Human trafficking is the human rights issue that today’s youth should tackle. Celia Williamson, professor of social work at the University of Toledo, directed the teens gathered at Indiana State University to take up the banner of human rights by going after traffickers, helping victims and prosecuting customers who support the economy of modern-day sex slavery. Williamson has researched trafficking and the sex trade for more than a decade, examining the experience of victims and establishing Second Chance, an organization that assists women and children survivors and victims in Toledo, Ohio.
“Human trafficking is the human rights issue of your lifetime,” Willamson said. “You want to be able to tell your children what you did to create change.”
Too often, Americans think of “trafficked” victims as those born in other countries and smuggled into America. But statistics show, Williamson said, that the largest number of victims in the U.S. are American minors. She also broke some other myths — such as trafficked children will be seen working on the streets as prostitutes. But human trafficking is a business, she said, and so the business operators have learned to make the most of their product. “Kids are premium product,” Williamson said, “so the trafficker won’t put premium product on the street. They’ll be at truck stops, casinos and sporting events.” The victims will also be made available at massage parlors, escort services, tourist destinations and neighborhood “cat houses,” she said.
“A recruiter goes where parents think their kids are safe,” she said, listing the examples of the skating rink, arcade and shopping malls where parents drop kids off. And they don’t go to snatch children, as is the common misconception, because that creates a crime that focuses attention of the return of the child. A recruiter will befriend a child and then offer a better life, attention, fancy clothes, money or freedom.
Her point in sharing the information with the high school students was to encourage them to take action to stop injustice, even as teenagers. “Revolution begins in the mind,” she said. “If you change a mind, you change a heart. If you change a heart, you open doors. Knowledge is what makes change. You don’t have to wait for your degrees or permission. All you have to do is know it’s wrong, and then bring people to the table.”
Learn more at Lisa Trigg’s Tribune-Star article: Human Rights Issue: Speaker Says Students Should Take Up Cause to Create Change.