School presentation focuses on the crime of human trafficking, and how students can become aware of a crime prevalent in the U.S.
By Lenin O'Mahony
This past Wednesday, October 14, I had the opportunity to attend The Intersection of Relationship Violence and Human Trafficking presentation, lead by Vanessa Russel, founder of Love Never Fails. Love Never Fails is an non-profit organization dedicated to restoring, educating, and protecting survivors of human trafficking and their communities. This event was also co-sponsored by Campus Assault Response and Education (CARE), the Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape (SCAAR) and SMC Women's Volleyball, liGHT.
Russel began Love Never Fails after one of her dance students, a fifteen year old girl, was sold into human trafficking. While the young girl was safely returned home, Vanessa encountered many others in situations similar to her student.
Russel believes that the issue of human trafficking can be solved through love expressed in prayer, safe housing, mentoring, job training, outreach, and education. An essential part of the organization is the work to educate and inform communities about the dangers of human trafficking, and how common the grooming of young children can be in society.
Russel is also a former foster child, which itself came with many difficulties. She stated that being a former foster child “shaped who I am and the work I’m doing.” Love Never Fails has housed 139 individuals, and worked towards educating up to 400,000 people through their programs.
In the presentation we learned about what modern day slavery can look like. Human trafickking was defined as “the rectruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or sex slavery.” There are an estimated 100,000 people forced into sexual exploitation in the United States according to the International Labor Organization (2014). 94% of sex trafficking victims are female, making them the overwhelming majority. An interesting fact introduced to the audience during the presentation was that 65-95% of victims were sexually abused as children, but also, according to the DePaul School of Law, 88% of traffickers were also abused as children.
Unfortunately human trafficking is not an unknown occurrence, even in more wealthy and presumed safe areas, such as the Bay Area. This type of modern day slavery is seen as old, and many people just assume that it is something from the past. Something that doesn’t happen anymore. This could not be farther from the truth. It is important that we educate ourselves and our communities on the harsh realities of certain situations like human trafficking. The fact that some people have literal barcodes tattooed on them to mark them as property, or that there is an online slave registry where people are listed and sorted by who owns them should make it clear to everyone, as the good of the world modernizes, so does the evil and cruel of the world.
Institutions like Saint Mary's College of California have a responsibility to their students,
community, and the world as a whole, to use their platform to help educate and spread awareness about these issues. By having events like this one on campus, and trying to make these topics a part of our discussion on how we as students and future leaders can help solve these issues, Saint Mary’s continues to guide and educate their students in more than an academic way.
Victoria Vidales '21,