Nashville is a city of nearly 700,000 residents located in central Tennessee. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by numerous constituencies as a substantial problem in Nashville. The history of prostitution in the city is described in a Smithsonian Magazine article from July 2013, focusing on the explosion of prostitution during Union Army stationing in the early 1860s. By 1864, the Army established the first system of legalized prostitution in the United States in order to control disease among soldiers. The system involved prostitute registration, health inspection, etc., similar to that still used in rural Nevada counties. No mention is made of attempting to address the role of the buyers. The legalized prostitution system was abandoned soon after the end of the Civil War.
In current times, the city is known by federal and state investigators to be on domestic sex trafficking circuits. For example, federal prosecutors investigated a human trafficking and prostitution ring that had ties to several states, and that the network operated in cities including Knoxville, Morristown, Johnson City, and Louisville, Kentucky. Contemporary local problems associated with commercial sex have been cases of HIV-positive women continuing to engage in prostitution, and women selling sex being specifically targeted for homicide.
Nashville has been a leader in efforts to combat demand for commercial sex. The first reverse sting operation known to have been conducted in the United States occurred in Nashville in 1964. More recent examples include a large scale web-based reverse sting that resulted in 41 people arrested during a three-day operation designed to combat human trafficking in Nashville. The operation, dubbed “Operation Someone Like Me,” was led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with help from other law enforcement agencies. Over three days, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com. A total of 485 men responded to those ads, some of which undercover agents posed as a juvenile girl. Of the 41 arrested, 34 were men who authorities said were responding to ads in an effort to buy sex from a minor. Eighteen of those paid to have sex with an underage girl. In June, 2021, Nashville Metro Police arrested 17 men in a web-based reverse sting focusing on those attempting to purchase access to minors for sexual abuse. The men agreed to pay to rape a 16-year-old girl, who was really an undercover officer. The operation took place over two days and involved the Metro Nashville Police Department, TBI, and Homeland Security. All of the men traveled to a hotel in the Donelson area of Nashville near Donelson Pike and Royal Parkway in response to an internet ad. The arrests came after the men entered the room and exchanged money. Each man is charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.
Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of proactive sting operations, but are instead the results of police responses to incidents and investigations of offenses against real victims. For example, in April, 2021, Metro police arrested a man accused of grabbing a woman at an Antioch gas station and offering her money to have sex with him. According to an arrest warrant from Metro police, the man was charged with sexual battery. The victim told officers she was at a gas station nearby when the man approached her. She stated he was trying to solicit her and offered her $100 to go home with him for the night. The informed the man that she was not a prostitute and would not go anywhere with him. He followed the victim around the parking lot and eventually grabbed her. The man was arrested and charged with sexual battery.
The city was also among the first cities to pursue the “john school” model of educating men arrested in reverse stings, and through 2017 the Nashville program, operated by Behavioral Treatment Providers (BTP), remained one of the most robust john schools in the Nation. In 2010, for example, over 400 men participated in the program, more than any program in the U.S. except perhaps Brooklyn, NY. This flow could be attributed to the Nashville Police Department remaining committed to conducting frequent reverse stings. It was also helped by the level of local public support and political good will the program fostered, due to its “restorative justice” component. All of the revenue generated by the BTP john school program $300 fee was given to the Magdalene program for survivors of commercial sex. In 2010 alone, the 400 participants in the Nashville john school program generated over $100,000 for the Magdalene program (the fee was only $250 in 2010). The BTP john school program was a group therapeutic model, and in 2018 the person who ran the sessions passed away.
In 2019, it appears that the john school program available locally is run by SA Nashville. The John’s School provides education for men who tried to buy prostitution services and were caught by police. Contact Rob W. or email email@example.com. Location: Jackson Park Church of Christ, 4103 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216
The city began using shaming tactics in 2005. The police department website posts the identities of arrested sex buyers, with this explanation/disclaimer:
“The following individuals were arrested and charged for either patronizing or soliciting for prostitution. This is not a comprehensive list of all individuals arrested by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for patronizing or soliciting for prostitution. The names, identities, and citations appear here as they were provided to police officers in the field at the time of arrests. All photos and information will be removed after thirty (30) days. These individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Loss of Employment
In March, 2018, a Nashville high school football coach was fired following his arrest for allegedly soliciting an underage student. According to an affidavit from Metro Nashville Police, the coach messaged a 17-year-old girl on Instagram asking her for sex. The man was arrested after he allegedly confessed to police about having sent the messages. The conversation reportedly started with private Instagram messages to her asking the girl when she would turn 18-years-old. He also asked if she wanted to do anything with him “like sex lol.” He later offered to reimburse her gas money to drive to his apartment. The man was arrested and booked into jail on $100,000 bond and was charged with solicitation of a minor. Because of her age and the fact that no physical contact was made, the charge was a misdemeanor. RePublic High School later released a statement saying the man had been fired immediately upon being informed that the faculty member sent inappropriate electronic messages to an underage student.
- Nashville Police Department
- Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
- Behavioral Treatment Providers (John School, ending 2018)
- SA Nashville (John School)
National Assessment Survey and Interviews
- “For Patrons of Prostitutes, Remedial Instruction”, New York Times, March 18 1999.
- “Nashville’s ‘John School’ Observed by CNN”, Nashville Scene, August 27 2009.
- “‘John Schools’ Try to Change Attitudes About Paid Sex”, CNN News, August 28 2009.
- “For Prostitutes, An Alternative to the Streets”, NPR News, April 25 2011.
- “Reflections on Reporting on Nashville Prostitution”, NPR News, April 25 2011.
- “John School Teaches About Ills of Sex Solicitation”, NPR News, May 24 2011.
- “Former FRA Football Coach Sees Patronizing Prostitution Charge Dismissed”, Nashville City Paper, February 22 2012.
- “Men Caught Soliciting Prostitution Can Attend ‘John School'”, ABC/WKRN-TV 2, February 23 2012.
- “Prostitution Stings: Too Costly?”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, February 27 2012.
- “Nashville Councilman Completes ‘John School'”, Nashville Tennessean, May 15 2012.
- “A Village of Healers”, Thistle Farms Blog, September 21 2013.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Pay for Pay Backfires; 126 Red-Faced”, Newburgh-Beacon Evening News, November 25 1984.
- “Nashville Policewomen Nab 126 for Soliciting”, Victoria Advocate, November 25 1984.
- “Prostitute ‘Clients’ Nabbed”, Saskatoon Phoenix, November 26 1984.
- “Todd Baptist Leader Among Those Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Kentucky New Era, August 30 2001.
- “Sting Nets 13 Men Charged with Soliciting Prostitution”, Nashville Tennessean, October 28 2004.
- “More than 60 Arrested in Prostitution, Drug Stings”, Tennessean, October 31 2004.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 17 Alleged Johns”, Nashville City Paper, May 7 2009.
- “Metro Police Pick Up 17 Johns in Prostitution Stings”, Nashville City Paper, July 15 2009.
- “Crockett County Schools Superintendent Cited in Nashville Prostitution Sting”, Jackson Sun, February 19 2010.
- “Ten Johns Picked Up in Nashville Prostitution Sting”, Nashville City Paper, February 26 2010.
- “Five Arrested in West Nashville Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, May 19 2011.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Online Sex Sting Collars Teachers”, Nashville City Paper, February 20 2008.
- “Cops Trail Craigslist Ads to Sex Offenders”, Nashville Tennessean, July 5 2008.
- “Part-Time BA Soccer Coach Cited for Patronizing Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, January 23 2009.
- “Nashville Media Personality Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Nashville City Paper, March 6 2009.
- “Nine Arrested in Web-based Prostitution Sting”, Nashville City Paper, May 14 2009.
- “Teddy Bart Walks on Prostitution Charge”, Nashville City Paper, June 30 2009.
- “Police Sting Johns in ‘Buy-Bust’ Operations”, Nashville City Paper, August 13 2009.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs Six Local Men”, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, March 2 2010.
- “Metro Council Member Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, February 16 2012.
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/roundup-41-arrested-in-online-prostitution-sting-in-tennessee (2016)
- https://www.nbc4i.com/news/u-s-world/41-people-arrested-after-tennessee-human-trafficking-sting (2016)
- https://www.wsmv.com/news/17-arrested-for-alleged-sex-trafficking/ (2021)
Other Arrests and Shaming of Sex Buyers:
- https://www.wkrn.com/man-attempts-to-solicit-woman-at-antioch-gas-station-arrested-for-sexual-battery/ (2021)
- City of Nashville Police Department: Arrests for Patronizing Prostitution
- “Photos of Suspected ‘Johns’ Posted Online”, Nashville Tennessean, July 16 2005.
- “As Prostitution Arrests Rise, Metro Puts More Johns on the Web”, Nashville Tennessean, June 22 2006.
- “Prostitution Site Faces New Challenge”, Florence Times Daily, July 19 2006.
Loss of Employment:
- https://fox17.com/news/local/tennessee-teacher-continues-teaching-after-busted-for-soliciting-prostitution (2016)
- https://www.wlfi.com/content/national/477677633.html (2018)
- “Northeast Nashville Tackles Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, May 30 2002.
- “Group Fights Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, July 24 2002.
- http://www.nashvillecriminallawyer.com/blog/nashville-tennessee-expungement-programs/ (2019)
- https://www.avvo.com/topics/court-ordered-community-service-for-criminal-conviction/advice/tn (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Teen Vice Ring Is Found at Nashville”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 12 1954.
- “Teen Forced into Prostitution”, Albany Herald, May 9 1974.
- “Young Woman Claims Being Forced into Prostitution”, Rome News-Tribune, May 9 1974.
- “Human Trafficking Case Tied to Nashville”, Nashville City Paper, May 16 2007.
- “Recent Bust Opens Nashville’s Eyes to Human Trafficking”, Nashville Tennessean, June 22 2007.
- “Sex Slavery Trial May Hinge on Co-Defendant Testimony”, Nashville City Paper, August 16 2007.
- “Nashville Sees Drop in Slayings”, Nashville Tennessean, December 31 2007.
- “Human Smuggling Hits I-40, Points Beyond”, Nashville City Paper, May 16 2008.
- “Two Men Charged with Sexual Servitude”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, November 13 2008.
- “Father and Son Charged with Trafficking Women as Sex Slaves”, Nashville City Paper, June 11 2009.
- “Police Say Family Paid High School Student to Work as Sex Slave”, Nashville City Paper, August 17 2009.
- “Feds Eye Possible Teen Prostitution Ring”, United Press International, August 19 2009.
- “Nashville-Area Teen Prostitution Case Grows with 5 Adults Now Charged”, Tennessean, December 15 2009.
- “South Nashville Man Facing Sex Trafficking, Prostitution Charges”, Nashville City Paper, January 22 2010.
- “Man, Two Teen Girls Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, August 31 2010.
- “Authorities Make Arrests in Somali Sex Traffic Ring”, Nashville City Paper, November 8 2010.
- “State Bill Aims to Curtail Child Prostitution, Human Trafficking”, Nashville City Paper, January 26 2011.
- “TBI, Police Arrest Men on Charges of Promoting Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, April 21 2011.
- “Feds Bust Alleged Multi-State Prostitution Ring”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, May 10 2011.
- “Mother Who Ran Underage Prostitution Ring Sentenced”, Nashville City Paper, June 29 2011.
- “Backpage.com Ad Leads to Man’s Arrest on Sex Trafficking Charge”, Nashville City Paper, August 29 2011.
- “Woman Indicted in Nashville on Sex Trafficking, Kidnapping Charges Arrested in Atlanta”, Nashville City Paper, January 24 2012.
- “Young Somali Woman Testifies in Prostitution Case with Twin City Ties”, St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 10 2012.
- “Faced with Pervasive Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement and Nonprofits Take Aim”, Nashville City Paper, May 13 2012.
- “N.C. Woman Awaiting Sentencing for Transporting Women for Prostitution”, Kingsport Times-News, June 14 2013.
- “Police Identify Suspects in Massage Parlor Prostitution Raid”, Nashville Tennessean, February 11 2014.
- “Prostitution Bust Exposes Alleged Sex Trafficking Operation”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, February 11 2014.
- “Police Make Arrests for Sex Trafficking”, NBC/WSMV-TV 4, July 11 2014.
- “Pimp Arrested for Trafficking after Prostitute…”, FOX/WZTV-TV 17, July 29 2014.
- “Judge Sides with Police in Sex Trafficking Arrest”, Nashville Tennessean, October 7 2014.
- “Nashville Woman Arrested after Repeatedly Forcing Woman into Prostitution,” ABC/WKRN-TV 2, March 21 2015.
- “Missouri Couple Charged with Luring Girls into Prostitution,” Lake Expo, August 27 2015.
- “3 Twin Cities Men Cleared of Interstate Sex Trafficking,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 2 2016.
- https://www.wkrn.com/news/witnessing-sex-trafficking-sting-was-eye-opening-for-tennessee-lawmaker (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Rising Up from Prostitution in Nashville”, NPR News.
- “Prostitution: Neither a Buyer Nor a Seller Be?”, Charleston News and Courier, June 22 1974.
- “Man Arrested for Prostitution”, Gadsden Times, August 21 1975.
- “Prostitution”, Kentucky New Era, May 24 1979.
- “Prostitution Ring Suspect Arrested”, Florence Times Daily, January 23 1999.
- “Nashville Program Aims to Improve Lives of Former Addicts, Prostitutes”, Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 2 1999.
- “Crackdown on Prostitution Hangs Up 106 Lines; Nashville Detectives Court Orders Disconnect Phones of Escort Services”, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7 2004.
- “Homeless Teens Expect Life of Sex, Drugs, Danger”, Nashville Tennessean, August 18 2004.
- “Nashville Hit for Using Informants to Hook Up with Hookers in Sex Sting”, Philadelphia Daily News, February 3 2005.
- “Police, Prosecutor Reconsider Tactic Against Prostitution”, Nashville Tennessean, February 12 2005.
- “Merchants Team Up with Police to Fight Crime”, Nashville Tennessean, February 24 2005.
- “Police, DA Won’t Discuss Anti-Prostitution Tactics”, Tennessean, April 8 2005.
- “Hispanic Brothels Move in on Nashville”, Nashville Tennessean, June 16 2007.
- “Escort’s Clients Are Off the Hook”, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, August 16 2007.
- “Prostitution in Nashville Is Hopeless, Harsh Life”, Kingsport Times News, March 14 2008.
- “Police Sting Nets 137 on Drug, Prostitution Charges”, Nashville Tennessean, March 14 2008.
- “Police Raid Drug and Prostitution Den”, Nashville City Paper, June 22 2009.
- “Police End Legacy of Drugs, Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, July 11 2010.
- “Relapse and Recovery: A Tale of Two Prostitutes”, NPR News, April 26 2011.
- “Metro Police Charge 98 in Drug, Prostitution Stings”, Nashville Tennessean, July 17 2011.
- “Study Examines Sex Trafficking in Middle Tennessee”, Nashville City Paper, January 11 2012.
- “‘Hannah Project’ Seeks to Break Prostitution Cycle”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, March 23 2012.
- “Metro Officials Investigate Allegations of Extortion, Fire Hall Prostitution”, Nashville City Paper, August 30 2012.
- “Undercover Operation Busts Internet Prostitution Ring”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, November 1 2012.
- ‘The Curious Case of Nashville’s Frail Sisterhood”, Smithsonian Magazine, July 8 2013.
- “Program Aimed at Curbing Prostitution to Get National Attention,” FOX/WBRC-TV 6, November 3 2015.
- https://www.scoopnashville.com/2018/01/four-arrested-including-pimp-in-nashville-backpage-high-priced-prostitution-sting/ (2018)
- https://www.history.com/news/civil-war-prostitution-nashville (2019)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Fifth Slaying Is Linked to Roadside Prostitution”, Kentucky New Era, August 8 1975.
- “Nashville-Memphis Factions at War; 3 Prostitutes Shot to Death”, Miami News, April 13 1977.
- “Prostitution Rivalry Blamed in Killing of 3”, Chicago Tribune, April 14 1977.
- “Five White Policemen Accused of Beating Up Black Undercover Cop”, Toledo Blade, December 16 1992.
- “Convicted Killer Freed by Tennessee Supreme Court”, CBS/WTVF-TV 5, January 16 2009.
- “Metro Police Department Fires Decommissioned Officer”, Nashville City Paper, January 11 2012.
- “Police ID Murder Victim 16 Years After Remains Found Along Percy Priest Lake”, Nashville City Paper, March 4 2013.
- “Former Nashville Police Officer Will Remain Convicted Felon”, Nashville Tennessean, February 2 2014.
- https://infosurhoy.com/prostitute-24-strangled-love-rival-stabbed-with-dirty-needle (2019)