Sex trafficking study apparently overstates problem

The sad tale of a prostitute being held captive in Chattanooga highlights a problem that appears overstated and solutions that fail to address the problem.

Beth Burger reported earlier this week in the Times Free Press that a 21-year-old Maryland woman agreed to work with Khari Matthew "King Black" Troutman on a prostitution tour of North Carolina. The 31-year-old Troutman (who, as best as we can tell, is the king of no actual nation) failed to live up to his end of the deal.

Rather than allowing the woman to return home at the end of the agreement, Troutman turned the woman from a simple prostitute into a sex trafficking victim when he held her captive at the Microtel Inn on McCutcheon Road and prostituted her to johns through a ad -- feeding her little and preventing her from returning home.

This instance of sex trafficking is notable in Chattanooga because it is the only one ever reported, according to area police.

Meanwhile, a 2011 report co-produced by Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation estimated there were more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking in Hamilton County. The study is, apparently, based on erroneous surveys and severely lacking in verifiable facts.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said the sex trafficking incident involving Troutman and the woman he was holding hostage was "the only one I know of."

Certainly, human trafficking --and sex trafficking, in particular -- is a real problem, both nationally and internationally. Even if cases in our area are rare, the loss of liberty involved in modern day slavery are unconscionable. We must do all we can to stop such cruelty and provide victims with useful resources once they are free from their captors.

Unfortunately, local organizations appear unprepared to help what few sex trafficking cases there may be in the Chattanooga area.

Regina McDevitt, senior director for crisis services at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, the organization that assisted the victim after she was rescued by police, admitted that "services are currently limited" for sex trafficking victims in Chattanooga.

Other local organizations that profess to work to end sex trafficking, such as Second Life Chattanooga, are good at creating awareness for sex trafficking, but are not equipped to provide services for the victims of the dreadful crime.

Thank goodness sex trafficking isn't as prevalent in our area as the dubious Vanderbilt/TBI study claims. This tragic instance of sex trafficking indicates that Chattanooga lacks the organizations and services necessary to serve the victims of sex trafficking and help them begin their healing process.

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