Rutgers Students Against Trafficking collaborates with state organization to identify and assist victims
The Rutgers Students Against Trafficking organization is composed of students that are working continuously to bring attention to the prominence of the issue of human trafficking.
The organization's meeting last Thursday featured special guest speaker Mandy Bristol-Leverett, the executive director of New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, who spoke to the crowd about modern human trafficking and how students can spread awareness.
“The more prepared the workforce is in all fields, the more we’re prepared to look for this, identify it, report it and know what to do about it,” said Bristol-Leverett.
There are numerous ways to play a role in preventing human trafficking, she said.
“The first step is to learn the hotline number, 888-373-7888 or text BeFree if you see something,” Bristol-Leverett said.
Right now, child brides are not recognized as victims of human trafficking in the United States, which is in direct conflict with our foreign policy, she said.
The intention of this law is to give teenagers the freedom to marry their significant other if they are pregnant or going overseas, which can be seen as positive, but is being abused to force children to marry adults, Bristol-Leverett said.
“There’s very little we can do about it from a service provider standpoint," she said. "And so we have to change the laws."
A legislative roundtable in the spring will guide the coalition's legislative initiatives for the year, Bristol-Leverett said.
One of the more effective outreaches sponsored by the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking is Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, or SOAP, she said.
“We bring hotel bars of soap labeled with the national human trafficking hotline number, updated pictures of missing children and information for staff so that they can identify someone that might be trafficked,” Bristol-Leverett said.
The idea was created by Theresa Flores, a survivor of human trafficking, she said.
After an hour-long training session, teams of four go to four hotels and bring the information and the soap, said Bristol-Leverett. Anyone 16-years-old or older can participate, Bristol-Leverett said.
“Every time we've done this outreach at least one of those kids were recognized while our volunteers were there,” she said.
Sarah Lin, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, organized the event.
“I learned about what human trafficking was and the social injustices that it involves. I knew that I had to do something,” she said.
Seeing people come together and share their passion for the prevention of human trafficking is exciting, Lin said.
Human trafficking is still prominent because many people are unaware of it, she said, and people should understand exactly what steps they can take to prevent and end trafficking as college students.
Lin said she participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University and proposed a project on campus awareness,
“We had the film screening this week, the education workshop, the take action event, the tabling,” she said. “And all of it was to raise awareness on campus about human trafficking.”
Manuel Silva-Paulus is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.