Sex trafficking, human exploitation panel takes place at MUC

Although there has been an increase in media attention with regard to sex trafficking, there are still many prevalent myths regarding victims and offenders, according to criminal justice and sociology professor Erin Heil.

'Sex Trafficking and Exploitation’ discussion took place on Tuesday at the MUC.

Heil said the ‘Sex Trafficking and Exploitation’ discussion, which took place on Tuesday at the MUC, was useful in providing valuable information of the various types of human trafficking, tools of recruitment used by the traffickers and services.

“Human trafficking by nature is hidden (and) the victims are only visible to those potential buyers,” Heil said. “The first thing that we need to do as educators, lawmakers and social service providers is emphasize that human trafficking occurs everywhere, including in our own backyards.”

The Peace Studies and the Women’s Studies programs organized the panel discussion that, besides Heil, included Congressman John Shimkus, FBI Intelligence Analyst Derek Valazco, Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign coordinator Kristen Eng, and Deidre Lhamon and Lindsey Ellis from The Covering House.

According to Catherine Seltzer, chair of the women’s studies program, each panelist presented a different aspect of trafficking.

“We got a sense of how legislators, law enforcement and community activists are responding to the problems associated with sex trafficking,” Seltzer said.

According to Heil, the diverse and powerful group of anti-trafficking advocates in the panel offered a unique perspective of human trafficking.

“Together we are able to provide a clearer picture of the realities associated with human trafficking in the United States,” Heil said. “Having panels such as this is the first step in raising the discussion, (and) once we have started the discussion, the next step is to share the information that we have learned with others.”

According to Seltzer, the size of the audience is revealing of how concerned people are about this issue.

“It was great to have such a big turn-out, and students, faculty and staff in the audience really seemed to respond to each of the panelist’s presentations,” Seltzer said. “We were delighted to help organize this panel not only because human trafficking is such an important issue, but because it is one that risks remaining invisible if we don’t hold events like this one.”

According to political science department chair Denise DeGarmo, it is important to educate the university community about this phenomenon.

“We need to highlight these kinds of tragedies so the university and larger community can become aware and advocates for the victims, DeGarmo said.

For more information on the topic red Heil’s post, “In Our Backyard: Sex Trafficking and Exploitation”, on the Women’s Studies blog.

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