KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The widely-shared Facebook post begins "human trafficking is real." Advocates say it is, but not in the way the post describes.
The post's author claimed to be a mom worried strangers acting oddly at Knoxville's Lakeshore Park Wednesday might be targeting her and her family for abduction.
In just 24 hours, the post rocketed across the internet and racked up nearly six thousand shares.
Natalie Ivey, the executive director of the Community Coalition against Human Trafficking, said the woman in the post did the right thing by calling 911 and leaving the park. Women have to trust their instincts.
Knoxville police said an officer responded to the 911 call immediately and drove around the area, but did not see anything odd.
Ivey said while it's not likely the strangers were looking to abduct her child, we should use this an opportunity to look at how human trafficking usually works in East Tennessee.
Anti-human trafficking advocates said East Tennessee traffickers hardly ever abduct strangers, let alone from public places like parks. That's just not how they work.
"We very rarely if ever have a 'stranger danger' or abduction associated with human trafficking here in East Tennessee," Natalie Ivey, the executive director of the Community Coalition against Human Trafficking said.
Instead, she said, traffickers in East Tennessee are family members.
"Most oftentimes, they're victimizing people they know," Ivey said. "Oftentimes, we see mom as a trafficker, unfortunately."
Acknowledging that human trafficking happens and is often perpetrated by family members in East Tennessee is a good first step, Ivey said. Next: learning how to identify potential victims.
"Ask questions that are much more relational, really getting to know folks. Do you feel safe at home? Are you comfortable? Do you have to do something you don’t want to do?" she said, as an example.
10News reached out to the woman who posted her story via Facebook messenger, but did not get a response.
If you suspect human trafficking, Ivey said to call 911 or the Tennessee human trafficking hotline: 1-855-55-TNHTH.