While the world of international human trafficking has become more well known, many people remain unaware that it isn’t just an international problem. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month. In response, the Safe-House Crisis Center in Pittsburg partnered with Students for Violence Prevention (SVP), along with various other student and community organizations, to host “Breaking the Chains of Human Trafficking,” an event from 6-8:00 p.m., Jan. 31, at the Crimson & Gold Ballroom in the Overman Student Center.
The event was organized to raise awareness and help create a community that is educated, empowered, and equipped to combat these horrors within their own neighborhoods.
During the first hour of the event, organizations from the community were represented at tables with displays that outlined their missions. The last hour was spent in a question and answer forum with five panelists, ranging from an FBI agent to a hospital chaplain.
Noah Monsour, Pittsburg State Alum in Communication, worked as emcee for the event.
“There’s eleven organizations represented from around the community (which are on) the front lines, combatting human trafficking, helping victims, counseling, getting the victims out, and bringing justice against the traffickers themselves,” Monsour said. “…it’s those organizations that are being represented here.”
One of those organizations represented was Rapha-house International, a non-profit organization that fights to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children from Cambodia, Haiti, and Thailand.
Alexis Dewey, a junior in consumer sciences at PSU, works as an intern for the non-profit.
“We have a merchandise program, and the girls here make all the merchandise,” Dewey said. “The girls from Thailand make the tassels and the pom-poms, the girls from Cambodia make the elephants, and (the girls from Haiti make) the bags and wallets.”
Jennifer White is the executive director of ICT S.O.S., which seeks to end domestic sex trafficking through prevention efforts. White presented literature at the tables and served on the panel to answer questions from the community.
“We kind of connect the community to the professionals,” White said. “I go into middle schools and high schools, and we talk about what this issue is, what it looks like…how our kids can stay safe, and how they can feel empowered to be part of the solution.”
Julia Turner, sophomore in nursing, volunteers with Pitt State’s SVP program, a student organization which brings awareness to what sexual violence and assault is, and how to deal with it.
“We are bringing light to human trafficking, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and how it’s a lot more prevalent in our society than we actually think about,” Turner said. “…especially in Kansas, because we’re in the center of the country—it’s kind of a hub.”
Alec Huffman, senior in psychology, was there to represent Pittsburg State University’s first Christian fraternity, Chi Omicron Rho.
“We’re here with a couple different ministries,” Huffman said. “One is called ‘Exodus Cry,’ and they focus on the…unhealthy male obsession with sex and how that kind of drives (the) commercial sex industry,” he said. “So, things that men consume like pornography, prostitution, stripping, that really contribute to the industry of human trafficking as a whole,” Huffman said. “We also have ‘Ransomed Heart’ … a ministry devoted to men finding their identity in Jesus Christ, and not things like sex or alcohol.”
“So, we are really trying to tackle the cultural aspects,” he said. “We are trying to shift the perspective on it, that these are people that are being taken advantage of, and we need to change that within our hearts and our minds.”
Huffman said his fraternity has a mantra: “If we don’t change people’s hearts, nothing else will change.”