MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the third year in a row, Tennessee was named the best in the United States when it comes to fighting sex trafficking.
Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization, released its annual report card of states working to combat the sex trafficking epidemic.
Grades are based on the annual review of states analyzed under the Protected Innocence Challenge Legislative Framework that looks at everything from establishing protocols and facilities for victim placement to restoring victims through improved identification training.
Rachel Haaga works with victims, survivors and legislators to counter sex trafficking through her non-profit Restore Corps. She told WMC Action News 5 Wednesday, the ranking is an honor.
“It just says a lot about our General Assembly, and a lot about the anti-trafficking collaboration and partnership across our state that shows that we really are a state that is striving to make sure that perpetrators or held accountable and victims are taken care of," Haaga said.
Haaga says the State has made major strides in addressing sex trafficking since Restore Corps was founded in 2011.
One of the laws that was instrumental in shifting the direction of Tennessee was "Decriminalization of minors" - which says a juvenile victim who is sexually exploited cannot be charged with prostitution and taken to juvenile detention.
"When that law changed we truly aligned I think our state laws around human trafficking aligned them more correctly with what we think as a public,” Haaga said.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch released the following statement on the ranking:
“More than a decade of partnership, from stakeholders across the state, has helped Tennessee make the progress we have in the fight against human trafficking. We’re thankful for Shared Hope International’s recognition of being a national leader in this work, but we have more to do because there are more victims out there right now. That’s why we remain committed to identifying and rescuing them, and connecting them to vital survivor services. Trafficking is a demand-driven crime, and that's why we also will keep working to hold buyers and traffickers accountable under some of the toughest laws in the country, to send a strong message that we will not tolerate this kind of injustice in Tennessee."
Mississippi is ranked No. 10 and Arkansas is ranked No. 22.