Unite Wear White McMinn: Fighting Human Trafficking
Sponsored locally by Athens Federal Community Bank, Second Life Chattanooga and Full Circle Women's Medical Center
Story courtesy of the Daily Post-Athenian
Slavery may have been outlawed with the end of the Civil War, but it is still happening. One McMinn County group hopes awareness will bring it to an end in this community.
"Unite: Wear White McMinn," a panel discussion on human trafficking, will be held Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Athens City Middle School auditorium to bring public awareness to this issue.
"Human trafficking is so much more than you'd think at first - there are a lot of misconceptions," said Amy Goodin, a member of the coalition organizing "Unite: Wear White McMinn. "My first thought was the movie, 'Taken,' where people are kidnapped overseas - but it happens in Athens, too. It doesn't have to involve adults, either. It can be as simple as one teenager saying to another, 'I'll buy you this if you'll do this.' Human trafficking doesn't care about socioeconomic status. There is no safe haven - it's something that affects everyone."
Human trafficking, by legal definition, is an act or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by means of force, abduction, fraud, coercion, purchase, sale, threats, or abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation, according to endslaverytn.org, which notes that human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry that is the second-largest and -fastest growing crime on earth after drug trafficking.
In Tennessee, 85 counties reported at least one case of human trafficking in 2011 - four counties reported more than 100 cases each - and 94 children are trafficked in Tennessee each month, according to the site.
"It's surprising how many teachers will say, 'I've seen the red flags in my class, but I didn't know it,' or a cable installer or utility worker will say, 'I've seen something strange in this house,'" added Sarah Holmes, executive director of Full Circle Medical Center for Women and a member of the coalition. "One problem our group saw was if you do see red flags, where would you go to get help?"
The panel discussion will feature representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy, and Jerry Redman, CEO and co-founder of Second Life Chattanooga.
"The panel discussion will cover all the red flags of human trafficking and will allow the audience opportunities to submit questions about human trafficking anonymously," Goodin said.
"It's very forward thinking," Holmes said. "Aside from Chattanooga, we're the only other community in this area that is working to raise awareness of this issue."
The discussion falls during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and coalition members encourage community members to wear white to raise awareness of the issue.
"We encourage companies and organizations to wear white and post photos to social media with the hashtag #unitemcminn to spread the interest," said coalition member Nicole Gibbs, who noted the coalition has its own website, www.unitemcminn.org
Coalition members include Dave Graybeal (Keith Memorial United Methodist Church senior pastor), Norma Barham with McMinn County Schools Coordinated School Health, Linda McGill with Athens City Schools Coordinated School Health, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy, Lee Montgomery with the Athens-McMinn Family YMCA, Sarah Holmes with Full Circle Medical Center for Women, Brittany Kirkland with the McMinn County Health Department, and Amy Goodin, Nicole Gibbs, and Shane Sewell with Athens Federal Community Bank.
For more information about "Unite Wear White McMinn," call Sarah Holmes at 744-3005.
The national hotline for human trafficking is 855-558-6484.