NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Secretary of State are both working to protect victims of human trafficking.
January 11 is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Reports of human trafficking have increased across the state over the last several years. According to TBI data, the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline received 456 calls in 2018, 728 calls in 2019, and 898 calls in 2020. Middle Tennessee in particular saw 169 calls in 2018, 322 calls in 2019, and 317 calls in 2020.
The Secretary of State’s Office launched the Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program in 2019, which aims to protect victims’ contact information so their abusers cannot easily find them. The program is open to all victims of domestic abuse, stalking, human trafficking, rape, sexual battery, or any other sexual offenses.
Once a victim has been approved to participate in the program, they will be provided with a substitute address. The program participant will then be able to use the substitute address as their official mailing address for all state and local government purposes and for their children, including public school or public benefits enrollment, with only a few exceptions. By doing so, the participant’s confidential address will not appear in public records relating to either themselves or their children.
“Protecting your address is a critical step for individuals or families to take to help protect themselves from becoming victims again,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “This free program is available for Tennesseans of any age or gender who’ve been a victim of stalking, human trafficking, domestic abuse or any sexual offense.”
In addition, TBI launched the “It Has to Stop” website to offer help and resources to victims. The agency said it believes the increased human trafficking reports stem from increased awareness about the problem and its warning signs. TBI also posted several informational videos with special agent Jeremy Lofquest on its Twitter page Monday.
“When one hears ‘trafficking’ a lot of times you think being abducted out of the parking lot in a big white van and sold to some sex trafficking ring overseas somewhere,” Lofquest said. “That does happen, but it’s a very, very, very small percentage.”
Anyone with information or tips on human trafficking is asked to call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-55-TNHTH.