FirstLife Blog

Women On Mission: Raising awareness of child Sex-Trafficking

Posted by Rachel Bell on

If you’re interested in how to live your life on mission, First Baptist has a new mission opportunity that may be perfect for you. Women on Mission, which traditionally meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 10:30 am, will be offering a brand-new installment on the first Wednesday night of each month starting this Wednesday, December 6, at 6 pm.

The purpose of this new WOM time slot is to give women of all ages, whether you’re 18 years old to 70 years old, an evening opportunity to participate in the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU).

WMU was founded in 1888 during a time when women had a limited role in the Baptist church. Women banded together to fully fund and implement all the mission endeavors to which they felt called. Today is it the largest Protestant mission organization in the world.

“Our goal is to be able to participate in such a long-standing, admirable organization,” says Tammy Baker. “And to be able to use their literature and materials to help us meet our local communities as well as abroad.”

Every month, Women on Mission offers specific projects for women and men alike at First Baptist to participate in. In November, they put together hygiene kits for the homeless through the CareCuts ministry.

Women on Mission on Wednesday Nights will follow in that vein, offering women hands-on experience in impacting our community and world.

“We want to be involved locally and globally,” says Janice McCoy. “How can we learn? How can we help a hurting world?”

The leader team – comprised of Janice, Teré Atwater, and Tammy Baker – has put together a comprehensive list of mission topics they’d like to cover over the coming months in WOM on Wednesday Nights including: narcotics abuse, homelessness, hospice care, ministering to PTSD victims, meditation, prayer walks, and child sex-trafficking. The last of which will be covered in their first meeting on December 6, where those in attendance will hear from FBI Special Agent Kristina Norris.

Agent Norris, who specializes in Crimes Against Children, has a degree in psychology from UT; before joining the FBI, she spent 10 years with the Knoxville Police Department.

There is a common misconception that human trafficking is mostly a problem outside of the United States or that children who are trafficked in the states are smuggled here from abroad. However, according to Agent Norris, who specializes in Crimes Against Children, most trafficked children in the U.S. are native citizens.

“These are kids who run away from home,” says Agent Norris. “Kids who may be have been in foster care most of their life or have some sort of other issue with their home life. It’s more prevalent than people may think.”

In fact, Agent Norris reports that in the first 24-48 hours, 80% of children who find themselves on the streets are approached by a trafficker. Of course, not all of these children end up in the trafficking world, as some are able to resist. Certain characteristics, however, make some children more vulnerable.

If a child has a learning disability or mental illness, they are more susceptible to being trafficked. If a child has suffered physical or emotional abuse in their home life, they are more at risk. Agent Norris says traffickers are looking for these traits in children on the streets.

“The trafficker becomes the person who fills in that hole, whatever that may be,” says Agent Norris. “Does the kid need an authoritative parental figure? Do they want a boyfriend to fill in their lack of love that they perceive?”

Traffickers will take on any disguise to draw in children, even offering the child the chance to “make it” in show business or modeling. Then, Agent Norris says, the trafficker will normally manipulate the child in the forms of physical or substance abuse, as well as threatening to hurt or kill the child’s loved ones.

Law enforcement has a very difficult time separating these children from their circumstances once the trafficker has them under their control. Often the children are brainwashed into believing police officers and other organizations are the enemies.

“What we see a lot of times when we recover these children is they are not ready to be recovered,” says Agent Norris. “They’re not necessarily happy, because they’ve come to trust the situation they’re in, and they’ve been told we - law enforcement - are untrustworthy and we’re not reliable.  They believe that trafficker will always take care of them.”

Child sex-trafficking is a painful and difficult situation with no easy solution. Organizations like the FBI train extensively to see investigations through to the end. Their ultimate goal is to put guilty parties in prison and free the victims of these crimes, but it is no easy task.

Agent Norris, who has been working in Crimes Against Children for the majority of her career, attests to the difficulty of the situation but says her chosen profession has been “very fulfilling” for her.

If you want to learn what you can do as a civilian for preyed-upon children right here in Knoxville, come to Women on Mission on Wednesday Night this Wednesday at 6 pm. Agent Norris will give a presentation and be available to answer any questions you may have. She will also point First Baptist in the right direction so we might be aware of this situation in our community and country.  



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