By Shannon Barbour
Guest speaker Dennis Mark shared stories of how he started saving women from sex trafficking and rehabilitating victims Tuesday night.
Justice Week continued with a showing of “In Plain Sight,” a documentary about trafficking, and discussion led by Mark, the executive director of Redeemed Ministries in Houston.
Community Engagement and Service and International Justice Mission hosted the event in Marrs McLean Science Building and discussed ways for students to get involved.
“It’s really hard to comprehend that this still goes on in our country and so many people sweep this under the rug and don’t realize it or don’t fully comprehend what it means,” said Ellen Klitgaard, Harlan, Iowa, senior and president of IJM.
According to federal law, sex trafficking is a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud or coercion. Any minor engaged in a sex act is a trafficking victim regardless of choice or coercion.
One hundred thousand children and thousands more women are victims of sex trafficking in America, according to “In Plain Sight.”
“It’s important for people to understand that this doesn’t just happen in Cambodia and Thailand,” Klitgaard said.
Mark discussed the growing presence of female traffickers and how male traffickers also manipulate them.
“A few years ago, 60 percent of the traffickers in the world were women and it’s a survival technique to work your way up in management,” Mark said.
Brownwood junior Brianna Childs said events like these are necessary because many people aren’t educated about the issue and don’t like to talk about it.
“This is such a taboo subject. That’s why events like this are so important, just to keep this conversation going. Sometimes it’s easy to hear about these things and then just go about your life,” Childs said.
Klitgaard and Childs said they plan on pursuing careers that will help fight sex trafficking by counseling victims and prosecuting offenders.
Mark suggested students get involved by connecting with outreach organizations and fundraising.
“Getting engaged locally with Unbound,” Mark said. “Get connected with an organization that’s doing aftercare work. We use $5 gift cards as incentives in our program. You can have a gift card drive.”
Unbound is a Waco organization that educates and empowers at-risk youth and educates local communities and organizations about human-trafficking.
Justice Week will continue with a prayer service Wednesday at the Bill Daniel Student Center and a free trade market and benefit concert Thursday at Common Grounds.