Griffin Talk Series shares insight on human trafficking

Oct. 19 an FBI agent came to SHU as part of a Griffin Talk Series on human trafficking. Pictured above is a shot of the myths that surround the topic of human trafficking. Photo by S.Dumnich/Setonian.

“There are many benefits of informing the Seton Hill community about trafficking. It may help people consider looking into the ethicality of the companies and brands they shop from, so that they are not perpetuating human trafficking,” said Taylor Sabol, a senior social work major at Seton Hill University. “It may help people to be more aware of potential victims around them, so they could inform law enforcement if they see something suspicious.” 

Oct. 18, students of the gender and woman studies special topics: human trafficking course taught by Jen Jones, a professor of communication, at SHU hosted a Griffin talk series about human trafficking. 

The event was hosted by an employee of the FBI who stated, “They prefer to remain anonymous.” 

“It may help people to be more aware of potential victims around them, so they could inform law enforcement if they see something suspicious,” Sabol said. “It also just helps more people to be talking about it in general, so we can advocate for victims and press for more consequences for traffickers.” 

The event was one of five events in the Griffin Talk series. 

“Starting small is the key to stopping the epidemic. So, starting by spreading awareness to the small Seton Hill community is key to helping and moving onto a larger scale,” said Luke Hudson,  freshman global studies major with a specialization in human rights, peace and justice.

The talks are centered around informing the SHU community about social justice issues. 

“I was delighted that every seat was taken. It shows me that Seton Hill students care about social justice issues and that they want to learn about them,” said Jones. “I think it is important to the community because these are kind of co-curricular activities where students can make connections among their classes and events like this to further their liberal arts education.”

The FBI employee presented information to the group of students in attendance where he stated that human trafficking, “is one of seven civil rights issues we cover.” 

The FBI’s definition of sex trafficking is defined as, “commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such acts is a minor.”  The talk series covered information that covered the different aspects of human trafficking: force, fraud and coercion. 

Students listened to the FBI employee as he provided insight to the issue and that human trafficking does not just lie within sex acts. 

Human trafficking can take place through fraud which is the conditions of work or promises of immigration or travel documents.

Trafficking may also involve coercion where the victim is engaged in a kind of debt bondage with the trafficker or they are sometimes withheld documents. 

The victims are also threatened with their own pictures used against the victims. 

Students learned about the push and pull factors of human trafficking within the United States. 

Push factors of human trafficking include discord at home, homelessness, mental health and addiction are some of the issues victims have to deal with. 

The pull factors of human trafficking include better paying jobs, a “loving” partner, availability of drugs or alcohol and food or shelter and sometimes material possessions. 

The presentation moved to focus on trafficking outside of the U.S.: foreign nationals. 

“My perspective on human trafficking is that it is one of the most silent yet horrifying industries in the world,” said Sabol, “It happens everywhere, and it is so important for people to speak up about it more. It even happens in our own community, whether we blatantly see it or we do not.” 

The FBI employee stated that, “Some of the biggest push factors are the origin of the victims’ transit countries where there try to escape war, repression and economy.” 

The most at risk persons for human trafficking are females from the age of 13-16, transgenders, especially youth and people who lack a family structure. Students were informed that not only females are at risk but also males as well. 

“I consider myself very knowledgeable about human trafficking, and I have been since high school. I think it’s overlooked because it makes people uncomfortable to hear about,” Sabol said.

Moving towards the end of the talk, students were engaged in an open discussion with the FBI employee to share their thoughts on the subject and ask questions.

“Just like everyone else in society, I knew of human trafficking but I was so “desensitized” to it or even felt as if “this could never happen to me” that I often overlooked it just as the rest of society does each and every day,” Hudson said. “Now, however, I am way more knowledgeable on the topic and have the intellect to spread awareness and teach other people about it.”

The Griffin talk series is not the only way students are being informed about social justice issues such as human trafficking. 

“For example, the Red Sand Campaign, which you may see the jars around campus and Seton Hill students fill the cracks outside with red sand,” said Jones, “I think that’s how these issues exist, it’s a good metaphor cause people are falling through the cracks and it’s not something that’s getting noticed but is so wide spread.” 

To report on any suspicious behavior make a report to one of the numbers below: 

FBI PGH: (412) 432-4000

ChildLine: 1 (800) 932-0313

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-4000

National Center fo Missing & Exploited Children (NCME): 1 (800) 843-5678. 

Published by Caitlin Srager

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