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National Human Trafficking Awareness Day Brings Attention To Issue Locally

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day Brings Attention To Issue Locally

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and human trafficking is a big issue in the Upper Cumberland.

That’s according to WillowBend Farms Director of Survivor Services Kelli Germain. WillowBend Farms is an anti-human trafficking nonprofit that helps survivors in the Upper Cumberland get the resources they need.

“This is a real crime and it affects people day in and day out,” Germain said. “This isn’t something that you just see on TV, it happens locally, it happens all the time.”

Germain said that human trafficking is a nexus comprised of an act that involves sexual relations or labor. She said it also is comprised of an exchange of goods or services and involves force or coercion.

Germain said that human trafficking is typically either a commercial or familial act. She said that most cases in the area are familial. Germain said that familial human trafficking will involve a family member using a loved one to sustain substance abuse habits or to pay for shelter or other necessities.

Germain said that there are several ways to spot potential instances of human trafficking. She said that some of the red flags are similar to those that one sees in domestic abuse cases.

“Some of the warning signs are going to be people traveling in multiple pairs that look identical to each other, sometimes you’ll see tattoos indicating a brand that belongs to a certain pimp. A lot of times you will see people who are afraid of authority figures and law enforcement, people who can’t speak for themselves freely. We do see quite often people who don’t know what city or town they’re in or what day it is because they’ve traveled so often.”

Germain said that WillowBend Farms provides three types of support for victims and survivors of trafficking. She said that they serve victims in the community with care coordination, a two-year adult women residential program at a secure location, and a 14-day emergency shelter at a secure location.

Germain said that if you suspect a case of human trafficking with imminent danger, call 911. If there is no imminent danger, call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation hotline.

If you are needing assistance or connection to resources in the area, call the WillowBend Farms hotline at 423-250-5911.

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