Students examine tough topics

Apr 19, 2017

The Northwest Inclusion Committee sponsored a two day event honing in on ethical issues within human trafficking and transgender rights, while attendees sipped coffee April 12-13.

Day one of Coffee and Conversation hosted speakers with various insights on the problem of human trafficking, each providing different ways to help prevent this from occurring locally and nationwide.

Title IX Coordinator Rebecca Lawrence spoke of the resources in Maryville and on Northwest’s campus to prevent human trafficking.

“If you feel like someone you know is in a trafficking situation, whether they are a student or not, our office is a resource,” Lawrence said. “Let us know, because we are able to work with prosecutors, officers of the law, St. Francis Hospital and counseling centers to get them what they need.”

Lawrence said medical attention may be necessary for those who are trafficked depending on their specific situation.

“St. Francis will be a big thing for them because a lot of the time, people who are trafficked are not getting medical care,” Lawrence said. “Depending on how they were trafficked into the country, they may have injuries because they may have been sexually assaulted and need some sort of medical care along with some counseling.”

Lawrence said those who are worried can reach out to the Title IX office through email, stop by the office in the Student Engagement Center, call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 188-373-7888, head to the University Police station or visit the Maryville Public Safety office.

Advocate for Women in Christian Ministry Emily Meyers spoke on behalf of TraffickCam, a new app allowing users to help law enforcement keep a record of hotel rooms that are possible human trafficking locations.

According to Meyers, the Exchange Initiative, a program developed in St. Louis in 2012, saw that people who had passion for fighting sex trafficking wanted to solve the issue. After partnering with Washington University, they created TraffickCam in 2016. Meyers said this app is part of the solution to human trafficking.

“So the way sex trafficking happens the majority of the time, a pimp has a victim and they are selling the victim online to get bids,” Meyers said. “This typically happens on websites such as where they have their own underground sites that they use. They post a picture of the victim, typically in the very same hotel room that they are sold in, and they sell these to the ‘Johns’ that bid on them. Whoever wins receives the location of that hotel room and that is where their escort takes place.”

TraffickCam helps police officers track down trafficking crimes in, at the very least, hotels photographed by using the app. The user is instructed to take pictures of their room and provide the hotel’s location in addition to its name. This information is saved and shared with law enforcement.

Day two of the Northwest Inclusion Committees’ Coffee and Conversation was filled with issues facing transgender college students.

Green Dot Coordinator Danielle Koonce explained a chart comparing the percentage of psychological distress experienced by the transgender population to different age groups in the United States.

“Fifty-three percent of trans folks ages 18 to 25 are experiencing serious psychological distress,” Koonce said. “U.S. population (experiencing serious psychological distress) all the way across is pretty low. Trans folks are way up here.”

Koonce gestured to the top of the screen and then turned her attention to what she saw as the real problem at hand.

“What are we doing about that?” Koonce said. “There is nothing inherently wrong with being trans. There is nothing about being trans that means someone is going to carry more psychological distress than anyone else, except for the factors that are in their environment that cause it to be that way. I get really angry about this statistic.”

Student attendee, Emily Smith, had a question about specifics on what is being done to foster a supportive environment for the trans community.

“I think representation is really important, and I would really like to see the University make a better effort to hire more diverse staff and faculty,” Koonce said in response to Smith’s question. “I think part of it is on the staff and faculty, but a lot of it is on the students. You all have really powerful voices. If you see things you want to change, I mean, your dollars are why we are here. So if you want to see things change, there are staff that are here to help with guiding that.”

Koonce said she hopes Northwest students will feel a part of the campus by how students and faculty help make Northwest a more comfortable place overall.

“We want the University to be better,” Koonce said. “I don’t come here and think, ‘Yes, this is a perfect place 100 percent of the time.’ There are lots of things I like about Northwest, but I think there are a lot of things that could be better.”

Koonce said she thinks the staff needs to be better about recognizing apparent offenses happening in their offices.

“For me, it’s hard to find that balance, to be the person that’s speaking up. I think for all of us, even for you all as students, it’s hard to find that balance where you won’t be socially ostracized or ruin relationships (for standing up for transgender rights),” Koonce said. “So, if we are all able to throw caution to the wind and stand up for those battles, we can come together and celebrate those things. I think that is how we progress in small steps.”


Published April 19, 2017 @TheMissourian

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