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Opinion | Human Trafficking Threatens Our Society

June 30, 2022

In the United States, slavery may be remembered as an abolished practice of the past, but it is still happening here today. It has been carried on through a new, illegal outlet: human trafficking.

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Taking the definition a step further, the National Human Trafficking Hotline describes human trafficking as “modern-day slavery.”

Just looking through the news, I have come across countless stories — some just hours old — updating the world about ongoing human trafficking instances. For example, an incident occurred on May 26, only a state away in Oshkosh, Wisc. Slightly south of Green Bay, the area’s local ABC channel covered the ongoing inspection of a spa where victims and evidence of human trafficking have been discovered.

The FBI breaks down human trafficking into three forms. While all three involve the use of “force, fraud, or coercion,” they have different, inhumane purposes.

Historically creating the highest number of victims, sex trafficking forces victims to “engage in commercial sex acts.” Children and women are often the most vulnerable to this type of trafficking. These victims may suffer serious trauma, leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping disorders or eating disorders. Along with reproductive problems, victims may also contract infectious diseases from unsanitary living environments.

Labor trafficking, much like it sounds, forces victims to perform labor or service. This type of trafficking is the most similar to the historical, unethical practice of slavery here in the United States. It falls into two categories: bonded labor and forced labor. Bonded labor is when the victim is in debt to the trafficker, while forced labor is when the trafficker violates the victim’s free will.

Lastly is domestic servitude, in which the victims are often held in a household and “appear to be domestic workers,” like nannies and housekeepers but are really being controlled through force. People most likely to be subject to this type of trafficking are immigrants or people of color. They make up 65% of all domestic workers in the United States. Immigrants are often blackmailed by traffickers, who threaten deportation when the immigrants do not yet have full citizenship.

Read the full story by Maggie Knutte on The Daily Illini.

Mercy College Signs Proclamation For Slavery And Human Trafficking Prevention And Awareness Month

February 15, 2022

DES MOINES, Iowa, January 12, 2022 — Mercy College of Health Sciences demonstrated its commitment and leadership again as the first college in Iowa to sign a proclamation for prevention and take a public stance against human trafficking. Interim President Tom Leahy signed the proclamation this week alongside Mercy College Cabinet members, faculty, and staff.

Mercy College proclaims the month of January as the Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month. In addition to the campus proclamation, Mercy College is the first college in Iowa to join other organizations as an Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking (IBAT) coalition member. Furthermore, Mercy College’s Center for Human Flourishing on campus has committed funding toward the production of a general human trafficking training video available to all 300,000 businesses in the state of Iowa. The video will be used as an educational piece for coalition employees as they work toward the elimination of human trafficking and slavery in the state of Iowa. This new video will follow the current training video utilized by hotel and motel employees that showcases warning signs for human trafficking and steps to take if one is concerned that someone may be in a related situation.

Dr. Joseph Moravec, long-time Mercy College professor and member of the Board of Directors of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking (NAHT), has led the College’s efforts against human trafficking. In April 2020, Moravec hosted the 15th Annual Research Symposium, an event focused on Child Trafficking and featuring keynote speaker Dr. Jordan Greenbaum.

Read the full article from Mercy College of Heath Sciences.

Group, UD Professor Honored For Anti-Trafficking Efforts

February 11, 2022

A local coalition and a University of Dubuque faculty member have been recognized for their efforts to stop human trafficking.

The Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Kim Hilby, a UD assistant professor of sociology, were among five entities recognized by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office this week with Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Awards. The awards were presented as part of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“I’m very proud of the coalition,” said Sister Marilou Irons, co-chair of the coalition. “There are so many well-organized, enthusiastic, passionate women on this group. Pretty much all of us are former teachers. We know how to organize and move mountains.”

The coalition was founded in 2014 by five area congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Mary Lechtenberg, cochair of the coalition, said the group has worked hard to educate the community about human trafficking and how to spot it, despite not having an in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Our focus is raising awareness and helping (community members) know the indicators,” she said. “It’s what we’re continuing to do with hotel employees.”

An Iowa law passed in 2020 requires hotels and motels to train employees to spot signs of human trafficking in order to be included on a list of places public employees can stay while traveling on government business. The effort was supported by all Dubuque area women religious. She said coalition leaders hope to gain new members as they continue educating local residents about human trafficking, noting that members do not have to be sisters of a religious order.

Read the full story by Kayli Reese on Dubuke Telegraph Herald.

U-M Nursing, Law Collaboration Aims To Dispel Myths About Human Trafficking

July 18, 2021

Most people have heard of human trafficking, but few can define it. Even experts in law enforcement and academia can have a hard time quantifying the problem.

The new Human Trafficking Collaborative website, developed by faculty at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and the U-M Law School, was created to dispel myths about human trafficking and to train health care providers to recognize and treat victims.

Michelle Munro-Kramer, the Suzanne Bellinger Feethan Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, and Bridgette Carr, an associate dean and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the Law School, developed the project for those who would like to learn more about human trafficking. This forced or compelled service takes two primary forms: labor trafficking and sex trafficking.

In addition to the website, which launched this month, there is a continuing education module that meets state of Michigan training requirements for health care providers and videos documenting survivor and provider experiences.

The module is intended to help health care professionals identify and respond to survivors of human trafficking using a preplanned, comprehensive approach, so professionals know exactly what to do before a victim walks through the door, Munro-Kramer said.

There are also resources, such as sample screening policies and response procedures, that could be used at a health system level. Website content was informed by a statewide survey of federally qualified health centers, health departments and hospitals statewide.

“We know both from studies and from the experiences of my clients that health care providers are on the frontlines of combating human trafficking,” said Carr, whose law clinic provides free legal services for survivors of trafficking.

“My clients have shared how invisible they feel when they see a health care provider, and on the inside they are screaming for help but say nothing. This training is a tremendous opportunity for us to share our expertise with front-line health care workers in hopes of identifying more victims of human trafficking.”

Read the full story on University of Michigan News

What Real Cases Teach us about Human Trafficking

April 13, 2021

March 2021
When you think of human trafficking, what images come to mind? Last month, Professor Elizabeth Campbell spoke about misconceptions, research gaps, the various experiences and complex needs of survivors of trafficking, in a webinar sponsored by IRWG’s Initiative on Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Harassment.

Campbell is a clinical assistant professor and co-director of the Human Trafficking Clinic (HTC) at the University of Michigan Law School. Launched in 2009, the HTC is the first clinical law program solely dedicated to the issue of human trafficking. The clinic trains law students in core advocacy skills and practice providing comprehensive legal services to clients, under the supervision of faculty lawyers. With over a decade of providing legal services to human trafficking victims, Campbell and her students have a unique perspective on the lived experiences, misconceptions, and challenges of data collection surrounding this vulnerable population.

Broadly, under the law, human trafficking is compelled service. It may fall under the category of labor or sex trafficking, which occur through a process of recruiting through coercion, fraud, or physical abuse. Victims may be U.S. or foreign nationals, requiring different engagement with government agencies — from state level court systems to the federal immigration system.

Read the full story from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.

Mercy College Signs Proclamation for Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month

February 9, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa, January 14, 2021 — Mercy College of Health Sciences President, Dr. Douglas J. Fiore, signed the Mercy College of Health Sciences Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month proclamation via a virtual signing ceremony.

As verified by Dr. George Belitsos, Chairperson of Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery, Mercy College is the first and only college in Iowa’s history to have made such a proclamation.

As a ministry of the Catholic Church, Mercy College strives to improve the care for those who are impoverished and vulnerable. The goal of the proclamation is to draw awareness to the continued fight against human trafficking.

Alongside President Fiore was Dr. Nancy Kertz, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Joe Moravec, Mercy College Professor of Religion and Philosophy and Executive Board of Director of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery.

As a national leader in health sciences education, Mercy College will continue to educate and bring awareness to this initiative in combating human trafficking both state and nation-wide. View official proclamation.

About Mercy College of Health Sciences

Mercy College of Health Sciences is the only private Catholic college in central Iowa and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Located in downtown Des Moines, Mercy College prepares graduates for service and leadership in the healthcare community with a wide range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs. Visit or call (515) 643-3180 to learn how you can start your Charting Your Course.

View the original press release at Mercy College of Health and Sciences

FSU Launches New Professional Certification In Human Trafficking Prevention And Intervention

December 29, 2020

Florida State University has launched a new online certification in human trafficking prevention and intervention to help professionals develop skills to better understand the dynamics of the various types of human trafficking.

“The Professional Certification in Human Trafficking Prevention and Intervention certification offers an economical way to provide access to much-needed knowledge and skills to a broad range of professionals who provide services to human trafficking survivors,” said Jim Clark, dean and professor for the FSU College of Social Work. “Professionals can enhance their career potential and gain a thorough understanding of the core concepts of human trafficking dynamics, prevention strategies and evidence-based trauma-informed interventions.”

Professionals also will learn of the effect of trauma on victims/survivors and how to provide victim-centered trauma-informed services.

“The certification takes a multidisciplinary public health approach to examine root causes and prevention of human trafficking,” said Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies (IFVS). “In addition, up-to-date social science research is used to highlight successful trauma-informed prevention and intervention strategies to assist survivors of human trafficking.”

Participants will learn of innovative community assistance programs for victims being implemented nationwide. The certification provides information on protections and services for vulnerable populations like at-risk youth, child victims of trafficking and adults with developmental disabilities while also touching on trauma-informed judicial practices, survivor-centered law enforcement practices and criminal justice solutions.

“The certification provides professionals across many disciplines with knowledge of foundational state and federal trafficking laws and relevant case law designed to protect adult victim/survivors of human trafficking, and learn strategies to hold traffickers accountable,” said Terry Coonan, executive director of the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.

To read the full story by Karen Oehme on Florida State University News: Click Here

How Do You Teach About Human Trafficking?

November 8, 2020

Noël Busch-Armendariz, Ph.D., LMSW, MPA, is a nationally recognized expert in sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence. She is a University Presidential Professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. In 2019, Busch-Armendariz won the Hamilton Book Award, UT’s most prestigious literary prize, for “Human Trafficking: Applying Research, Theory, and Case Studies.” Her award marks two notable events: the first time that the award was given to an author of a textbook, and the first time, in at least 20 years, that it was presented to two winners.

After Noël Busch-Armendariz, director of UT’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA), was promoted to full professor, it was suggested that she write a book about domestic violence, but she dismissed the idea. Although she understood that writing a book is often the next step for many social scientists after achieving tenure, her focus remained firmly on her research. On top of that, she was still a licensed master social worker (LMSW), so a textbook wasn’t in the cards.

She recalls thinking to herself: “It doesn’t seem necessary. You could fill a library full of books about domestic violence. I would not be making a real contribution, because I don’t think we need another book on domestic violence. But I’ll keep teaching it since I love the subject.”

What she had, though, was direct experience working on Central Texas’ first known human trafficking case: three victims, all minors, smuggled across the border from Mexico. State officials called IDVSA to the table to help, but no one — not even Busch-Armendariz — had developed the necessary screening tools for these exploitation cases.

“I remember being stunned, and it’s pretty hard for me to be stunned,” she says, thinking back. “I consider myself among the veterans in the work on violent crime. The cases I take as an expert witness are among the most complicated. But I remember it feeling unbelievable, like a Hollywood movie — not something that happens in my backyard.”

After that, she says she had two more thoughts. The first was that she realized she was seeing a particularly dark side of human nature where people would exploit others — even children. The second was that she had to do something. “Those minutes of being stunned and overwhelmed by just how dark the human spirit could be were indulgent. One more moment of inaction was too long.”

A team of more than two dozen experts and specialists from Central Texas came together — national and local law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, child advocates and refugee resettlement workers. They formed a cohesive task force and looked at existing laws and social services to see if they would be adequate to meet the needs of these survivors.

These three children, she says, were just the tip of the iceberg.

To read the full story by Adrienne Dawson on UT NEWS: Click Here

Traffickers Exploiting Student Visas At Global Level, Reports Reveal

February 17, 2020

International students are at risk of workplace exploitation, and even more alarmingly according to a series of reports, of student visa routes being targeted by human traffickers.

Reports by the US Department of State, Polaris and The Times of London paint a picture of human traffickers are using student visas on a global scale to take advantage of vulnerable people.

A US Department of State report – the 2019 Trafficking in Persons – released last June found that student visas are potentially used to traffic people in Australia, France, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Taiwan, Cyprus, the Philippines and Tunisia.

“Whatever way traffickers can find to organise transport into the country for which there is no legal way in – as in the case with Vietnamese students in the UK – they will use,” Jakub Sobik, communications manager at UK-based NGO, Anti-Slavery, told The PIE News.

Soubik was referring to The Times‘ investigation published in November which reported that gangs were using Tier 4 visas to traffic Vietnamese girls into the UK via independent schools.

“They [traffickers] will also make use of anything that allows them to control people,” commented Sobik.

“While education might not be the largest mechanism to recruit or entice people, it is certainly a method that is used,” he confirmed.

To read the full story by Will Nott on The PIE News: Click Here

Human Trafficking And The Southern Border

July 4, 2019

NPR’s Sarah McCammon talks with Professor Jamie Gates of Point Loma Nazarene University about the fact and fiction surrounding human trafficking across the Southern U.S. border.


Outrage swelled this past week over humanitarian conditions at the southern border, including over the separation of children from their parents or guardians. The Trump administration has repeatedly pointed to human trafficking, both as a reason for his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and as a justification for separating children from the people they’re traveling with. Here’s President Trump on CBS News in February.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. These are people that are horrible people bringing in women mostly but bringing in women and children.

MCCAMMON: To take a closer look at these claims, we’ve called Jamie Gates. He directs the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and has spent years studying human trafficking near the U.S.-Mexico border. He joins us now. Welcome, professor Gates.

JAMIE GATES: Thank you, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: What do we know, broadly, about how many survivors of trafficking are being brought across the U.S.-Mexico border?

GATES: So our research shows that the trafficking problem in San Diego County is, by far, more local, domestic than it is across the border. In our study, we found 80% of the survivors, 450 survivors that we interviewed, were born and raised in the United States. And of those 20% that were born outside the United States, very few of them were actually trafficked across the border. We know that trafficking does happen across the border. Unfortunately, people conflate smuggling and trafficking all the time. Human trafficking is very specific to having been forced through fraud or coercion – been brought across the border, not by getting someone’s help to come across the border.

MCCAMMON: As we’ve heard, President Trump and other administration officials have raised the specter of human trafficking as a reason for tightening border security and a defense of the administration’s practice of separating children from the people they’re traveling with. Is that an appropriate way to try to prevent traffickers, specifically, from taking advantage of children?


To read/listen to the full story on NPR: Click Here