The International Justice Mission, an on-campus group dedicated to raising awareness for human trafficking, hosted “Slavery Still Exists” Tuesday night in Stowe Hall.
The event happened only a few days after the popular End It Movement took over social media, where participants post pictures and show a red “X” on their hand to combat slavery.
After offering the first-look screening of the movie Priceless in the fall, Lipscomb welcomed Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agent Jason Wilkerson and End Slavery Tennessee advocate Jill Rutter to speak more on human trafficking.
“Very recently the TBI got jurisdiction over human trafficking,” Wilkerson said. “TBI agents can go hunt human traffickers and look for victims of our own volition.”
Unlike the police, the TBI is only called into cases when there is specific need, and the attorney general requests their presence. Now that all cases dealing with human trafficking fall under the TBI, the agents can freely investigate any suspected situations.
“On our own, without asking anybody, we just go after it ourselves,” Wilkerson said. “I am part of the unit that does that. I have been with TBI a little over 20 years.”
Agent Wilkerson discussed the different types of human trafficking cases that happen in Tennessee and dispelled some common Hollywood enhanced myths. After Wilkerson explained the law enforcement side of ending human trafficking, Jill Rutter talked about how End Slavery Tennessee helps rehabilitate victims of slavery.
“The most important thing I do as far as advocacy is to try to make sure that all of you realize that it happens here in the United States just as much as it happens in Cambodia, India and all of those areas,” Rutter said. “We have more trafficking now than we had at the height of the North Atlantic slave trade.”
Rutter shared stories from victims and discussed the difficult process for rehabilitating and saving victims from the human trafficking world. In an effort to raise more awareness, she also gave out several handouts with help numbers and common signs of human trafficking.
“Nobody is safe,” Rutter said. “There is no demographic. It doesn’t matter what color or where you’re from or anything; there are people that think it’s all right to sell other people. This is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. We want to make sure that you all are aware of the constant.”