Community Members Learn About Trafficking in Their Own Backyards
Last month, Polaris Project New Jersey hosted a community summit on human trafficking. More than 160 New Jersey community members and leaders were in attendance! The summit was tailored to educate local community members about human trafficking, prevalence of the crime on a local level, and ways to get involved.
Presenters included Polaris Project New Jersey, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), human trafficking survivors, and leaders from the community. The presenters provided a well-rounded education and discussion about human trafficking with community members, including fieldwork narratives from law enforcement and moving stories told by two local survivors. Both of these survivors were incredibly brave to stand up in front of the crowd and explain to the audience how they were manipulated into commercial sex by their “boyfriends” and how hard it was to escape their situations. (Read more about the survivor stories from one summit participant, Trauma Therapist Andrea Goldberg, who described the summit on her blog.) These stories were essential in reminding audiences why we work every day to fight human trafficking and help survivors recover and regain control over their lives.
Participants also heard detailed accounts of DHS’s involvement in the Afolabi hair braiding case that occurred in East Orange, NJ. The agent described the methods of manipulation and control used by the traffickers, the countless hours the victims were forced to work, and the months of preparation that went into prosecuting the family network of traffickers.
This summit exceeded expectations for us. Every day we work with women and girls who were forced into commercial sex or labor in every county of New Jersey. The individuals we serve in our Newark office were primarily born in the United States and trafficked right here in our state. Our goal with this summit was to engage community members to help them learn how to identify human trafficking and to participate in finding solutions. The turnout from the community was amazing and the impact of the training on the participants was palpable.
For those of you who attended the summit, and even for those who didn’t, you can continue the fight against human trafficking by visiting our website for ideas on how to stay engaged in your local community. We also created an online form that you can complete to help us brainstorm new and innovative ways to fight human trafficking locally. I strongly encourage you to discuss these questions with your organization, community group, family, or friends and I look forward to sharing these innovative ideas at future summit events.