By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–For the fourth straight year, IU Southeast hosted the Southern Indiana Human Trafficking Awareness Conference.
The conference drew some 275 people to campus, according to Karen Richie, IU Southeast counselor/care manager and SIHTC conference chair for this year’s event.
Keynote speaker was K.D. Roche, a human trafficking field expert who has been providing recommendations and input to inform research, policies, and programs to combat trafficking and provide services to survivors since 2014.
This year’s conference built on the experience of previous conferences, shining a light on new areas of interest or urgency, based on evaluations from last year and new objectives, according to Richie.
This year, speakers and workshops addressed the need for healthcare workers to screen and support trafficking victims, training for foster families and group homes to empowering survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), and the impact that trauma has on survivors and how to engage with a trauma-informed approach.
In addition, FBI officer Christopher McCarty spoke on his role as front-line law-enforcement, identifying successful strategies to combat trafficking, as well as the impact of social media and the internet in accelerating its growth.
Kate Kimmer, statewide anti-trafficking coordinator of Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault (ICESA), spoke on the role of race in trafficking, and on the need for law enforcement and support services to become more sensitive to it.
In fact, children–and especially young women–of color are disproportionately victimized by trafficking, and also more likely to be prosecuted as criminals for activities they have been coerced into, rather than offered treatment or other alternatives, according to Kimmer.
“True anti-trafficking work must recognize the violence within our structures and systems meant to maintain current power dynamics, and how that impacts how we treat individual survivors and those most vulnerable to this crime,” Kimmer said.
For Kimmer and others working at the legislative level around the country, there is progress in the form of initiatives that would fund comprehensive services for youth and adult survivors (such as housing, legal services, vocational training), therapeutic services for children and teens who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, emergency shelters and training for first responders, among others.
Gatherings such as the conference play an important role in these efforts, in a variety of ways, according to Kimmer.
“It is very important to present members of the community and local multi-disciplinary professionals the opportunity to dispel harmful myths and assumptions about human trafficking in Indiana, provide interdisciplinary networking opportunities, learn about emerging trends and evidence-driven best practices for law enforcement and service providers, prevention opportunities and referral resources for identified victims and survivors,” Kimmer said.
After four successful meetings, Richie believes IU Southeast has proven itself the perfect convenor of the many individuals and groups invested in a solution to the challenge of human trafficking.
“IU Southeast is able to provide education to a large number of individuals within our home community all in the same location,” Richie said. “Human trafficking is gaining a lot of attention and focus, and it’s important for IU Southeast to be a leader in identifying needs within our community, exploring signs and risks associated with trafficking, reducing demand, and bringing forth effective, evidence-based treatment for survivors in our community.”
Homepage photo: Activist and field expert K.D. Roche delivers the keynote speech at the fourth Southern Indiana Human Trafficking Awareness Conference. Photo by Bria Staten-Favors.