Speaker series raises awareness of human trafficking
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 00:10
“This is not an issue; this is not a cause. This is somebody’s child–this is a human being,” said Robert Morris, president and co-founder of Love146, a nonprofit organization that combats child slavery.
These words set the tone last night for UConn’s Love146’s Speaker Series event raising awareness for human trafficking that featured Morris, social activist Jessica Minhas, and actress AnnaLynne McCord. With approximately 100 people in attendance in the Doris and Simon Konover Auditorium at the Dodd Center, the event also featured performances from New Haven’s Sound Effects choir.
All three speakers exhorted the audience of UConn students, staff, and faculty to become aware of the serious global issues involving slavery and human rights abuses. According to the International Labor Organization, there are conservatively estimated to be 21 million people currently in the 32 billion dollar slavery industry, with 4.5 million in forced sexual exploitation and 5.5 million child victims.
“In this business, you will find opposition,” said Jessica Minhas, who has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense and has accepted a Nobel Prize on behalf of the Blind Project, which has worked to improve the lives of sex-trade survivors. She spoke about how when she was approaching her junior year in college, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life until she traveled to Southeast Asia and saw with her own eyes the reality of human trafficking. However, when she came back, she said that it took time for her to develop her voice amidst a society apathetic to her cause, but once she did, she was ready to take risks. “Be bold and go forth,” she said, encouraging students to take action.
Speaker AnnaLynne McCord, known for her work on popular TV shows like 90210 and Nip/Tuck, spoke of her personal battles and how they inspired her to speak up for those without a voice. Coming from a complicated history that included abuse, rape, and thoughts of suicide, she said that her struggles have helped her empathize with victims of the sex trade and made her even more determined to fight for human rights.
“I was raped,” she said. “Someone took something from me that they did not have the right to have. Why should people continue to take things that they do not have the right to have?” She urged students to talk about the issue and to stop “pushing it under the rug,” saying that it was something that was necessary to change society.
Robert Morris concluded the night with a collection of personal experiences from his work through Love146, sharing stories about the children he had met over the years. The number in his organization’s name, he said, was the number of a girl that was for sale in one of the first brothels he entered as an undercover observer.
“There was still a fight left in her eyes. I don’t know what happened to her, but I still see her eyes at night before I go to sleep.”
He also talked about the way to go about conducting such humanitarian work, warning the audience not to only be attracted to the rescue aspect but to know that it is recovery that requires the most time and effort. Audacity, thought, personal engagement and tenacity are all important parts of the operation. He encouraged students in particular to think vocationally and consider how they could use their skills to raise awareness for causes they were passionate about.
The night concluded with a question-and-answer session and the opportunity for students to meet with the presenters. The message, however, was clear. As McCord said, “With privilege comes specific obligation. It’s not about money, it’s not about color, it’s not about religion or location–we are all one race, and that is the human race.”