016 Human Trafficking Impact Award in recognition of his work in protecting the children of Tennessee. The award was presented by End Slavery Tennessee (ESTN) at its annual luncheon today, attended by more than 850 people at Music City Center.
Founder and Executive Director Derri Smith discussed how the Senator – who she calls a “protector of our children” – has used his position of influence for good, citing the achievements for which he was being recognized, including:
• Sponsoring Senate Bill 16 to hire four special agents at TBI for human trafficking investigation and enforcement. The bill also mandates training for first responders and caseworkers assisting victims.
• Sponsoring Senate Bill 373. Many children do not understand that they were trafficked until later in life. This bill gives 18-year-olds up to 25 years to recognize what happened to them and for prosecutors to go after offenders.
• Sponsoring Senate Bill 2000 that strengthened prosecution when law enforcement officers pose as minors in a human trafficking sting. The bill also establishes once and for all that a minor does not have the legal capacity to consent to sex with an adult, meaning that there is no such thing as a child prostitute (rather “children who are prostituted”).
• Aiding or co-sponsoring many other bills in that help victims and stop traffickers.
“This day belongs to the Senator who has used his influence not just for good, but for greatness, helping to make Tennessee among the best states in the nation for human trafficking laws,” she said.
Smith also announced that End Slavery Tennessee is in the process of signing multi-year leases on two portions of the old Nashville Memorial Hospital properties on Due West Avenue. “We will lease a residential floor in one of the hospital towers that will provide housing for up to 63 survivors in 21 hotel-like rooms plus a large common area. It will provide a safe place for everyone currently in need of housing, plus capacity for those who will come our way next year. We will also lease and renovate a 6,800 square foot out-building on the old hospital grounds, turning it into our new office and care center, where the weary will find healing and staff will be able to serve.”
Smith also announced great progress throughout the past year’s activities year in the effort to confront human trafficking in our state through systemic change, including:
• Participating with 16 other organizations in the first-ever regional meeting to coordinate services across a six-state area.
• Attending and receiving victims at all of TBI’s “Someone Like Me” trafficking stings, including a major operation last month in Nashville where half of 485 responders to the TBI ads wanted to purchase sex with a minor.
• Receiving the second Center for Nonprofit Management’s Salute to Excellence award: The Diversified Trust New Generations Award for youth engagement.
• Partnering with the District Attorney’s office, which started the first specialized human trafficking court, advocating and caring for the victims.
• Speaking at the United Nations. (Last year, ESTN staff spoke at the White House and US Capitol. This year, Director of Survivor Services Shelia McClain, a human trafficking survivor herself, spoke at the United Nations about the organization’s successful model.)
• Providing care for increasing numbers of survivors. In 2015, ESTN provided case management and comprehensive care to 80 survivors. The year before, it was 45 survivors. But this year, ESTN is on track to receive and care for 150. Each year, the average age of survivors gets younger. Just last month, two 12-year-olds were among the referrals.
Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam and Cary Slatery, were Honorary Co-Chairs of the event. The Luncheon Committee Chairmen were Susan Reinfeldt and Mary Trapnell.
“We know that love does indeed change everything,” said Bill Decker, ESTN Board Chair. “At End Slavery Tennessee. we witness the healing power of unconditional love in the lives of human trafficking survivors. Since our inception eight years ago, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the number of girls and boys, men and women who are sold for sex. In fact, 94 children are sold for sex in Tennessee every month. Slavery is real and it must end. Showing that we stand with recovering survivors – and are raising support to care for them – will help many others do the same.”