To solve a problem, you have to understand it.

And in Tennessee, comprehensive research influences our state’s approach to ending human trafficking. Actionable data and real-life stories help lawmakers, law enforcement, and the state’s nonprofit sector develop innovative ideas to strengthen laws and services for survivors.

In response to legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2010, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Vanderbilt University Center for Community Studies partnered on an ambitious project to understand the extent to which sex trafficking occurs in the state.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • 85% of Tennessee counties reported at least one case of sex trafficking in the previous 24 months.
  • 72% of counties reported at least one case of minor sex trafficking in the same time frame.
  • Four counties (Davidson, Knox, Coffee, and Shelby), reported at least 100 instances of minor sex trafficking in the previous two years.

“I believe this is a problem in more rural areas than the general public knows. The problem is locating and identifying victims.”
Robertson County

“My experience with human sex trafficking was a father who was abusing his daughter and then letting his friends participate for a fee.”
Coffee County 

“I think DCS and other [agencies] need training on human trafficking so they know what the signs are and what to look for. I think this [is] happening more and more but we do not know what to look for in these situations.”
Knox County

Click the title or the picture of the cover to read the full report.

This follow-up study profiled the counties identified in 2011 as having the highest rates of minor sex trafficking cases. This research project worked to understand the underlying factors that might contribute to a child becoming a victim of trafficking, along with the impact of the Internet on expanding the crime of trafficking.

“Anyone can post an ad on an Internet site. Pimps and traffickers can disguise themselves as the individual indicated within the ad when communicating with the potential customer. The pimp or trafficker can disguise the actual age of the individual and find intricate ways to “sell” the product without actually coming out and revealing it is for a commercial sex act. The photograph that is often attached to the online ad may be of an adult individual, but the person who shows up for the “date” is actually a minor.”

“The ease of using the Internet enables pimps and traffickers to exploit women and children anonymously. The pimps and traffickers insulate themselves from the actual interaction with the john, often relying on their ‘bottom’ to handle the monetary transaction thereby avoiding identification as a criminal.”

Click the title or the picture of the cover to read the full report.