Student group from Mississippi State U works to raise sex trafficking awareness


During the summer of 2010, senior psychology major Anna Katherine Lunceford traveled to India to work with Rahab’s Rope, an organization that works against the massive sex trafficking industry in India. During her time there, Rahab’s Rope was changing its focus from after-care counseling for victims of sex trafficking to prevention and awareness of the industry. Lunceford had the opportunity to work in Kamathipura, home to Asia’s largest red-light district and an estimated 60 to 100 thousand sex industry workers. She worked one on one with the children of brothel workers and witnessed, not only their suffering, but the inevitable fate into which they were headed.

“We visited homes and day care locations for the children of sex workers. In these places, there is no stability for the children. With strange working hours for their mothers, the children are, for the most part, guaranteed a life replicating their mothers’,” she said.

In witnessing their turbulent lives and learning of their future, Lunceford felt compelled to help.

“To experience the confusion and forced complacency of those young girls ignited a fire within me,” she said.

With that fire in her, Lunceford returned to America motivated to spread awareness and start a movement. She began researching the sex trafficking industry in America and realized immediately a change was needed.

“I began researching the sex industry and realized it is a massive, complex, intricate and dangerous system. It is occurring worldwide, and the individuals who run the industry are extremely good at what they do. When a girl is ‘taken,’ they are moved around and almost impossible to find,” she said.

In the spring of 2011, Lunceford teamed up with Anna Rose Woodliff, senior psychology major, to found Arise!, a Christian organization that exists to raise campus awareness for the injustice of global human trafficking and to mobilize students to take action against it now.

The group, that gets its namesake from a verse in Isaiah, has hosted several events since its founding, including film screenings of “Born into Brothels” and “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.” They plan to host a screening this semester of “Sex and Money: A National Search for Human Worth,” a documentary about domestic minor sex trafficking and the modern-day abolitionist movement fighting to stop it. The group will host a panel discussion on the topic of sex trafficking following the film.

Woodliff emphasized the role college students can play in making a difference.

“As students and young people, not only can we make a diference, but we should,” she said. ‘‘We’re so privileged, and we should be willing to help make a change.”

The change is needed. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the United States since 2001. In nearby Atlanta, approximately 400 to 500 children become involved in the sex trafficking industry each month.

Worldwide, the average age of entry into the sex industry is 13. Two children are sold into the sex trade every minute.

Victims of sex trafficking, specifically children, often come from poverty and extremely poor living conditions. They are often coerced into believing they will be given a good job with decent pay only to be forced into prostitution. Also, runaways are often victimized, with 33 percent of runaways in the United States sold into prostitution.

As a newly founded but quickly growing group, Arise! has several events planned for this upcoming semester. The group is helping plan a 5K called “Run to Rescue” scheduled for April 26. All proceeds from the run will go to the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

Their next meeting will be

Feb. 22 at 9 p.m. in the Chapel of Memories. Lunceford encourages anyone who is interested in helping to attend the meetings, as they will be discussing events for the upcoming semester.

Lunceford and Woodliff both emphasized the importance of awareness. With a cause like this, college students have an opportunity to make an actual difference in saving the lives of Americans. Arise! hopes to continue growing and teaching the Mississippi State University community about the realities of sex trafficking in the U.S.

“If people don’t learn about it, they will never be able to fight it,” Woodliff said.

Source:  The Reflector (MSU), Human Trafficking News Daily

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