Panel Discussion Highlights Trafficking On UTK Campus

Students on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville had a chance to learn about the issue of trafficking, from a variety of perspectives on the frontlines.

A panel discussion, hosted by the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy, featured Kate Trudell, executive director of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Special Agent Jamesena Walker of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Anita Voorhees, president of the UT chapter of International Justice Mission. Voorhees currently sits on the state’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council.

From ‘The UT Beacon’:

“I know everybody has a specific image of what they think human trafficking looks like,” Walker said. “A carload of foreign nationals in a van … That, I know, comes to people’s mind, and that is a form of trafficking as well, but it’s not what we see here in the Upper East Tennessee area.”

The type of human trafficking Walker has mostly seen is gang-related crimes and prostitution, especially with young women. Other kinds of investigations include human trafficking sites, forced labor, mail-order brides and domestic servitude. Social media also plays an important role in human trafficking.

A major issue Walker has experienced in law enforcement is struggling to shift blame from the victims to the traffickers and customers.

“I think we’re beginning to realize that the prostitute is not actually the problem,” Walker said. “We’ve got to shift our mindset and arrest these traffickers and also arrest the johns.”

Trudell’s organization works to raise awareness and education about human trafficking. They also provide survivors with long-term, personalized support that emphasizes peer relationships and giving control back to these survivors.

“Experiencing that level of trauma, in an essence, for the duration of your life, is not going to be undone in a 28-day program or a three-month program or a six-month program. It’s going to take a long time, and so what our organization strives to do is to stick it out,” Trudell said. “It’s about creating a relationship and helping them relearn what healthy relationship dynamics are.”

Students who want to help stop human trafficking can support CCAHT through volunteering or join IJM. The panelists emphasized that it is most important for people to address issues in their own interests that can help perpetuate human trafficking.

“Ultimately, trafficking is a demand-driven crime,” Trudell said. “But on the whole, if we don’t start curbing the demand, if we don’t start holding perpetrators more accountable … and also looking at and addressing, what are these indicators, what is it that’s providing the space for men to think it’s fine to buy a child for sex.”

Read more about the panel’s discussion on the UT Daily Beacon website:

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