Club Social Work hosts a panel to illuminate the issue of human trafficking

When people think of human trafficking, they often view it from a distance. It is depicted as an issue that resides outside of the U.S., as a problem that cannot be discussed or as an unstoppable industry. However, some are working on dismantling this mentality.

On Wednesday, Club Social Work hosted a human trafficking awareness panel to illuminate the concept of modern day slavery. Among the organizations present were ZOE International, Everyone Free and APU Free The Captives. The group representatives shared their work and aimed to inspire students to join the fight against human trafficking.

To kick off the event, a big question was asked: What is human trafficking? Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commerical sex act.” To put it simply, Gabryella Carranza, a panel speaker and ZOE International intern, depicted it as modern day slavery.   

Club Social Work president and senior social work major, Jennifer Crandall, saw January as the perfect opportunity to host an event to answer that question in further detail.

“Januray is known as [National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month], and we wanted to…do something on campus to bring awareness to our students,” said Crandall.

The event brought in about 40 students and provided a space for hard conversations.

Several attendees felt that APU’s theology of loving one’s neighbor goes hand in hand with the fight agaisnt human trafficking.

 Kennedy Boeve, a senior public relations major and APU Free the Captives president, was a panelist at the event. According to Boeve, the overlap between faith and the fight against human trafficking is undeniable. 

“Especially from a Christian perspective, we just have a higher calling to care for our neighbor, to care for those being trafficked, for those who are victimized,” said Boeve. “Even more than that, just [by] being a human being, going through something so horrific, we should just have empathy for the other individual.”

This overlap is all about partnering with those affected, whether directly or indirectly. According to Caitlyn Koerner, intern at Everyone Free, this can be demonstrated by putting together backpacks to give to survivors. 

ZOE international intern, Gabryella Carranza, said another way people can help the cause is by sharing the hotline phone number with others. The panelists echoed that loving our neighbor through the fight can also include simply being informed about the situation. 

But the fight is not reserved for any single sect of people. Rather, there is a space for everyone to get involved. This is because human trafficking is found everywhere and not in a single location. 

Crandall expressed her astonishment when she found out human trafficking was not only found outside of the U.S. borders, but also within her country of residence. 

“The fact that [human trafficking] is happening here in the U.S. is something I didn’t know much about,” said Crandall. “I thought it was an outside problem, and that I can’t really touch it and that there’s no action to be made. However, it’s happening here in the U.S.”

Beuve shared a similar experience, where she found the issue of human trafficking within her hometown.

“My senior year of high school, I was in youth group and they brought in a survior of human trafficking from my hometown, and that really sparked the revolution for me,” said Beuve. “This issue is real — it’s present, it’s local, it’s everywhere.”  

When you realize the impact the criminal industry of human trafficking has on a local level, it shifts perspective. As students listened to the stories of those up on the panel, they began piecing together their own understanding of what this fight needs to look like.

Jaci Clark, a junior liberal studies major, honed in on community.

“There’s a need for action and a need for community involvement… There’s a need for everybody to come together no matter what your skill set is,” said Clark. “It’s community members, and it’s people coming together and deciding we want to be educated and we want to care, and it’s not something we’re going to leave to other people. It’s something we need to be a part of.”