Human trafficking has often been referred to as “the invisible crime” — a crisis that masks itself in legality by existing on the streets of Salt Lake in businesses that rarely cause suspicion. What occurs behind closed doors, however, is far more alarming and darker than many can imagine. The victims are amongst the most vulnerable in Utah communities and perpetrators strip them of their choice, consent, and control while forcing them into domestic servitude, labor, and above all, prostitution or sex slavery.
The alarming situation will be the backdrop to the 2nd Annual Human Trafficking Sypmosium at the S.J. Quinney College of Law on Feb. 19 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. This year’s event, co-sponsored by the the Global Law Program and the College of Social Work, will focus on youth forced in to human trafficking. It will focus on bringing to light the harsh reality of at-risk, runaway and homeless youth who are recruited, forced and coerced into sex trafficking.
Rachel Harper will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Harper, from Shared Hope International, works to coordinates efforts to improve the response to victims of trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who has testified in Congress about passing tougher laws to crack down on international human trafficking, will speak at the event at 4 p.m. Reyes has helped rescue victims from human trafficking, including an operation that saved several girls in Colombia last year.
The event aims to bring awareness to the challenging components of addressing human trafficking among youth, said Nubia Pena, a third-year law student who helped to organize the event.
“We want to talk about the various impacts of human trafficking against at-risk and marginalized adolescents and how the community can understand the crisis and dilemma that exists in Utah — and globally,” said Pena.
The event is open to the university community, but those who would like to attend are asked to register. To sign up, click here.
Read more about the sessions below:
SESSION 1 (9-9:50 a.m)
Slavery Still Exists: Combating Child Trafficking In Today’s World
Tim Ballard, founder and CEO, Operation Underground Railroad
Description: Former Department of Homeland Security Agent Tim Ballard’s experience on dangerous foreign deployments gave him not only insight into the scale of the sexual tourism industry, but the skills to work effectively against it. His experiences inspired him to start Operation Underground Railroad, where he has dedicated himself full time to abolishing child slavery. Over his career, he has successfully dismantled dozens of child trafficking organizations and saved hundreds of children.
SESSION 2 (10-10:50 a.m.)
Hot Topics: Ending Demand & Eliminating Criminalization of Minor Victims, Flip Sides of the Same Coin
Rachel Harper, Esq., Policy Counsel, Shared Hope International
Description: This workshop will discuss the central role of buyers in the crime of sex trafficking and the need to identify all commercially sexually exploited children as sex trafficking victims, regardless of whether a third party or trafficker is identified. This discussion will highlight detrimental consequences for victims of an overly narrow sex trafficking definition, including the failure to identify vulnerable victims such as runaway and homeless youth who are solicited for commercial sex acts without the involvement of a “trafficker.” The presentation will continue by outlining logical and legal inconsistencies in allowing minors to be arrested, charged, or held liable within criminal or juvenile justice systems for prostitution related offenses while the exploiters who buy them often avoid consequences for their conduct. The discourse will discuss statutory gaps, societal misperceptions, and the pressing need to gravitate away from punitive responses to commercially sexually exploited youth in the U.S. and instead provide protective responses to minor victims that include specialized services, while holding all perpetrators, including buyers, accountable in ways which reflect the seriousness of the offenses committed.
“Combatting Online Sexual Exploitation of Trafficked Children”
FBI Special Agents Jennifer Fischer, Elizabeth Green and Dustin Grant
Description: The FBI works with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and national victim-based advocacy groups in joint task forces that combine resources and expertise on the issue of Human Trafficking. Today, the FBI participates in 88 human trafficking task forces and working groups around the nation. This presentation will focus on how the Internet, along with other technologies, plays a role in both enabling and combating human trafficking and how the FBI investigates the exploitation of children on the internet.
SESSION 3 (11-11:50 a.m.)
“Human Trafficking – An Important Public Health Care Concern for the Youth of our State and Nation”
Dr. Kathy Franchek-Roa M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine
Description: This workshop will focus on the impact of trauma on children by utilizing the Ecobiodevelopmental (EBD) Framework to explain the health consequences of trauma. Understanding the neurodevelopmental trajectories that occur when a child’s brain is exposed to trauma helps to explain why abused and traumatized children become vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking. This understanding in how the brain develops in the face of trauma also helps to elucidate the obstacles and barriers that many victims, health care providers, public health professionals, law enforcement, advocates and others face when trying to end this horrific form of child maltreatment.
“Issues Faced by Trafficking Victims in the Juvenile Justice System”
Pamela Vickrey, executive director, Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys
Description: Juveniles who are victims of trafficking/commercial exploitation often live on the margins of society including state’s custody and juvenile detention. These youth are often treated as criminals by law enforcement which furthers their victimization and lack of trust in the justice system. This workshop will explore ways to identify victims of trafficking in court and advocate for treatment as victims rather than criminals. The workshop will also discuss changes in laws made to help protect victims of trafficking.
SESSION 4 (12:15-1:30 p.m.)
Keynote address – Faces and Shadows of Juvenile Sex Trafficking - Taking our Nation’s Temperature
Rachel Harper, Esq., Policy Counsel, Shared Hope International
Description: Although, the last five to 10 years has shown an increase in awareness in the U.S. surrounding sex trafficking and produced improved legislation, significant gaps persist which limit our ability to combat domestic minor sex trafficking. This presentation will discuss common ways in which vulnerabilities of youth are exploited and crucial corresponding policy elements. The discussion will note gaps between policy and reality and resulting barriers in identifying and responding to sex trafficking victims. The role of buyers in fueling the sex trafficking industry will be highlighted, as well as obstacles in combatting demand, and resulting unfair stigmas rendered to minor sex trafficking victims, when they are blamed, as opposed to buyers being held accountable for their exploitative conduct.
Rachel Harper, Esq.
As Policy Counsel at Shared Hope International, Rachel Harper engages in federal and state legislative advocacy, writes and presents policy papers, and focuses on expanding the discourse regarding combatting demand. She also conducts legal analysis for the Protected Innocence Challenge annual report, which issues grades and individualized recommendations for states to improve statutes addressing domestic juvenile sex trafficking.
Rachel joined Shared Hope after working with the Southern Poverty Law Center within the Children at Risk department. She obtained a L.L.M in Public International Law from the London School of Economics, where she wrote her dissertation on human trafficking, and she received her J.D. from the University of Southern California. She worked briefly with Public Counsel in Los Angeles and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, as well as two NGOs in London: the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and INTERIGHTS. She also spent a year Lilongwe, Malawi, teaching elementary school.
SESSION 5 (1:40-2:30 p.m.)
“How Cultural Norms Contribute to Vulnerability & Predatory Behavior”
Fernando Rivero, MPH, EMT-P, captain, Unified Fire Authority
Description: In the United States, cultural norms and pop culture practices such as “pimp culture,” the idea of male masculinity and derogatory language targeting young women, have contributed to vulnerability and predatory behavior putting our youth at risk of becoming victimized and in other cases, becoming perpetrators of social crimes. This lecture will present a thoughtful, “out of the box” approach to some of the cultural practices, norms and ideals contributing to the human trafficking of our youth.
“Disrupting Black & White Visions: Human Trafficking, Race, and Difference”
Dr. Annie Isabel Fukushima, Ph.D, assistant professor, Ethnic Studies Program, College of Social Work, University of Utah
Description: As gender debates have deepened public, policy, and social responses to human trafficking, talking about race and human trafficking has proven to be difficult in the 21st century. However, race cannot be delinked from other forms of oppression and categorizations. This presentation answers: how does race, class and gender matter in anti-trafficking cases? How may one disrupt the normative scripts that are circulated in popular culture about socioeconomic problem that has real human impact? The methodology of this presentation is a transnational feminist and an intersectional approach to analyze human trafficking case studies in the United States. Fukushima’s talk will explore how race, gender, class, and national origins shape the perception of victimhood in U.S. anti-trafficking endeavors through case study analysis of human trafficking legal cases.
CONCLUDING REMARKS (2:30-2:45 p.m.)
Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General