The Coalition Community Against Human Trafficking brings hope to region

The Coalition Community Against Human Trafficking has expanded to over 30 counties in the East Tennessee region.

The Coalition Community Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT) is a nonprofit organization that educates the East Tennessee community about human trafficking and provides support and care to the victims.

Through their  “EMPOWER East Tennessee” campaign, CCAHT utilizes more than thirteen free, profession-specific curricula to educate primary responders, professionals and community members to recognize human trafficking cases and how to provide care for them.

CCAHT also provides comprehensive, trauma-informed support services to the survivors of human trafficking in Knoxville through their “Grow Free Tennessee” program. 85% of survivors include females, and one-third of the people CCAHT serves are minors. Approximately 170 referrals were made in 2019 with 50 of them for children.

In 2018, CCAHT opened its first safe shelter in East Tennessee dedicated to serving adult female human trafficking survivors. Today, they serve 33 counties in East Tennessee.

Human trafficking is thought to be a crime that only happens overseas or during a kidnapping incident. While this is true for some, human trafficking happens everywhere.

Human trafficking is when someone is forced to work or to have sex. Most often, victims are trafficked by people they know. They can be a family member or spouse. Despite the relationship, the trafficker is someone who abuses and exploits the victim’s vulnerabilities.

Over 10,000 individuals have been trained to recognize the red flags of human trafficking and respond to those accordingly.

Katie Little, Director of Development and Communications for CCAHT, described what an average day looked like for her working with CCAHT.

“An average day working with CCAHT is constantly changing,” Little said. “But I work with fundraising and grant writing for the organization.”

In addition to this, Little runs the social media accounts and reports for CCAHT. She also works with organizing end of-the-year campaigns including their annual event, “Today I Rise: An Evening to Benefit the CCAHT.”

This event is held at the Jackson Terminal in Knoxville, and families and local businesses can buy a table in which all proceeds go to funding this organization. Guests can listen to a live band and hear from speakers who have been impacted by CCAHT.

An average day for someone else at the CCAHT might involve working with the survivors including helping to find them and getting them into a safe house where they find the help that they need.

Lisa Bolton is the Director of Youth Services for CCAHT and serves both adults and kids but works directly with kids. When a child is suspected of being a trafficking victim, the Department of Child Services will call CCAHT.

“The Department of Child Services will call, or a teacher will call, and alert us that there’s a child at risk for trafficking,” Bolton said.

Bolton then will meet with those children for a counseling session.

“I’m a trusted adult that steps in and says ‘Hey, you matter. You’re important. There’s hope in the world; let us find that together,” Bolton said.

Featured image courtesy of CCAHT

Edited by Libby Dayhuff and Maddie Torres