By Trinity Jones
The Polaris Project defines human trafficking as “…the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud, or physically force victims into selling sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened, or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal, or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.” There are many misconceptions about human trafficking, including the way the traffickers and victims look, or that people don’t believe it happens where they live.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It is vital to take the time to bring awareness to the crime that affects millions of people every day. Educating oneself is a proactive way to bring light to the issue, and there’s an opportunity to do so on Iowa State’s campus.
Dr. Alissa Stoehr teaches WGS 450, a human trafficking class. The class covers many topics regarding human trafficking to help people understand how widespread the crime is. Topics include sex trafficking, labor trafficking, profiles of traffickers and victims, law enforcement response, and more. The class also tackles common misconceptions about human trafficking.
“Some of the common misconceptions that people have about human trafficking is that traffickers and victims ‘look’ a certain way,” said Dr. Stoehr. “Other misconceptions are that human trafficking happens only in big cities or other countries. Human trafficking happens right here in Iowa.”
Dr. Stoehr believes that anyone could benefit from enrolling in the course. Even if they don’t take the class, there are still ways that people can advocate against and bring awareness to the crime.
“People can start [by] educating others, including their friends and family. They can watch documentaries, read stories online, listen to speakers, [and more],” said Dr. Stoehr. “There are also several organizations that they can become a part of either online or in person. One of those organizations is the Iowa State Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery.”
For more information about human trafficking, you can visit The Polaris Project, National Human Trafficking Hotline, and The Set Me Free Project. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888, and the State of Iowa Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-800-770-1650.