Access to Justice Commission, Her Song Partner to Shed Light on Federal and State Human Trafficking Law

Human Trafficking is prevalent in Tennessee and across the country, yet it is still largely misunderstood. The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is working to change that by partnering with Her Song, Tim Tebow Foundation, for an
in-person and virtual education event “Understanding Human Trafficking” on January 31.

“Our idea of human trafficking and what it looks like is very far from what it actually is,” said Janice Johnson, Her Song National Legal Advocate. “I think as a society, we envision in our minds a girl/woman in a room locked away, handcuffed to a bed. And while this is absolutely sex trafficking, this isn't the narrative that is the most common in the U.S. Traffickers use numerous tactics to lure their victims and it is mostly psychological manipulation with force, fraud or coercion. They prey upon the vulnerabilities of their victims and use it to their advantage. It can happen to anyone and anywhere.”

“Understanding Human Trafficking” is a 90-minute Tennessee Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course focusing on state and federal human trafficking law in a case study context. Justice Restoration Center Executive Director Brent Woody will present human trafficking 101 by laying out the legal definition of human trafficking and the federal and state laws currently in place. He will also discuss Tennessee’s current expungement law for survivors.

“The case study will be about a survivor who went through the legal system for over a decade unidentified, along with her experience when she encountered the criminal justice system as a victim,” said Janice Johnson, Her Song National Legal Advocate.

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is assisting in coordination of the training event as Her Song expands its work into Tennessee. The Commission's mission is to provide collaborative leadership to create solutions and resources to address and eliminate barriers to access to justice.

"Helping an organization train potential, volunteer attorneys and share information on their services is an integral part of the Commission's work," said Anne-Louise Wirthlin, Director of Access to Justice and Strategic Collaboration at the Administrative Office of the Courts. "The legal needs of human trafficking victims are many and very unique. This type of training will build and equip a network of volunteer attorneys with resources and knowledge to meet those legal needs."

Although high-profile cases and nationwide law enforcement stings often make the news, they may not tell the whole story or offer a deeper understanding of human trafficking.

“Most do not know that they will encounter victims via the legal system before a service provider does,” Johnson said. “It is essential to know the signs of human trafficking to be able to identify a victim because most victims do not self-identify.

“When you have a clear definition of something and you can also personalize it, it becomes real,” Johnson said. “Education on human trafficking is needed in order to help eradicate the problem that is being hidden in the open. Once you know, you can no longer ignore what is now so plainly in front of you. The criminal justice system is a key stakeholder in the initiative to stop human trafficking.”

Her Song National Resident Director Kelly Posze will discuss the need for residential services as a catalyst for change and to break the cycle of human trafficking when a victim is recovered. Her Song will also introduce their Chattanooga area residential model during the event.

“Understanding Human Trafficking” is taking place in-person, as well as virtually via Zoom, on Monday, January 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST at 317 Oak Street, Room 108, in Chattanooga. Click here to register for in-person or virtual attendance.