Tennessee Department of Health, Partners raise awareness of Human Trafficking with Red Sand Project

   Governor Bill Lee proclaimed July 28th – August 3rd as Human Trafficking Awareness Week in Tennessee. Human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery, is rapidly becoming a major public health concern that needs to be addressed. An estimated 40.3 million people are being trafficked worldwide, including an estimated 94 children each month here in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Health urges all Tennesseans to learn about risk factors, red flags and resources for human trafficking to be part of the solution. We strive to make everyone aware of human trafficking and educate Tennesseans on the topic to help them potentially save lives.

   “The trauma experienced by those who are trafficked can have life-long effects on their mental, physical, psychological and social health, which makes it a challenge for public health in our state,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “It is important that we continue our work with our partners to prevent human trafficking and educate Tennesseans on how to identify the signals for this crime and support those who have been impacted by it.”

  The Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and stakeholders across the state partnered with the Red Sand Project during Human Trafficking Awareness Week. The Red Sand Project is a participatory art installment designed to shed light and provide education on human trafficking. Participants gathered at sites around the state and poured red sand in sidewalk seams to draw attention to the human trafficking victims who fall through the cracks every day. 

    Crimes and Human Trafficking Legislation Initiatives

   Several bills advanced this year to continue Tennessee’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking. State legislators have approved multiple bills over the past eight years addressing the problem of human trafficking after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. It is imperative that we continue to fight this modern day slavery and pass legislation protecting potential victims. I believe the legislation that we have passed, and will pass in the future, is a step in the right direction in the fight against human trafficking.

   Sex Trafficking / Children – A major bill was passed this year ensuring that undercover human trafficking operations conducted by law enforcement officials to catch offenders who promote or patronize minors are prosecutable in Tennessee courts of law.  The new law clarifies, for prosecution purposes, that it is not a defense that a law enforcement officer is posing as a minor when conducting undercover operations for human trafficking. 

  Grants for Victims for Treatment and Support Services – State lawmakers voted this year to set up a mechanism to provide grants to agencies specializing in comprehensive treatment and support services for victims through the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund.  The new law prioritizes programs for the grants which are identified by the TBI and Department of Children’s Services which are successful in providing medical care, counseling, substance abuse services, safe housing, job training, transportation, and other basic human needs.

   Expungement / Non-Violent Crimes -- A new law was passed this year which allows a victim of human trafficking to expunge their record of associated non-violent crimes.  They must prove they were a victim of human trafficking to the district attorney and judge to have all violations subject to expungement cleared.  All sentences, including probation, must be completed before the record is cleared and expunged convictions would be reinstated if the victim commits similar crimes in the future. 

   Human Trafficking / Education  -- The General Assembly acted this year to require that family life curriculum in the state’s public schools include instruction on the detection, intervention, and treatment of human trafficking in which the victim is a child. The new law calls for teachers to receive a one-time in-service training on the detection, intervention, and treatment of human trafficking when the victim is a child, via video or online learning.

You May Contact Senator Hensley at

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 746

Nashville TN 37243


Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100

Fax 615-253-0231

855 Summertown Highway

Hohenwald TN 38462

Phone 931-796-2018

Cell Phone 931-212-8823

E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov