The Bottom Line
Sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion if the victim is 18 years of age or older. Any minor who performs a commercial sex act is defined — under federal and Tennessee law — as a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
The term “commercial sex act” is the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothing, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act. Commercial sex acts may include prostitution, pornography, and sexual performance. Some forms of sex trafficking include pimp-controlled trafficking, gang-controlled trafficking, or familial trafficking. In some cases, minors engage in ‘survival sex’ in order to meet basic needs such as food or shelter.
A Demand-Driven Crime
It’s simple economics, really. If there weren’t a demand for women and children for sex, there wouldn’t be a supply.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem. This is all demand-driven. These men paying for sex with children in our state are only continuing to victimize girls and women. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and we will pursue these operations in small towns and big cities for as long as it takes.”
-Former TBI Director Mark Gwyn
By and large, men are responsible for fueling the demand. They also hold the key to ending it.
Law Enforcement’s Approach
Tennessee’s law enforcement officers are changing the conversation around the crime of prostitution, realizing they may be coming into contact with victims, not criminals.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has original jurisdiction to investigate cases of human trafficking and is also responsible for training the state’s law enforcement officers on recognizing potential victims and investigating cases in their communities.
The TBI also runs its own ongoing operation in a effort to rescue victims, address demand, and arrest traffickers.
Comprehensive Survivor Solutions
The state of Tennessee leads the country in rescuing and rehabilitating survivors of human trafficking. The partnership of public, private, and nonprofit resources continues to bring individualized care, practical resources, and compassionate follow-up to those who seek a way out of this lifestyle.