Rotarian Steve Grissim, who serves as the Tennessee Coordinator for Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS), is aiming to educate the business community and inspire action against human trafficking at “Let’s Talk Williamson County” on Jan. 11.
“I thought it happened in other countries but surely not here,” he said.
Grissim, a member of the Brentwood Noon Rotary Club, said after learning about the horrific experiences of human trafficking victims, he decided to get involved.
“You can only hear so much of ‘that’s terrible’ before you get involved,” Grissim said. “My heart was so pricked that I started educating myself.”
He sought out resources like End Slavery Tennessee and others around the world, and then started to get businesses involved in education and finding solutions.
Many would be surprised how much the business community comes in contact with the problem of human trafficking and how much they could be a part of solutions, Grissim explained.
“We need to engage businesses. Nonprofits can only do so much,” he said. “Businesses and their workers need to be trained in how to spot the signs of human trafficking in hotels, airports, gas stations and even restaurants.
“Talk to any flight attendant, and they probably have a story."
Grissim said educating individuals and workers can help identify human trafficking victims more quickly.
“Statistics show that 81 percent of victims go to a health clinic or emergency room about 15 times before they are identified as human trafficking victims,” he said.
As a business-oriented organization that has 3,000 clubs and approximately 1.2 million members in 195 countries, Grissim believes Rotarians can make a significant difference in spreading the word.
Grissim attended a rotary club international conference in Atlanta last year where dozens of businesses attended to learn more about the epidemic of human trafficking facing Middle Tennessee and the country. He shared that companies like Holiday Inn hotels and Regions Bank are training their employees to look for signs of trafficking and to report it.
Also, he said activists like actor Ashton Kutcher are making a difference through technology to help end human trafficking. Kutcher is known for creating a software program called Spotlight, which is used across the U.S. by law enforcement to help find victims faster.
“I guess I just have always had the feeling that I want to take care of people,” Grissim said. “And this affects the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. All 13 year old girls are vulnerable, it doesn’t matter the socioeconomic status of a family or anything else.”
In order to educate the community and business leaders about training and workforce development regarding the issue, Grissim helped to organize the talk next week in Williamson County.
Attendees will hear a first-hand perspective from law enforcement, the story of a human trafficking survivor and learn about a company that is already taking a stand.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson will be in attendance.
“It’s a worthwhile educational event to explain what is going on and how we can be better informed and watch for those who might be involved,” Anderson said. “It’s the right thing to do for our community.”
“I hope to inform and inspire action,” Grissim said.
Let’s Talk Williamson County, “How do Middle Tennessee businesses end modern slavery?” will be held Jan. 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Williamson County Enrichment Center, 110 Everbright Ave., Franklin.