Red Sand Art Project in Coolidge Park Brings Awareness for Human Trafficking

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — We are learning more about the tragic consequences of human trafficking today.

It claims dozens of victims every year right here in the Tennessee Valley.

Several dozen people were pouring red sand in the cracks of the sidewalk at Coolidge Park today, as a part of the Red Sand Project to help bring awareness of human trafficking.

“For a really amazing movement – a visual representation of individuals that are lost in the cracks – people that are forgotten about,” said Dash Merritt, the Community Development Coordinator for 2nd Life Tennessee.

The Red Sand Project is a worldwide effort to raise awareness to what has become a 32 billion dollar a year criminal enterprise.

Dash Merritt says that a large percentage of trafficking is actually done by family members or relatives.

“Everyone thinks that human trafficking is only relevant in areas where there is a major interstate going through, so that happens to be Chattanooga, and of course, that can play a part, but 49% of cases that are reported in Tennessee happen in rural counties. So it’s not just happening in the big cities in Atlanta, in Nashville, it’s happening in these small town communities as well,” said Merritt.

Sponsors point out that Human trafficking is more than just prostitution. It’s the use of any coercion, manipulation, deception, fraud, or other abuse of power to control another person for the purpose of exploitation, such as sex, domestic, or commercial labor.

Harley Milligan with Partnership for Families Children and Adults, deals with the issue daily.

“At the rape crisis center we serve folks 13 and up who’ve experienced any kind of sexual violence within their lifetime. And so that clearly intersects with human trafficking,” said Harley Milligan.

And from the Health Department, Shauna Greer says they help with education in the schools, but also deal with the consequences of trafficking when people show up at their clinics.

“A lot of victims are children, as young as – you know – 12 – 13 years old that people see with, with um, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases,” said Ms. Greer, public health educator with the Hamilton County Health Department.

The Health Department hopes to use the Red Sand project to raise awareness and get people who see something that doesn’t look right, to say so…and call police, and let them sort out the details.

You can help raise awareness for human trafficking, and participate by filling a sidewalk crack with red sand, taking a photo, and posting it with #RedSandProject.

Categories: Education, Featured, Hamilton County, Health, Local News

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