The current price of human life is approximately $90, according to modern abolitionist and researcher Kevin Bales.
As a $32 billion global industry, human trafficking – the sale of human life for sex or labor – represents the second largest and fastest growing crime on earth after drug trafficking.
Runners, walkers, activists and sponsors will gather at Knoxville's Historic Market Square for the city's first Run for Their Lives 5K event on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 9 a.m. Falling on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the race seeks to honor the estimated 2.4 million victims worldwide, as counted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.
Mary Catherine Ownby, a sophomore in English, said she believes the issue merits national attention in addition to its international notoriety.
"It's an important issue because it's people being taken advantage of that don't have a voice for themselves – even outside of the country but more importantly in the country," Ownby said. "It's happening in our backyards and we don't know about it."
In the U.S. alone, 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked annually, according to a U.S. Department of State study in 2011 (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210737.pdf). Eighty-five Tennessee counties reported at least one case of human trafficking in 2011. Four of those counties reported more than 100 cases. Ninety-four children are trafficked in Tennessee every month.
Daniel Choi, a senior in supply chain management and a 5K volunteer, helped hand out fliers on UT's campus in November and December.
"It's important because it could happen anywhere, it could happen to anybody," Choi said. "It's sick. It's such cruelty. We put people into slavery. We want to move the human race forward and stop these things from happening."
The race benefits Freedom 4/24, an organization based in Virginia working to raise awareness about trafficking.
Registration is available here.