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Sex and the Soul Week convo raises awareness for sex trafficking

The Baptist Collegiate Ministry sponsored a human and sex trafficking awareness convocation Monday night for Sex and the Soul Week.

The two speakers were Sgt. Billy Morris from the Nashville Metro Police Department and Michael Watson, a presentation volunteer from the non-profit organization End Slavery Tennessee.

Morris oversees cases in the Investigative Services Bureau and is specialized in dealing with human and sex trafficking.

“Sex trafficking is basically a form of modern-day slavery,” Morris said.

According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sex trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.” In addition, if the person is under 18, no force, fraud or coercion is needed for it to be a crime.

During the convocation, Morris discussed how quickly sex trafficking is growing in the criminal industry, citing a U.S. Department of Justice statistic that it is second only to drug trade.

He also gave specific reasons behind sex trafficking, the warning signs of victims and examples of cases he has overseen in Nashville.

“Here in Nashville, I’ve worked in cases with victims as young as 8 or 9,” said Morris.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, four out of five victims of sex trafficking are women. Half of all victims are children. The life expectancy of a victim is seven years, with AIDs and homicide as the top two causes of death.

Morris said victims usually develop a dependency on their pimps, who seduce them with clothing, food and false promises such as security and love. Yet, victims are often blamed for their situation and falsely charged with prostitution.

“Victims are victims,” said Morris. “99 percent of the girls we deal with don’t want to be prostitutes. They feel like they have to do it.”

Both Morris and Watson highlighted the extreme progress Tennessee has made in sex trafficking awareness, reduction and criminal charges.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee improved more than any other state in combating sex trafficking between 2011 and 2013.

Morris also emphasized how important it is to speak up for victims and to report suspicious activity.

“Don’t be a bystander. If you see something that is wrong, stand up and say it’s wrong. Call someone. Nobody wants to be a victim. Report anything that you suspect to be sex trafficking,” said Morris.

He also encouraged students to be aware and educated on the subject and to have face-to-face conversations with others to further promote this awareness. “The first line of offense is just educating people,” he said.

Both speakers said how relevant and important combating sex trafficking is today.

“This matters,” said Morris. “Lives matter.”

Non-profit Organizations in Tennessee The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1-888-373-7888

This article was written by Jacqueline Skokna.

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