During The Big Payback last year, an organization that did extremely well rallying its supporters and spreading the word about its cause was one most citizens were surprised to discover even existed: End Slavery Tennessee.
“You might have thought slavery ended after the Civil War,” End Slavery Tennessee says on its website. “Think again. There are more slaves now than at any time in history! … Today’s slaves are forced into labor, service or sex slavery to make money for their “owners … the same people who traffick drugs and weapons realize that selling people is more profitable and less risky. People can be sold repeatedly. In the case of a sex slave, that might be 10, 20 or more times a day. In labor slavery, goods and services are continually produced without compensating the laborer.”
Last year may have only been the tipping point for the organization and work it, and other organizations like Magdalene and Thistle Farms, have been doing for years to end sex and labor trafficking in Tennessee. The call-to-arms really happened three years earlier. From End Slavery Tennessee’s site:
In March of 2011, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) released a report done in collaboration with Vanderbilt University based on research on sex trafficking of minors in our state.
“TBI Director Mark Gwynn called the results “shocking” and said that “Human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously believed possible” In fact, results show that human trafficking is a larger problem in our state than gangs…. involving more counties.
The stats and insights from the report are staggering:
- 85 counties in Tennessee reported at least one case of human trafficking.
- 4 counties: Reported 100+ cases (a case usually involves multiple victims)
- 94 children are trafficked in Tennessee every month.
- Over 100 cases of minor sex trafficking and over 100 cases of adult sex trafficking were reported in Davidson County in 2011
- Victims regularly moved on a circuit from Atlanta to Nashville to minimize detection
- Middle Tennessee traffickers find an attractive business climate among tourists, conventions, truck stops, a military base and among residents of one of the region’s most affluent populations
Sex slavery and trafficking in Tennessee has become so serious that when journalists Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof turned their attention to women’s issues in the United States after focusing on global issues in their groundbreaking book and documentary series Half the Sky: Turning Opression into Opportunity to Women Worldwide, Tennessee became a significant portion of the story. Nashvillians will now have a chance to see their work when Episode One of A Path Appears screens at the downtown Nashville Public Library on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 2 p.m. as part of Nashville Public Television’s excellent Community Cinema series. The free screening, which will be preceded by a reception at 1:30 hosted by Women in Film and Television, will include a post-screening discussion moderated by NPT’s LaTonya Turner, documentary subjects Shana Goodwin and Sheila McClain, both from Thistle Farms/Magdalene, and Jill Robinson, a research associate at Peabody Research Institute (Vanderbilt University) and in 2010 worked with the TBI to assist with the above-mentioned statewide assessment of sex trafficking. She was appointed by Governor Haslam to serve as the academic researcher on the TN state task force on human trafficking.
About A Path Appears: Episode 1: “Sex Trafficking in the USA”
The Department of Justice estimates that there are 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery in the U.S. The first episode of A Path Appears introduces individual survivors behind these shocking numbers, and illuminates the widespread existence of crimes happening in our own backyards. In this episode, Ashley Judd and Kristof are guided through the streets of Nashville by a woman (Shana Goodwin, photo above) who was first sold to a pimp by her mother at the age of 12, and then visit an example of a solution that works; in Boston, Kristof is joined by Blake Lively to learn about an anti-trafficking organization, and they assist a mother who fears her missing daughter has fallen prey to a trafficker; then in Chicago, Kristof joins Malin Akerman to go behind the scenes of sting operations cracking down on the buyers of sex.
More about A Path Appears:
A Path Appears, from the creative team behind the groundbreaking series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, follows author/reporters Kristof and WuDunn and celebrity activists Akerman, Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Regina Hall, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria, and Alfre Woodard to locations throughout the United States, Colombia, Haiti, and Kenya, as they explore the roots of gender inequality, the devastating impact of poverty, and the ripple effects that follow — including sex trafficking, teen pregnancy, gender-based violence, and child slavery. In their travels, they meet with inspiring activists who are creating effective solutions to gender-based oppression, transforming lives, and providing a roadmap for sustainable future change. Based on the book by Kristof and WuDunn, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, the three-part series, premieres as a special presentation of Independent Lens on three consecutive Monday nights, January 26, February 2, and February 9, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. Central on PBS stations nationwide and NPT in Nashville.
Watch the Trailer: