By ERIC BROWN | Nashville Voice
Editor’s Note: This article may produce memories, feelings, or trauma that was never intended. The writer wanted to give a warning that is necessary to not create more harm through this material.
I’m not a big fan of holidays or days of observances. In fact, I’m probably the anti-holiday person. I understand the holidays are for the purpose of acknowledging events and moments, but when I start hearing a certain day is National Shoe Laces Day, one must ask, “When is enough, enough?”
But today is exactly the day, to say Enough is Enough! Each year, Jan. 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
It’s very fitting especially after now Former Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslam, granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown. She will be released in August after finishing 15 years being caged.
Brown was 16 years old when she was arrested, imprisoned and tried as an adult for murder. Being trafficked into prostitution by her pimp, Brown suffered a hard life.
As a teenager, and, in fear for her life, she shot and killed a 42-year-old man who picked her up for sex. She was convicted and handed a 51-year life sentence, which, for Brown, means she couldn’t even seek parole until she was 67 years old.
That was until Monday when a room full of family and friends hovered over a telephone in a conference room in the offices of Bone, McCallister, and Norton, to celebrate the forthcoming release of a wonderful person and soul.
Some people use their view to say that Brown was a “fast little girl” who knew what she was doing. The bigger issue this presents is to act as if not only her then 20-something-year-old pimp or the 42-year-old man had no agency to control their urges of exploiting and sexually using the body of a child.
To help people to not see this as just an individual situation, but a systemic and international problem, let’s discuss what human trafficking is and does around the world.
From the Homeland Security website, “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
In other words, human trafficking is the business of selling freedom for profit.
This issue is not about a sexually active child luring grown men. It is about how one grown man took away the freedom of a child through manipulation, abuse, and violence to sell her body to another grown man for a cash transaction.
This is such a problem that even the White House took some action.
In 2010, by Presidential Proclamation, January is designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month.
Economic Exploitation is the underlying force that pushes so many into bondage. It is a day to acknowledge that all humans must be seen with having the basic needs of justice, dignity, and freedom.
Many may hear stories of Brown, but not think of ways we all participate within human trafficking.
In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Mellissa Withers writes about how the Superbowl, “is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Trafficking, specifically, sex trafficking is a business and people chase the dollars wherever they can participate in the action. Because of the vastness of this issue, it can feel like an impossible task to end. But we can do our part to end it.
Even in the Tennessee Women’s Prison, Brown works to change a culture that allows girls and women to fall into human trafficking through trauma bonding—how girls and women see themselves bonded to their abuser and consider themselves not being a victim.
Brown defended this issue as a capstone for her college degree prison program at David Lipscomb University. She will graduate in May with her bachelor’s degree.
If you know of incidents of human trafficking, please call, 1 (888) 373-7888, for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Text Help or Info to 233733, and/or check out the Website: humantraffickinghotline.org The hotline is open 24 hours, 7 days a week and in English, Spanish and 200 more languages.
Eric Brown is a political consultant and community leader. His early work was in children advocacy and community and faith-based organizing around the cradle to the prison pipeline system and mass incarceration.