As human trafficking becomes a prevalent issue through the country, it affects many locations including Pittsburg. For this reason, Pitt State partnered with Via Christi Hospital—with the help of the Sunrise Rotary Club—in hosting a human trafficking conference Saturday, Sept. 8. The conference included guest speakers who each discussed topics revolving around human trafficking and what it is.
Three groups spoke at the conference. The first talk was titled “What everyone needs to understand about human trafficking,” by Adah Hutchcraft, chaplain at Via Christi Hospital, and Nicole Ensminger, human trafficking response program manager at Via Christi Health, Inc. In their talk they showed a map of the USA with different colors highlighting human trafficking amounts in various locations. They then showed a second map of our surrounding area, showing Joplin as bright red, meaning a high amount of trafficking.
“Human trafficking is happening in Kansas and here in Pittsburg and I think that a lot of folks don’t realize how much it’s happening, there’s a lot of myths and misconceptions in terms of human trafficking and so I think it’s very important to provide education and awareness that it’s happening right here in Pittsburg,” Ensminger said.
They discussed truths about human trafficking, the two different kinds of trafficking, and whether it’s sexual or not. They said runaway youth and the homeless are put at a high risk trafficking. They also talked about how to identify victims and how hospitals can help.
Andrea Graver, director of outreach, and Brittany Oelze, trauma-informed training specialist, both from Unlock Freedom followed with a presentation called “Pornography and the Connections to Human Trafficking.”
“We came to talk about the intersection between pornography and human trafficking and how pornography is really the number one contributing factor to human trafficking,” Graver said.
With many videos on different topics such as drugs in pornography and how some children are forced into it to “help” or protect their families, Unlock Freedom spoke about victims of human trafficking.
“Our goal is mainly awareness, we definitely feel like us that are in the field are continually learning, we’re just learning, so it’s so important to take every opportunity to educate people in different fields so that we’re all growing and learning together and we can address it because it is definitely a prevalent issue in our country and around the world, but we have to start the conversation,” Graver said.
They spoke about how many sex trafficking victims are drugged before video recordings later uploaded onto pornography sites, that not all actors want or choose to be there. They also addressed the importance of consent and coercion and their differences. In one video shown, a young girl spoke about a time she was coerced into those acts by her stepfather to “help provide for their family.”
The final group to present was a mother-son duo, “The Parenting Dare” founders, Lori and Eric Doerneman. With a talk titled “Pornography’s Grasp in the Family: Our Journey Out,” they discussed the importance in talking about issues and having an open relationship among young adults and parents.
“The primary thing I want to achieve is to start a conversation of authenticity, especially in culture today, you can’t take a step out into the world without offending someone and it’s like, you say anything and people just want to get in an argument,” Eric Doerneman said. “I just want to talk, I just want to have a conversation, like not argue about who you can love or how that looks like but have an open conversation that’s back and forth being OK with disagreeing, and I think part of the biggest road is through being vulnerable and showing other people that vulnerability is where relationships start. So basically just getting people to talk is the important thing.”
The duo spoke about addiction and their family’s journey to overcome it. This included how they learned about internal and external filters, becoming more open in their family, and how they can help each other.
“The opposite of any addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of an addiction is connection, with another person, with God, anybody,” Eric Doerneman said. “When you’re alone you’re scared, not scared, whatever, when you’re alone that’s when addiction comes out.”
Their story of addiction and pornography provided informational points for parents to face the concept directly with children.
“The main thing is that this is so in the dark, no one talks about it, and I just want to start shining the light and inspire other people to be lights, to get it out in conversation,” Eric Doerneman said. “The world is an amazing place, the internet is amazing; I love the internet, it’s for the better what’s happening, but when all the information’s thrown out I think really truths are the only things that will stand and you can’t find those without talking, so I guess I’ll just keep beating my conversation hammer.”
A Q&A panel featuring speakers from the day as well as Detective Charles Root, Joplin Police Department and FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, acted as a finale. Audience members could submit questions regarding topics discussed and receive a greater in-depth answer by the panel.
“I think everybody kind of has the head-in-the-sand syndrome, especially in the Midwest, honestly,” said Jennifer Greene, grad student in BSN to DMP. “Everyone thinks ‘it’s not going to happen to me, it’s not going to happen to someone I know, it doesn’t happen in this community because it’s a small community’ and in reality it does happen.”