Transforming Culture with Love

At the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, we exist to unite and equip our community to end modern-day slavery through awareness, training, and intervention efforts across upper East Tennessee. At the same time, we provide wraparound aftercare services to survivors of human trafficking in our community.

And if there’s anything we’ve learned from doing this work, it’s that the world is a very dark and broken place. The more we learn about the kinds of solutions we need, the more we realize just how deep and complex the problems facing our society truly are.

For folks who work in direct services, you know what we mean.

Poverty. Homelessness. Abuse. Chemical dependency. Access to healthcare. None of these exist in a vacuum, and all are challenges faced by almost every client we serve.

So where do we start?

At CCAHT, it’s a question we ask ourselves every time we get a new referral. Because as complex as these challenges are, we can’t expect to have a one-size-fits-all service delivery model. We’d be spinning our wheels. It would be an irresponsible use of resources. And ultimately, our clients wouldn’t get the care that they truly need and deserve.

All over the globe, spanning the US, across Tennessee, and in every corner of Knoxville, you’ll find social workers and counselors and healthcare providers and therapists and shelter workers – the list goes on – who are doing everything they can to offer a hand up to vulnerable, marginalized, and victimized populations.

It isn’t an easy task. The most efficient way to tackle this, it would seem, would be to put together a program model that pushes every client through the same pipeline toward success and opportunity:

Obtain safe housing: check. Go see a doctor: check. Get sober: check. Find a job: check. Became self-sustainable: check!

In reality, this would offer only the illusion of efficiency. Because we don’t all have the same experiences, the same needs, the same hurt.

Benchmarks and outcomes are important – without them, how would we measure program success? The thing about numbers, though, is that they don’t solve problems. People do.

Without people, the data means nothing. Without people, what are we measuring?

Human trafficking is a problem that stems from hate, guilt, shame, and violence. Statistics are no match for this darkness and abuse.

But love is. And not the kind of love that is all rainbows and unicorns and baby face suns; the kind of love that is tenacious. The kind of love that is humble. The kind of love that listens, that is intentional, that isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty. The kind of love that recognizes and seeks to understand each individual person’s unique experiences. Needs. Hurts. Hopes.

And it isn’t always a walk in the park. In fact, more often than not, it doesn’t feel like it penetrates the darkness at all.

But when we take that love into the community, and we spread it around, its power is inescapable. Love from one person is a great and beautiful thing. But when the spirits of an entire community come together to grow that force of love, it’s overwhelming. It breaks through the darkness. It breaks through the hate. Slowly but surely, things will start to change.

So yes – if there’s anything we’ve learned from doing this work, it’s that the world is a very dark and broken place.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned that changes the game, it’s that a culture of love is transformative – and we see it growing here, in our community, every day. It is fueling change. It is fueling victim care. And it is fueling a better world for generations we have yet to know.

The best part? It starts with us.