NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — From sudden changes at school to acting out, Gabrielle Thompson says those are just some of the signs of a child or teen being sex trafficked.
“You’ll see behaviors that are sexualized,” Thompson said.
Thompson is executive director of Free for Life International, a nonprofit which works with sex trafficking survivors.
The nonprofit is working on a program which would train teachers how to spot those signs.
“How to identify if they’re being trafficked and what steps they can take as teachers and really as protectors of those students in the community,” she said.
Thompson says the ages of sex trafficking victims continues to get younger.
“We’re talking about 9, 10, 11, 12,” she said.
Free For Life is working on launching a new program called The Concerned Citizen Initiative.
Staff members would go to elementary and middle schools to train teachers on what to look for.
“It’s a way to really open the eyes of teachers,” she said.
The average age of a sex trafficking victim is 13, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
From 2016 to 2018, the number of sex trafficking tips involving a minor went up by about 200 percent, according to the TBI.
“Teachers are a space of safety for most students,” she said.
Thompson says the signs are easy to miss with kids who she says are usually trafficked by their own families.
“It can be parents,” she said. “It can also be uncles and aunts.”
“It’ll begin with abuse as a child.”
State lawmakers passed House Bill 970 in April which requires teachers to watch a video on how to spot and stop human trafficking.
The law will go into effect for 2019-2020 school year.