“Say Something Assembly,” depicting human trafficking as modern-day slavery to students, was presented by The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force and Free International at Roscoe West Hall on Thursday, Jan. 23. The event aimed to spread awareness regarding the ubiquity of human trafficking in the United States.
Because New Jersey is hosting Super Bowl XLVIII, the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force believe that this will result in an increase in human trafficking in New Jersey.
“The facts are there,” said Lowell Hochhalter, one of the directors of Free International, a faith-based nonprofit organization. “There is an uptaking in trafficking during the Super Bowl.”
“This is not a flash in a pan,” said Deborah R. Edwards, Counsel to the New Jersey Attorney General. “This is not just about the Super Bowl. We have to figure out ways to help save somebody’s life.”
With an intricate strategy, including training, education and outreach programs, New Jersey government considers the fight against human trafficking a sustainable effort, Edwards explained.
According to Edwards, New Jersey’s anti-human trafficking laws received the letter grade “D” in 2013. However, this year, New Jersey received the letter grade “A” for their new strong anti-human trafficking legislation.
The program not only included remarks from the Counsel to the New Jersey Attorney General, but also included lectures from Free International representatives and several videos detailing the initialization of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is not a political issue, it is a human being issue,” Hochhalter said. “What part will I play in human trafficking?”
Free International directors Terrence Talley and Jeff Devoll detailed the “red flags” of human trafficking. Since a majority of human trafficking victims are women, according to Free International, one should be attentive to young women with specific “warning signs.”
Warning signs include signs of physical abuse, a much older boyfriend, multiple cell phones or hotel cards, not being able to come and go as they please and more, Talley said.
“One should speak up and say, ‘What’s going on? Why can’t you go?’” Talley said.
Young and vulnerable girls are taken advantage of by pimps who come in and pose as boyfriends, Devoll detailed. High schools, middle schools and shopping malls are the most popular spots for human trafficking recruitment, according to Free International.
“There is a misconception that it’s not our own sons and daughters,” Hochhalter said. “100 percent of all of them are somebody’s sons and daughters.”
According to Free International, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry. This is greater than the sum of Nike, Starbucks and Google industries combined.
Tekla Roberts, survivor of human trafficking and founder and executive director of Vashti’s Voice, an organization empowering young women of sexual exploitation and abuse, shared her personal story with the student audience.
“‘Say Something’ is huge,” Roberts said. “When you know better, you do better. Change the community.”
Students agreed that “Say Something Assembly” was helpful and useful, but word of the event was not spread enough across campus.
“This was really informative,” freshman criminology major Lucia Menyou said. “It should have been more advertised.”
Freshman international studies major Lauren Plawker added that, though the event helped inform students about the details of human trafficking, more students should have been conscious of the event.
“We know that it happens, but we don’t know (to) what extent it happens,” Plawker said.
Speaking out and bringing awareness to the public can stop human trafficking.
“Facts are facts, it is what it is,” Hochhalter said. “Modern-day slavery can come to an end in our own lifetime.”
Edwards assured the students that the New Jersey Attorney General Office is creating stronger anti-trafficking legislation and taking sturdier actions to prevent human trafficking.
“New Jersey is on it,” he said.