The Shedding Light on Child Trafficking conference was an amazing experience coming from a first timer. As a college student, a lot of times I am blocked off from some of the issues going on in the real world. Child trafficking is something I never thought I would have to deal with.
As an intern for ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, I got the pleasure to attend the Shedding Light conference. My first day I didn’t know what to expect or what kind of information I would be receiving. Some people told me I would be overwhelmed but majority told me it would definitely be a good experience. One thing I liked about the conference was sitting with people from different backgrounds and geographical areas. I was seated with two police officers, a teacher, a minister and a social worker.
On the first day we received our introduction about what really goes on during child trafficking. I think the main goal was to steer away from the movie “Taken” and really focus on children that are being manipulated by older men. It made everyone realize that this is not something that is going on overseas, this is taking place literally in our own neighborhoods. Dr. Sharon Cooper really stood out to me in the beginning because she had so much experience dealing with child trafficking working in the medical field. Her stories about pimps and their demeanor was really fascinating.
I was also eager to hear from the ladies who worked one on one with child trafficking victims. Emily Fitchpatrick and Megan Hamilton gave a lot of inside information on what it’s really like to be a victim. They personally work with victims for months or years to help them gain their life back. One thing no one in the room knew about was how it really felt to be involved in trafficking or what it does to your life. To receive the opportunity to really know what victims have to deal with was a wonderful experience.
The same day we also heard from several people coming from the law background about what is happening to pimps or traffickers and what forms of legislation have been passed to decrease child trafficking. We were informed of several ways citizens can stop the chances of trafficking. NC 2-1-1 was something new for multiple people in the room to hear about that could reduce trafficking. Also, safe harbor was a new addition that really gave everyone relief because it dealt with more severe penalties towards the traffickers.
On day two we received more information regarding the victims and ways to help reduce victimization. A lot of modern technology such as social networks, anonymous sites and young children with their own cellphones are making the problem trickier. Nimasheena Burns from the Department of Justice gave her own personal story of becoming a victim to social networks. She went into detail about how easy it is to get manipulated by someone who pretends to care about you.
Also, we heard from Detective Bill Woolf who informed us of how gangs are now taking an interest in child trafficking. As more and more perpetrators are teaming up together to target children, it’s important for us to collaborate together to stop them. Day two really inspired me the most to want to help children who are at risk to becoming victims. Being one of the younger people at the conference, problems with social networks and self-esteem were more relatable to my age group. Overall, the conference was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I got the chance to meet influential people and to be involved in trying to raise awareness and preventing human trafficking.
– Erin Price, Intern for ENC STop Human Trafficking Now