WSU spreads awareness of human trafficking

Detectives Dustin Stewart and Michael Roche explained the idea of “sexploitation” and the dangers of social media as part of their presentation for the Human Trafficking Symposium on Oct. 27.

Speakers from all over Utah came to Weber State University on Oct. 27 for WSU’s first-ever Human Trafficking Symposium.

The event, hosted by the Department of Criminal Justice, was held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms. Keynote speakers came from the Attorney General’s Office, the University of Utah, Weber County Sheriff’s Office, the Utah Prosecution Council, WSU’s Department of Social Work, WSU’s Women’s Center and Ogden’s YCC Center.

The first speakers of the event were Kaytlin Beckett and Ryan Holton from the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The two speakers covered how the justice system deals with both perpetrators and human trafficking survivors.

Beckett, a prosecutor, explained that the Attorney General’s Office aims to protect victims and she does not try prostitution cases herself in order to protect victims of human trafficking.

Annie Fukushima, an associate professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Utah, spoke on immigrant trafficking. Fukushima told stories about immigrants being trafficked, mostly as workers, to the United States. She read an excerpt from her book, “Migrant Crossings,” which is about the trafficking of immigrants in North and South America.

Detectives Dustin Stewart and Michael Roche from the Weber County Sheriff’s Office warned about the dangers of online solicitation and “sexploitation,” the use of sexual images, videos, texts, etc. as a form of online blackmail. The detectives spoke about the dangers of social media and warned parents to be aware of the things going on on their children’s devices.

“It’s really important. It’s a lot of information for people that don’t necessarily know about what happens [online],” Stewart said.

Marlesse Jones, a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Resource Prosecuter for the Utah Prosecution Council, spoke about the effects trauma can have on those who experience human trafficking, specifically sexual trafficking.

Jones said the effects of trauma and the signs of lying are very similar, which often makes it hard for law enforcement to determine truth in a case but that the general public should be more trained on the signs and effects of trauma.

Professor Mark Bigler and student Haley Miller from the Department of Social Work spoke about human trafficking in Africa, both of which detailing their experiences. The pair detailed the effects of human trafficking in Africa and how the trans-atlantic slave trade still impacts the continent today.

The final speakers for the event were Paige Davies, the director of the WSU Women’s Center, and Ashley Daniels, a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate for the YCC of Ogden. The two spoke about how domestic violence and human trafficking go hand in hand. They told of resources on campus and in Ogden that are in place to help victims of trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Symposium was the last of the WSU Domestic Violence Awareness Month events. Earlier in the month, the Women’s Center and other on-campus organizations held workshops, a Supporting Survivors Event and a Title IX Anniversary event in order to spread awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.