Many people don’t realize that slavery is still present in today’s age. They also don’t realize that Ohio has one of the highest human trafficking rates in all of the United States.
The Womens Studies and International Studies departments are working together to bring Professor Tony Talbott from the University of Dayton to Ness Auditorium on April 25 at 6:30 p.m. to educate students, faculty, and the community about human trafficking as part of Wittenberg’s annual Feminist Tea event.
Associate Professor of English Carmiele Wilkerson and her International Studies 495 Senior Capstone class are planning Talbott’s visit along with curating the multi-media exhibit that will accompany it.
The exhibit will be on campus until the end of April on the second floor of Thomas Library and will showcase photo-essays on human trafficking which give global statistics and also statistics for Ohio. The exhibit will also have artwork from students of Talbott’s Human Trafficking 101 class at the University of Dayton on display.
“This human trafficking problem is right below the surface,” says Wilkerson who first attended one of Talbott’s human trafficking workshops at the University of Dayton last summer. According to her, Talbott provides valuable information on how to spot it, with modern day slavery all-too-often going on right in front of us.
An obvious example that came to Wilkerson’s mind was that of usually Vietnamese or Thai beauty salon workers.
“You think, ‘This is in The Greene, a really nice space, so everything must be legal and above board, it’s just that people are hiring their friends or people are hiring their family members and that’s why you get more of one group here,’ but right there in front of your eyes in a space that is a space that we might consider to be in an elite part of town, you have people who are being coerced to work, their passports have been taken from them,” said Wilkerson, relating a hypothetical account of human trafficking taking place at The Greene outdoor mall in nearby Beavercreek.
Wilkerson also mentioned that at the workshop she attended, Talbott brought up seeing older men with younger women out in public, like at sporting events. Immediately she was reminded of an encounter she had at an airport where an older man was with a younger woman who was dressed very provocative in a shirt skirt. Everyone’s attention was on the young woman, not the man.
“There are these situations where we’re seeing the woman in that situation as someone who’s behavior isn’t ladylike but we don’t think that maybe she’s being coerced in that situation because it seems like she’s on a date or she’s just dressing overly-provocative,” noted Wilkerson.
Wilkerson’s goal in bringing Talbott to campus is to give the campus access to this and other types of information, in hopes that they will spread it to others.
For instance, most Ohioans are probably unaware that Toledo is a hotspot for international human trafficking, having received attention from numerous law enforcement agencies.
“I don’t think people in Toledo knew that there in Ohio they were this bed of human trafficking, so there was a big bust a few years ago and a crackdown in Toledo,” said Wilkerson. Many people thought that was the end to the problem, but according to Wilkerson, as with most types of crime, it just moves.
“I’m not saying we should have another club at Wittenberg,” said Wilkerson, “I know we have so many clubs, but it’s still something that we could draw attention to in some way through the organizations that we have, if they’re educated. Philanthropic projects in the Greek societies, student organizations that have service as their focus, there are a lot of ways that we could make sure this information is passed out and disseminated every single year.”
The April 25 presentation and lecture at Ness Auditorium is open to everyone. Students who wish to learn more can visit the Project Polaris website at www.projectpolaris.org (which is not affiliated with the Ness presentation) or look up University of Dayton’s Abolition Ohio group.
(Casey O’Brien / email@example.com)