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The Mass Media

Shut Out Trafficking Week

Shut+Out+Trafficking+panel+at+the+ISC

Shut Out Trafficking panel at the ISC

There are some things that are so horrible that people choose to believe they don’t exist because it’s easier than starting a conversation about certain unspeakable subjects. There is so much ugliness in the world that is suppressed that people begin to believe that it is impossible for certain atrocities to exist, at least in their community. This assumed and systematic blindness is harmful to the cause of actually accomplishing safe communities, particularly regarding the practice of human trafficking which thrives in environments where people choose not to see what’s going on around them. This selective awareness is exactly what the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Shut Out Trafficking Week seeks to combat by bringing human trafficking into the conversation and revealing the practice as not only the violation of the affected individual’s human rights, but as an affront to human rights on a global scale.
On November 12, Shut Out Trafficking Week featured a panel for discussion comprised of speakers from various disciplines: Donna Gavin, Malea Otranto, Kate Price, Mia Alvarado, and one of UMass Boston’s own professors, Natalicia Tracy. The panel was designed to focus on the specific aspects of trafficking and the stories of trafficking survivors. Some panelists were trafficking survivors themselves, like Tracy and Price. Gavin currently works with survivors through the Boston Police Department trying to capture the traffickers, while Alvarado works toward new legislation to support the efforts of the police on the streets. One of the goals of the panel was simply to raise awareness by producing a discourse and educating the public on the prevalence of what otherwise goes unseen, which is Otranto’s expertise.
Talking about human trafficking is undeniably uncomfortable and is part of the battle, but even more difficult is to ensure that the battle is not merely reduced to talk. The hope is that the discourse will transcend words and rise to action, which is certainly even more difficult to do than just to talk about it. Forms of action can vary, but in its most simple form, the minimum that is being asked of everyone is to be trained to see the signs of trafficking and to say something when they do.
 

That being said, some of the signs of someone being trafficked according to UNICEF include: children who know very little about their whereabouts, people who work excessively long hours, someone exhibiting fear or anxious behavior, or when someone has inconsistencies in their story. Although some of these conditions are vague, Tracy took this time to elaborate on her own story of labor trafficking which highlighted many of the warning signs put forth by UNICEF. Tracy painted a picture that included 100-hour work weeks with low pay and a bed on the floor which she put up with because she was forced to, but also because her citizenship papers were being withheld by the family she worked for.
Labor trafficking is not one of the practices most associate with when they hear the term, “trafficking,” but rather, the term is more commonly connected with the sex trade. Kate Price is a victim of sex trafficking and is now a first year PhD student studying how to help people through what she went through as a child. Price is a success story of someone who has been able to escape the cyclical nature that she describes as, “hurt people, hurt people.” She notes that her abuser was similarly abused, but specifies that the dynamic is not an excuse. The purpose of this distinction is crucial for legislation reform that seeks to create refuge for the victims as opposed to prosecuting them in cases where the sex work they are forced into performing is illegal as a practice separate from trafficking. This kind of legislation reform is a way to create the environment where the victims feel safe to seek help.
Forms of support for the cause to end trafficking involve attacking the ideologies that perpetuate the practice, attacking it at its core. This can be accomplished with acts as easy as the cessation of endorsement of pimp culture which ranges from refusing to utilize pimp costumes on Halloween to not supporting the music that glorifies pimps either. Ultimately, trafficking is a business that exists within the parameters of supply and demand which makes it vulnerable if the demand for such business can be cut off; the reality of the trade is that it grosses 32 billion dollars each year and that includes profits made at bachelor parties that incorporate sex workers, for example.
Otranto ended the panel, imploring the audiences to carry on the conversation: “Challenge your friends about this issue. Deconstruct societal norms. Take that extra, tough, but really necessary, step.”