Nestled between wooded mountain ridges and sparkling Soddy Lake, Soddy-Daisy captures the best of both rural and urban life. The description, taken from the city’s website, is a good picture of the town of 13,000 residents. It is mostly peaceful and surrounded by natural beauty. It is also the spot that human traffickers decided to make a little extra cash. Late this summer, In the middle of the night, a police officer in the small town pulls over an RV camper on the highway. What they find are thousands of dollars, drugs and needles, lingerie, a pregnant woman and 2 men; one she says is her father and the other her boyfriend. Once in the police station she stands at attention with her hands cuffed behind her back not sitting, speaking, or making eye contact with anyone for hours. It is not until she can no longer see these men that she finally sits down and rests.
Having learned some about human trafficking, a dispatcher brought her concerns to the detectives in the morning asking them to look into her case a little more. Had this woman not taken notice and known what to look for, this young 20-something female may have eventually found herself back in that camper with those two men going from truck stop to truck stop selling her body and her soul with no hope of escape.
The challenge with human sex trafficking at the domestic level is that there is so often a type of trauma bond that has been created due to severe manipulation. It’s a defense mechanism, so to speak, that the human brain utilizes to survive captivity. David and Jo are often asked if trafficking really happens here, in rural Tennessee. The answer is a loud and resounding, “yes!” We often picture the movie Taken when we think of human trafficking. And, while victims can be dragged out from under a bed kicking and screaming, that is not typically how it happens. According to Rebecca Bender, a trafficking survivor, in her book, Roadmap to Redemption, “Even victims themselves often do not identify themselves as victims because they were not abducted”.
Being aware of the signs of human trafficking is one of the key factors in fighting this horrendous crime, as evidenced by the story I detailed above. According to the Administration for Children and Families a victim of human trafficking may exhibit:
Evidence of being controlled either physically or psychologically;
Inability to leave home or place of work;
Inability to speak for oneself or share one’s own information;
Information is provided by someone accompanying the individual;
Loss of control of one’s own identification documents (ID or passport);
Have few or no personal possessions;
Owe a large debt that the individual is unable to pay off; or
Loss of sense of time or space, not knowing where they are or what city or state they are in.
We have come to believe that trafficking is an issue “over there” and if it does happen in America it is limited to big, scary cities, far from the comfort of our homes. But, in reality there are Soddy-Daisy's all over our nation. You likely live in one. We can no longer turn a blind eye and pretend it does not exist or that it does not impact our neighborhoods, communities and families. The women, men, children and adults that live with the trauma of sexual exploitation every day are closer than you think. Whether they ask for it or not, they desperately need our help. The task seems overwhelming, but with God’s power the ranch will be a source of hope and healing. You can reach them too!