East TN nonprofit continues focus on helping survivors of human trafficking amid COVID-19 pandemic

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Much of everyday life is changing for so many, especially for nonprofits. For organizations like the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, this pandemic has not stopped its mission to help survivors.

We spoke with CCAHT’s Executive Director, Natalie Ivey, about the challenges COVID-19 has created.

More: Tracking Coronavirus

Ivey says during the pandemic, her team has been using teletherapy for their survivors, which in some ways has been beneficial but has also been hard for those who do not have access to internet.

To make sure that every survivor knows they are not alone, Ivey says they are working hard on connecting with them often.

“Our population that we’re probably most concerned about are the kids that we serve, particularly the teenagers. We do a lot of community case management with our teenagers all throughout East Tennessee so they may be in a really rural population, and we know for those kids in particular that school can be a real lifeline for them and if they don’t have an internet connection we are concerned about losing that open line of communication with them,” Ivey says.

Advocates are paying attention to what’s going on at home and making sure that a survivor can have a safe conversation.

“The reality of trafficking in East Tennessee is that the victims almost always know their trafficker. So, it could be that a victim is quarantined at home with a trafficker,” explained Ivey.

While concerns with the coronavirus were growing last month, CCAHT looked to other non-profits in New York to help develop a pandemic plan.

“As a community, as a society, we’re all in this together this is not something that’s happening to us individually,” said Ivey.

One silver lining, CCAHT has been able to rely heavily on technology.

“We were able to facilitate a training last week with DCS, we had over 500 people from across the state attend that training virtually. That’s not something I think we could’ve done during regular work hours. so that was super powerful,” said Ivey.

While this is an unprecedented time, Ivey says she’s finding hope, “It’s a lot to balance but I just feel incredibly grateful. There are a lot of silver linings in this very strange and scary time and I’m grateful for the opportunity to take advantage of things that we otherwise might not be doing.”

Four ways to get involved

  • Sign your group or workplace up for virtual training by scheduling that here.
  • Send groceries or restaurant gift cards to survivors by clicking here.
  • Send notes of encouragement to survivors: P.O. Box 20937, Knoxville, TN 37940.
  • Donate to support CCAHT’s mission by clicking here.

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