On Sept. 25, a 200-mile bike ride event will take place to raise awareness and funds while attempting to crack the $150 billion human trafficking business.
The organizations responsible for this event are Hope for Justice, a global nonprofit organization whose U.S headquarters are in Nashville, and Break the Cycle 200 (BTC 200), a national campaign that uses one-day bike rides and other endurance events to help end human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
The two merged in 2020 when both organizations were actively looking for multi-faceted approaches for potential human trafficking solutions.
CEO of BTC 200, Rocky Vest, explained that while many people are aware of modern-day sex slavery, a majority are unaware of how big the industry truly is.
“We need to think about how big the scope is, it’s a $150 billion business. This form of a criminal enterprise is second only to the drug trade worldwide,” Vest said.
He said that people are also unaware why these criminals are participating in these scandals, explaining it’s all about the money.
“All these criminals care about is the money, they have no regard or sympathy for anyone,” said Vest. “These criminals are laughing all the way to the bank because each person that they traffic can make them up to $300,000. After only three victims, they are nearly a millionaire.”
According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the U.S. Department of State on July 1, a significant portion of the $150 billion comes from a variety of legitimate financial services.
This includes the banking industry where traffickers deposit and launder their earnings, the transportation industry as they use airlines and taxis, the hotel industry to store victims and social media platforms for searching and advertising causes.
While observing these statistics along with the number of industries involved is eye-opening alone, Vest said it is a challenge determining how big the industry is.
“These numbers are only scratching the surface, it’s absolutely worse than what is being reported.”
Vest said now, more than ever, people need to become more aware of the magnitude of human trafficking.
He shared that the COVID-19 pandemic generated conditions causing a disruption of economic activities and reduced livelihood options, leading to an increase in human trafficking.
“The problems that were already there were only exacerbated when victims had to be home all the time,” he said.
Vest said a big reason BTC 200 is eyeing Nashville for events is due to its influential impact.
“Knowing the potential of influence that the city has and the number of influencers located in it, it was a big part of why we said we have to keep targeting Nashville,” he said. “If you can make it in Nashville, you can make it anywhere.”
As for his decision to create a bike ride to raise awareness and funds, it began with a simple fitness goal.
Along with his friend, Vest would take 200-mile bike rides to stay in shape.
The challenging rides quickly began to catch people’s eyes and eventually led to one individual asking Vest why he was doing it.
“We didn’t really have a good reason other than just seeing if we were able to do it,” he said. “But it was at this same time that I started to realize how bad human trafficking was.”
Vest said he realized this could be the reason why they ride and seeing the number of people who already found his bike travels interesting, could bring not only more awareness, but more funds to tackle the problem head-on.
“Without funding, we can’t go out and rescue people,” says Vest. “With our ride and the help from Nashville’s Hope for Justice team, we can finally break the cycle of human trafficking.”
Vest knows that Nashvillians will look at this 200-mile ride as an extremely challenging task, but he explained that it should be viewed in a positive manner.
“We are rescuing and making a difference right here in Nashville,” he said. “We know this is hard, but we do tough things for people in tough places. I am willing to put my body through pain for the sake of people who are in pain all of the time.”
The BTC 200 event will take place on Sept. 25.
Those interested in participating must pay a $200 bike ride registration fee. Riders will get a T-shirt, ride nutrition, ride support and a finish-line meal.
Bike riders will begin at Edwin Warner Park at 5 a.m., covering 200 miles of land while traveling through outlying towns such as Chapel Hill and Shelbyville.
Short breaks will be provided every 25 miles to assure cyclists remain refreshed.
For additional information or to register for the event, you can visit the event’s website.