Whether in the United States or around the world, people tend to think that slavery is something of the past. The truth, however, can be rather shocking, as slavery still exists in various forms. Modern-day slavery is comprised of a variety of crimes that involve the exploitation of other people while disregarding their natural human rights. Today, this slavery is also known as human trafficking. Human trafficking can come in many forms, including forced labor and sexual exploitation of victims.
Here at the College, Project Stay Gold and Inter-Greek Council came together to host Human Trafficking Awareness Week. The week featured a series of talks with speakers who work to combat human trafficking, as well as a game night and a week-long sale of trafficking awareness bracelets.
Project Stay Gold is a club brought to the College by freshman communication studies and interactive multimedia double major Matthew Newman. The club is dedicated to fighting human trafficking, defining it as modern-day slavery. It was founded at Newman’s middle school and high school in Jefferson Township, where he was an active member.
The week-long event began with a talk in Roscoe West, on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Speakers included Assistant Attorney General Ron Susswein and Dan Papa, the leader of Project Stay Gold from its start in Jefferson Township.
Susswein began the talk on Tuesday night. In addition to his work as the assistant attorney general, he also teaches at the College. According to Susswein, New Jersey has some of the toughest trafficking laws, and law enforcers are trained to look for specific indicators of the crime. Typically, those who are trafficked have been found withheld in massage parlors, nail salons and restaurants. Other ways to identify trafficking include indicators such as living situations, the person’s inability to leave or the victim’s lack of communication with the outside world.
Human trafficking is considered a first degree crime, yet it can become problematic to pursue such cases.
Following Susswein, Papa spoke of his experiences with the foundation of Project Stay Gold. Papa revealed that his interest in fighting human trafficking began when he was introduced to Love 146, an organization dedicated to end child trafficking around the world.
“I’m extremely passionate about this issue. Currently there are seven million slaves on earth and close to 100,000 in the United States,” Papa said. “I cannot believe this type of injustice exists in our world. That injustice really fuels the passion for me to do something,” he added.
Papa explained that the organization began with his middle school students after a class discussion of the issue of modern-day slavery. Since then, Project Stay Gold has continued to grow. Today, students involved in the organization hold presentations for various schools in the area and have gained recognition from local legislators.
Papa urges students at the College to join the cause and continue to raise awareness.
“Education is more than just awareness.Education is prevention,” Papa said. “ All of you have a voice, all of you have the ability to be an abolitionist. You are the answer,” he said.
The organizations also held a game night in the Brower Student Center on Wednesday, featuring a Jeopardy game about trafficking, in which prizes were distributed. The week concluded with talk in Roscoe West with speakers working in law enforcement. Speakers included FBI Victim Specialist Alexis Kriegar, FBI Detective Paul Vanaman and Homeland Security Victim Specialist Lynne Wilson, all of whom shared their personal experiences with trafficking cases.
In addition to these events, trafficking awareness bracelets were sold throughout the week with the phrase “tackle the traffic” and a picture of a football. This is because of Project Stay Gold’s newest campaign “Not On Our Turf,” dedicated to raising awareness of the trafficking activity that occurs around the Super Bowl. Statistics have shown that the sporting event attracts increased numbers of trafficking activity every year. According to Forbes, nearly 10,000 people were trafficked for prostitution in Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010. Students for Project Stay Gold are advocating for a traffick-free Super Bowl through this campaign.
Members of both Project Stay Gold and Inter-Greek Council hope that wearing these bracelets around campus will spark a greater interest in the cause.