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Human Trafficking Awareness Week aims to bring attention to important issue

January 25, 2016 | Events

For some, human trafficking seems like the sort of thing that only happens in faraway third-world countries and gritty urban settings. But despite its often hidden workings, human trafficking is a problem effecting victims right here in Central Ohio.

“I think the biggest misconception about human trafficking is that it’s not here. I want people to know it is here, and it is an issue. I think a lot of people see the movie Taken or Pretty Woman and that’s what they think human trafficking is and they think that it only happens in poor countries. But it absolutely happens here, it happens every day to both kids and adults right here in Ohio,” said Victoria “Tory” Bader ‘15, the Greif Fellow in Juvenile Human Trafficking at the Moritz College of Law.

The Greif Fellowship was established in 2013 with grant funding from the Greif Packaging Charitable Trust. It was started to provide legal representation to juvenile victims of human trafficking. It also organizes local resources to combat trafficking in Columbus and Central Ohio as well as support victims.

Each Greif fellow brings her or his own experiences and skills to the program to continue to help it grow and to reach more and more victims of human trafficking. Every day Bader said she is in contact with her clients, checking in with them, prepping them for upcoming court dates, or advocating for them before a judge, or attending meetings to discuss this issue with other attorneys and members of the community.

One of the biggest projects she’s taken on outside of her duties representing her clients is assisting the courts in further expanding the Empowerment Program, a diversion option for juvenile human trafficking victims.

“We’re getting to the point where we have had kids complete the program, either successfully or unsuccessfully, and we’re now trying to push the program and see what we want to do with it and who’s the right fit for this type of program. One of the things we’ve been doing this year is we’ve really been pushing the court to make a decision on how we’re going to move forward with this program,” Bader explained.

It is also her mission to help educate students and the public on the importance and prevalence of this issue. As the third annual Human Trafficking Awareness week begins this week, Bader said she hopes the events planned will help future lawyers better understand this problem so they are prepared should they ever face it in their line of work.

“I think events like these are really important, especially when it comes to educating students, people who are going to go out and be involved in these issues, whether it is representing victims as clients or working with them as social workers.  We invite students from the social work school to come to these events as well. Students are the next leaders and the next people who will be at the forefront of this issue.  I think it’s really important to get them this information at an early stage and maybe influence the direction of their career or what they want to do,” she said.

Below is a list of events for the third annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week being held at Moritz and the Thompson Library.

Monday, Jan. 25

Noon: There will be an information session on the Greif Fellowship in Juvenile Human Trafficking in the Public Service Law Center. Come learn about this post-graduate fellowship opportunity and the application process.  Lunch will be provided.

Tuesday, Jan. 26

3 p.m.: Come learn about Survivor’s Ink, an organization working to empower victims of human trafficking by offering scholarships to remove or cover physical scars, markings, and brandings. This meeting will be held in Room 165 at the Thompson Library.

Wednesday, Jan. 27

4 p.m.: Film screening of “Very Young Girls” in Room 347. This documentary exposes the commercial exploitation of girls in New York City as they are sold on the streets by pimps and treated as adult criminals by police.

Thursday, Jan. 28

Noon: Human trafficking speaker and panel discussion in Saxbe Auditorium. Come hear human trafficking survivor, Barbara Freeman, discuss her experiences, followed by a panel discussion with local human trafficking experts. This event counts as one PILF in Practice hour. Lunch will be provided.