State Representative Talks Human Trafficking; Awareness Raised at Olivet

“There are more slaves in the world today than were taken out of sub-Saharan Africa in three centuries of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” Dr. David Van Heemst of the Political Science department said. He hopes to educate others about the disturbing facts of human trafficking to trigger action that can save lives.

Not drugs, not weapons, “Human trafficking is the fastest growing arm of crime,” President and founder of Women At Risk (W.A.R), Becky McDonald, said at a human trafficking awareness meeting held in Wisner Auditorium on Thursday, September 28th. It is happening in America; it is happening in your community. Thousands of young children are sexually exploited every year across the U.S. alone.

“Human trafficking is something that is right in our backyard, and I never realized that before,” State Representative Lindsay Parkhurst said. Chicago is a main hub for human trafficking, having fourteen of the fifteen things that draw traffickers.

“I became involved in the late 1990’s when I read a statement by a government official who said, ‘Human trafficking…. We don’t have anyone working on that issue,’” Dr. Van Heemst said.

Human trafficking has been overlooked for far too long now. “These people who have already survived so long, being treated less than they deserve, they can’t wait,” human trafficking activist, and former Olivet student, Tate Garner shares.

Many people are now rising up and speaking out against the issue.

“The scariest thing is that it plagues the most vulnerable among us—the children,” Dr. Van Heemst said. Mothers are selling their babies for as little as one hundred dollars out of their own homes, and in some cases, searching church nurseries for children to put on the market as well.

“So many people think [America] is so safe; they don’t notice this is happening right under their noses. Some people’s children are being trafficked, and they don’t even know,” Garner states.

Technology has aided and abetted the expansion of human trafficking. Children are unknowingly lured into trafficking through dangerous apps and the ability to easily access strangers online. Steve Hoekstra was transformed after hearing facts on human trafficking in the U.S. He then required his employees at his trucking company to take a human trafficking course.

“Rescue is the beginning of a journey,” McDonald expresses. Her organization, W.A.R, walks with survivors for life after they are rescued. There is hope, and there are many organizations, safe-houses, and ways to make a difference. For more information and ways to make a difference, check out the W.A.R. website here or contact Dr. David Van Heemst for any additional questions.

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