NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The average age of a child bought and sold for sex is just 13-years-old, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.

The idea that someone would use a teenager for illicit sex is difficult to discuss. However, Jeremy Lofquest, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the TBI’s Human Trafficking Unit, said it’s a topic that should be top of mind. 

“Every county has some shape or form of trafficking going on. It’s not just tied to the metro areas. There’s not one specific race or demographic. It’s against every socio-economic line there is,” said Lofquest.

Teens are often lured into a web of promises. “These traffickers are master manipulators,” explained Lofquest, “They’re ability to mold the young mind is something we’re always up against.”

Some victims don’t know, or believe, they need help. Parents need to look for red flags asking the following questions.

Does your teen:

  • Have a sudden increase in money, clothing, or possessions?
  • Talk about an older boyfriend or older man?
  • Tell inconsistent stories?
  • Post sexually explicit pictures on social media? 

These are just some of the warning signs.

“When you have someone under the age of 18 at a hotel or truck stop for long periods of time, they’re obviously being guarded or watched over very closely by somebody. They don’t know what town or city they’re in. Sometimes they don’t have their own money. They’re dressed inappropriately for the weather, that’s also an indicator,” said Special Agent Lofquest.

Combatting the crime starts with mothers and fathers communicating with their teens. 

“Having healthy conversation around boundaries, limits, sexuality and things like that,” said Josh DeVine, Communications Director for the TBI.

So, if your teen is faced with a problem, then they see you as a trusted resource. 

“The reality is, you can do all the commonsense things and someone may still very well find a way to get to your child. And when they’re encountered with that situation that feels to them like a brand new very scary kind of thing, where are they going to go? You want them to come to you,” DeVine said.

If you ever suspect anything – don’t hesitate, report it. 

Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-855-55-TNHTH (1-855-558-6484) or Text ‘BeFree’ to 233733
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