Edinboro University hosts a seminar on human trafficking

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Edinboro University hosted a seminar to inform students of human trafficking. They touched on how students can help prevent human trafficking, as well.
Dr. Valerie Hayes hosted a seminar

By Emma Gering
Contributing writer/Spectator

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, members of the Northwest Anti Human Trafficking Coalition, Border Patrol for Northwest Region, and Edinboro University’s own Dr. Valerie Hayes hosted a seminar entitled “Revelation of Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking.” In the three hour lecture, important issues regarding the reality of human trafficking were made aware to the audience, a vast majority being comprised of social work majors. 

The seminar began with Hayes talking about some of the statistics surrounding human trafficking and how little awareness there is for the topic.  Human trafficking is sometimes hard to detect. Even if it is suspected, witnesses will often choose not to report, afraid that their suspicions may be wrong and their perceptions invalid. Thankfully, there are centers that are dedicated to eradicating human trafficking.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is a private, nonprofit organization that was founded by Congress in 1984. In the past five years alone, the NCMEC institution and its branches have dealt with 60,000 cases. Nearly 81 percent of these 60,000 cases involved children under the age of 18 who are considered “endangered runaways.” Often turned out by family members, escaping abuse or leaving behind foster care families these children seek asylum in what is perhaps the worst place possible: the streets. 

“Endangered runaways” flock to bus stations, malls and gas stations where predators are eagerly waiting for them. The predators offer stability, financial backing and material goods. To a homeless youth, these bribes are incredibly enticing. Often times, a child is adopted into a gang controlled unit.

The gang replaces the victim’s family, or assumes the role of a familial unit for victims coming from unstable environments. In most instances, psychological bonds, called “trauma bonds”eventually prevent the victim from being able to leave the pimp, or head of the gang.

It’s a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological chains these young boys and girl wear bear the burden of a culture that purses it’s lips and looks the other way. The youth are baited, groomed and captured. Their naive view of the world renders them victims to atrocious industries. 

In the past five years, 1.6 million youth ran away or were asked to leave by their guardians, and approximately 1 in 7 “endangered runaways” were sex trafficking victims according to NCMEC.

The industries are much closer and more real than the reader may assume.

Hayes continued to explain the implications of child sexual exploitation. There are various ways in which predators benefit from the degrading of a child’s body. The possession, distribution, and manufacturing of child porn, enticement for sexual acts, sex tourism and sexual molestation are all examples of predominantly hidden crimes occurring at the hands of neighbors, family friends, coaches, strangers and even parents themselves. Human trafficking is a problem spanning all socio-economic backgrounds, all races and all genders.

“The problem is that the victims are vulnerable from their first encounter with a predator. Being exploited only further inhibits the victims chance to self-identify, to build self-esteem,” said Hayes.

“The victims become trapped in a cycle: the illusion of choice, programming, and brainwashing.”

The way to begin to stop human trafficking is to disrupt the enigma behind why it occurs. It occurs for a rather simple reason, economics.

There is a high demand for cheap labor and commercial sex. There is a high supply of vulnerable people, from refugees and immigrants, to drug addicts and runaway children. It could even be  neighbors down the street, vulnerability doesn’t discriminate.

To further understand trafficking, one must realize that there is a low risk of being prosecuted, and an enormously high return for the perpetrator. You can help to prevent this from being an issue by lobbying for legislation that is in favor of prosecuting those who are guilty of human trafficking. 

Perhaps most importantly there needs to be support networks for the abused and exploited. Job training opportunities, counseling services and routine medical exams should be given to victims.

It is suggested that a case should be reported when one suspect that someone may be involved in human trafficking. If students wish to report they can contact authorities at this number, (888) 3737-888.

Emma Gering is the contributing writer for The Spectator. She can be reached by eupnews.spectator@gmail.com