When thinking about human trafficking, people often imagine young girls in third world countries or perhaps a scene from the movie “Taken.” However, trafficking is not confined to the movie screen or developing nations. Indeed, thousands of people, mostly women and children, are trafficked in the United States every year as a form of modern slavery, usually for labor or sexual exploitation.
In response to such unjust practices, a community of Eastern students is actively working against the terrible reality of human trafficking. This club, known as Students Against Human Trafficking (SAHT), is currently in its fourth year as an Eastern University ministry. Throughout its short life, the ministry has been involved with mitigating trafficking issues across the globe but has taken special initiative lately to focus on domestic issues. As a result, a relationship has been formed with the New Day Drop-In Center in Kensington. New Day is an open-door ministry where all women, regardless of background, are welcomed to receive a hot meal, toiletries, clothing and a place to rest. Most women who come through New Day’s doors have been sexually exploited by way of prostitution. This much-needed ministry responds to an often overlooked aspect of human trafficking. Indeed, thousands of girls are recruited by pimps every year, which usually involves force, fraud and coercion. These girls, who are only 12 years old on average, often come from broken home-lives: almost 70 percent are in foster care when recruited, and almost 90 percent had been abused prior. This creates great susceptibility to pimps who often treat them as queens for days or weeks before sexually exploiting them.
SAHT has connected with New Day through several avenues, including volunteering, organizing donations and raising money. In addition to working with New Day, the club has many other events planned. In the upcoming weeks, they will host a showing of the documentary “Very Young Girls,” which follows 13 and 14 year old American girls as they are seduced, abused and sold on the streets of New York. The club will also support ongoing worldwide events against human trafficking. These include Human Trafficking Awareness Week in January and Stand for Freedom in April. During the awareness week, SAHT will host several events, including dialogues with professors and experts in the field.
Many students remember signing petitions last spring during the Stand for Freedom campaign. This proved to be a great success, as Senate Bill 75 was passed on July 2 and has been set into law as Act 105. In short, the act revises “the law on human trafficking in the areas of prosecution, prevention, victim protection, evidentiary confidentiality, limitation of actions, victim impact statements and classification of sexual offenses.” Furthermore, all Pennsylvanian law enforcement officers will receive training in regards to sexual exploitation. Overall, the bill represents a great success for those working to combat human trafficking.
If you are looking to get involved in SAHT, there are many great opportunities to do so! New Day frequently offers training sessions open to anyone interested in volunteering, which will likely be available to the Eastern community next semester. SAHT is also looking for clothing and toiletry donations for New Day (email Jaclyn Helton, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have items to give). Also, make sure you come out to the club’s showing of “Very Young Girls” and additional on-campus events. Finally, the club is always looking for new members, so stop by Gough Seminar Room on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. if you’re interested!