In Spain: Ivoline, a nursing student at a university in Cameroon, is approached by a woman who, offering to help her complete her degree in Europe, convinces her father to spend his entire savings for her transport. Upon arrival, she is forced into prostitution.
In Brazil: Joel, age 30, and Ronival, age 69, are enslaved and forced to bathe in contaminated water and sleep in a hut without electricity or drinking water for 10 years until they risk their lives to escape.
In the United States: Maria Elena, 13 years old, leaves home at the promise of opportunity. When she arrives at her destination in Florida, she is gang-raped and locked in a trailer until she submits to prostitution. She is forced to have sex with up to 30 men each day, and when she becomes pregnant, is forced to return to work the day after an involuntary abortion.
These examples, from a US Department of State 2012 report, are only three in thousands. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the United States and worldwide, generating billions of dollars in profits each year with the victimization of an estimated 27 million men, women and children.
A form of modern-day slavery, human trafficking uses force, fraud or coercion to exploit victims for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or forced labor.
Often perceived to be a foreign issue, the national and local statistics are shocking: At least 100,000 children exploited in the sex trade each year in the US (average age, 13 to 14); $9.5 billion in profits in the US alone from trafficking; 85 percent of counties in Tennessee reported at least one case of human trafficking in 2011, with four counties reporting more than 100 cases and 16 reporting more than 50. Hamilton County reported more than 100 adults and 25 minors trafficked between 2009 and 2010.
More than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment promised freedom and equality to all people, slavery persists in the United States. In fact, it’s at Chattanooga’s back door, with Atlanta serving as an epicenter for US trafficking. But as these horrifying statistics grow, efforts to raise awareness and provide help to victims grow also.
One such effort, the For Freedom Tour, will be hosted by the Salvation Army’s ReCreate Café on Mar. 29 at 8 pm. Featuring acoustic, folk-pop duo Jenny & Tyler, Levi Weaver, and special guest Vanita Joines, the For Freedom Tour supports the the International Justice Mission, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking worldwide.
Local efforts against trafficking by Second Life of Chattanooga and Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking will also be highlighted.
Joining the fight against modern-day slavery is as simple as being inspired with an evening of music, including original songs and covers of Smashing Pumpkins, Coldplay, Postal Service, Louis Armstrong, and more by Jenny & Tyler, who, according to event coordinators, “can captivate the audience with their energy and passion while integrating a personable spirit that makes a concert feel more like a living room jam session.”
Students: $8 in advance, $12 at the door. General admission: $10 in advance, $15 at the door. ReCreate Café, 800 McCallie Ave. facebook.com/recreatecafearts