By Loren Ketelsen
The “Sewanee Bubble” can be simultaneously comforting and blinding. I love the Sewanee bubble because I am not scared to walk alone at night, and I feel free to express my emotions and my opinions. However, I believe the Sewanee bubble can be blinding because we go about our busy days and sometimes don’t stop to think about the world around us.
This semester I took Gender, Violence, and Power with Professor Schneider and it opened my eyes to a whole new side of the Cumberland Plateau I had never thought about before. We learned about sex trafficking, in class and I decided to write my term paper on it. For my paper, I took the topic a step further and decided I wanted to investigate sex trafficking in the Cumberland Plateau. I was very disturbed by the facts, and I want to spread awareness about the issue so that everyone on the Mountain can be aware.
I learned that an alarming amount of sex trafficking happens at truck stops. This was terrifying for me because I frequent Wendy’s in Monteagle, which is right next to a truck stop. Truck stops are places that not heavily policed, resulting in greater illegal activity. Pimps will bring young women or men to truck stops and sell them to truckers for the night. Some truckers will signal with their lights to indicate to the pimp what sexual favors they want and how much they are willing to pay. The pimps communicate with truckers over CB radios in code. They will talk about the clients’ age, gender, and price for sex. As a result, all of the money goes directly to the pimp.
Young men and women get involved for sex trafficking for many different reasons. From the research I have done, it’s very common for people in poverty to get involved in sex trafficking because the pimps will tell young people that they can make a profit. Pimps tell young people that they can make $500 a night by having sex with two clients. The young people will hear this and go into the business because they believe they can just do it in moderation and that it will not become a life style. Pimps also manipulate young boys and girls so they stay in the business. They typically look for people around ages twelve to fifteen. On average, a person in this business will die after seven years. Furthermore, people start doing drugs because they are lost and not sure what to do, as they are often being forced to have sex around twelve times a day with different clients.
This is both frightening and mind blowing. Although it’s not certain that this is happening at the Monteagle truckstop, it is alarming that Monteagle is very similar to the places where sex trafficking at truck stops occurrs. Now, every time I go to Wendy’s, I think about what could be going on and it makes me want to make a difference. I want to be able to help the young girls and boys who are being sex trafficked. Researching this topic made me think about my surroundings past the “Sewanee Bubble.”