June 26, 2019 | 87° F

Rutgers group aims to end human trafficking


Courtesy of Esi Bissah | Lily Decky, left, and Esi Bissah are part of the Rutgers University Campus Coalition Against Trafficking, a group dedicated to letting students and other members of the community know about the prevalence of trafficking in New Jersey.

Since 2007, the Rutgers University Campus Coalition Against Trafficking (RUCCAT) has sought to combat human trafficking.

The objectives of the student-run club are to “raise awareness in the Rutgers community about human trafficking ... and raise funds for organizations” that seek to "liberate, rehabilitate, and advocate for victims of trafficking," according to the RUCCAT website.

Human trafficking is defined as a form of modern-day slavery that “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose”, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Kai Trinidad, vice president of RUCCAT and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said human trafficking comes in a variety of forms.

“Victims of human trafficking can be sold into the sex trade, forced into sweat shops and even killed for their organs,” she said. “It always varies from one case to the next.”

Lily Decky, treasurer of RUCCAT and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said many people do not realize that the term “human trafficking” is expansive and covers a wide range of different activities.

“The military use of (child soldiers) technically falls under the umbrella of human trafficking, as well as certain types of child marriages,” Decky said. “In the end though, it always comes back to taking advantage of someone else.”

Roughly three in every 1,000 people worldwide are firsthand victims of human trafficking, according to a 2012 global estimate by the International Labor Organization.

On a yearly basis, only a fraction of the perpetrators behind human trafficking operations are convicted. In 2015, there were only 6,609 human trafficking convictions worldwide, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor 

Human trafficking is more difficult than other crimes to detect because victims can be intimidated into telling authorities they were not actually being smuggled or trafficked against their will, Trinidad said.

“If the police stop a car and there are drugs in the back seat, there’s no question whether or not the people driving the car are guilty,” she said. “However, if police stop a car and there are people in the back seat who are victims of human trafficking, it’s a much more complicated case because these people might not be honest with the authorities.”

As of this year, New Jersey is ranked 8th highest among all states with regards to the number of reported human trafficking cases, with 143 reported cases as of Sept. 30, 2016, according to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center.

RUCCAT seeks to address statistics such as these.

Esi Bissah, president of RUCCAT and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said human trafficking is not something only happening abroad.

“The issue of human trafficking is not as far removed from us as we think,” she said. “So many students think human trafficking is only an international issue, but it happens right here in the United States, quite frequently.”

Bissah said she attended a symposium that helped her realize the pervasiveness of human trafficking.

“An FBI Victim Specialist informed us that one of the victims she worked with was a Rutgers student,” Bissah said. “So clearly this issue doesn’t only occur overseas.”

Bissah, Trinidad and Decky said they joined the club because they wanted to combat human trafficking and raise awareness around campus and within the New Brunswick area.

Decky said one of the most meaningful things for her, since she’s joined RUCCAT, is seeing the impact the club has had on students.

“We will sometimes have students we don’t even know approach our stand and thank us for what we do,” she said. “Some of these students have even been personally impacted by human trafficking in one way or another, and the fact that we get to represent these kids makes me very proud.”

Trinidad said she encouraged anybody with even a slight interest to check out the club on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. in Meeting Room B of the Douglass Student Center.

“If you’re interested in human trafficking, raising awareness, volunteering opportunities, or if you just want to try doing something different, you should definitely come to our meetings,” she said. “We love to get new members.”

Nicholas Simon is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Nicholas Simon

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