Over the past couple years, Chattanooga has received different accolades claiming it as a top city for many things:

• Outdoor Magazine’s Best City [1]
• First U.S. city to have a community-wide fiber optic network: “Gig City” [2]
• Best city for startup companies [3]
• #1 for social well being [4]

It’s no doubt that Chattanooga is a wonderful city. We are innovative; we have beautiful scenery, hiking, climbing, and let’s be real…we have fantastic coffee shops. As a whole, we are forward thinkers and we love our city.

Although Chattanooga has countless outdoor opportunities, yoga studios, amazing coffee shops, technology, and startup companies, there is also a darker side to Chattanooga of which many are unaware, or choose to ignore. No matter where your activities take you in Chattanooga, it’s possible that you are only blocks away from women who don’t have the same opportunities to enjoy this city. Day after day, these women – and children – are being unwillingly bought and sold for sex by their traffickers. They are modern-day slaves.

This is not a distant issue happening only in some third-world country. This is happening right here – in Chattanooga – in our backyard.

How is that possible?

Most of these transactions are set up online. In February, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation teamed up to conduct an operation aimed at catching those purchasing illicit sex from women and minors being exploited online. Of the 168 men who made contact, 35 were arrested. [5] Where there is demand, there will be supply. It has been shown that there is a demand for these services in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.

So what can you do? For one, speak up. Second Life Chattanooga aims to raise awareness that will drive action. In order to tackle this issue, we must be aware that this is happening in our community. Educate yourself, and from there decide how you can be involved. Maybe you’re willing to give through your time, or monetarily. Or maybe you can simply help educate others through conversations about this issue. Please, don’t make silence an option.

I am proud that my city is known for so many wonderful things. But my hope is that Chattanooga will soon become known as a top city joining the fight against human trafficking. I hope that we, as a city, will come together as individuals from various organizations, faith communities, and businesses to say as one voice that these injustices will not continue here.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.