Penn State to host sex-trafficking awareness event April 9
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Each year, nearly two million children are victimized and exploited in global sex trafficking, according to a 2012 United Nations report. Though this serious problem often goes unseen, it is pervasive in places as far as Australia and as close as our own state of Pennsylvania.
This April, during Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Penn State Child Maltreatment Solutions Network is hosting an awareness event to shed light on the global sex trade industry and open a dialogue among survivors, experts and the community.
The event, titled “Sex Trafficking: Vulnerabilities and Solutions,” will take place on Saturday, April 9, and will aim to raise awareness for this prevalent issue while focusing on solutions to curb its growth. The Network is hosting this event in collaboration with the Colleges of Communications, Nursing and Information Sciences and Technology (IST).
“Vulnerabilities and Solutions” will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Founder’s Room at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus. The event is free and lunch will be provided. The deadline to register is March 31.
The event will feature Pennsylvania Congressman Charles Dent as the keynote speaker. Along with Dent, a panel made up of trafficking survivors, advocates and specialists will discuss the impact of trafficking and actions that can be taken to prevent the growth of this disturbing practice.
“Our scientific methods can uncover the ways in which perpetrators reach children and lure them into a life of exploitation,” said Jennie Noll, director of the Network, professor of human development and family studies, and a presenter at the forum. “When we understand how that works and what makes kids vulnerable, we can raise awareness about what to look out for and how to educate parents and kids about protecting themselves against these vulnerabilities.”
Noll's work specifically focuses on re-victimization of children facing past abuse and says that those children possess a higher risk factor of being exploited into sex trade.
“The advent of the internet and social media has brought about new ways that kids are victimized in terms of getting exploited and involved in things like sex trafficking through online venues,” said Noll, who will discuss these patterns in more depth during her speech. “When we understand how that works and what makes kids vulnerable, we can raise awareness about what to look out for and how to educate parents and kids about protecting themselves against these vulnerabilities."
The Network’s event comes at a poignant time. According to the New York Times, the U.S. Senate took action earlier this month on a website, Backpage.com, that has been accused of masking the trafficking and prostitution of minors behind adult classified advertisements. Over a number of years, hundreds of instances of trafficking have been traced back to the site.
A team of Penn State IST specialists have been looking at sites of this nature, predation patterns, and ways to increase security measures to protect children from encountering sex traffickers online. The team will present some findings, concerns and proactive steps to take moving forward at the “Vulnerabilities and Solutions” event.
In combining with the Colleges of IST, Communications, and Nursing, Noll said the event aims to show the impact of trafficking from a number of sides. The program will cover technological mechanisms to stop trafficking, legislative aspects of the crime, stories from survivors, vulnerabilities for children and a community discussion about ways in which the $99 billion industry of sex trafficking can be brought to a halt. The program also will feature a brief film, The Turn Out, that highlights the difficult realities faced by underage trafficking victims.
For more information, go to the Network’s website.