Fighting to protect the exploited / State is right to turn focus toward human trafficking

Mountain Press Editorial

The FBI paints a dismal picture of the lives of some of the United States’ most exploited residents.

“Here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves,” the Bureau explains on its website about human trafficking. “They are trapped in lives of misery – often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay.”

Thankfully, Tennessee is help leading the national fight against the scourge or human trafficking.

And our state is a focal point this week for the national and international fight against human trafficking. Wednesday was declared “IJM Day” by Governor Bill Haslam in support of the International Justice Mission.

Today, Belmont University is hosting a luncheon with U.S. Senator Bob Corker’s Chief of Staff and IJM where updates on the progress of the human trafficking battle in Tennessee will be presented and shared with community leaders.

This past few legislative sessions, Tennessee officials have passed new laws aimed at combatting the problem.

The effort has earned the state an “A” ranking on Shared Hope International’s 2013 state report card, as the state scored 93.5 percent, the highest of any other state rated in the Protected Innocence Challenge.

“Human trafficking is a grave and expanding problem, but our work in the Tennessee General Assembly garnered Tennessee a No. 1 ranking in 2013 from Shared Hope International for our efforts to combat human trafficking.” State Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown said. “I appreciate the important work that IJM is doing to end human trafficking worldwide, and also Senator Corker ensuring that Tennessee and the United States remain at the forefront on this issue.”

A 2011 report, release this year, shows sex trafficking of minors occurs in rural and urban areas of Tennessee and has an effect in both wealthy and poor households. It was also discovered that minors who come from impoverished households are especially vulnerable to victimization.

While “raising awareness” for a cause is often seen as a tired cliché, the opposite is true in the case of human trafficking.

The best way to stop the cycle of abuse of innocent people is to promote public awareness of the colossal issue, which can be especially prevalent in tourist areas like ours.

“These efforts are a welcome example of American citizens recognizing the reality of this violence – raw brutality and humiliation and oppression of innocent people, and being moved to respond,” Gary Haugen, president and founder of IJM, said recently. “Tennessee is saying it’s not tolerating a world where millions of people are held in slavery. The reason there is so much slavery in the world is because we have not mustered the political will and capacity to stop it. Tennessee is at the forefront of changing the equation on both fronts thanks to the efforts of its people, churches and elected leaders, and IJM couldn’t be more grateful for the Volunteer State’s leadership and partnership.”

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