Marist Student Coordinates Event to Combat Human Trafficking
Alexandra Cirovic ‘19 saw months of organization and promotion pay off on Jan. 31 as a lecture hall filled with students and teachers willing to learn and help the cause against human trafficking. The event included a guest lecture and discussion, and afterwards, guests created essential care kits for victims.
Courtney Albert, the founder and president of Give Way to Freedom, spoke at the event. Albert is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and has worked with victims internationally. Albert’s organization is dedicated to protecting and supporting victims of human trafficking. During the presentation, Albert emphasized the dangers and severity of the crime.
“At the core, it’s exploitation. Some humans see other humans as a way to make money,” Albert said.
Albert discussed possible causes, indicators, and ways to intervene in human trafficking. Force, fraud, and coercion are some of the means of the crime, which can happen on the street, at massage parlors, truck stops, and escort services. While physical confrontations are present, it can also be coordinated online. Albert has seen victims approached through Tinder and Facebook.
The lecture emphasized that anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. It happens to men, women, and children all over the world. The U.S. is both a source and destination for human trafficking.
With this information, Albert spoke about the indicators that might help identify victims. Signs of abuse, fear, anxiety, and depression, along with individuals who are inappropriately dressed and have inconsistent stories, demonstrate red flags. Other indicators can include physical confinement or monitoring.
Victims are often afraid to come forward because they are embarrassed and believe there is a stigma surrounding human trafficking. Many individuals do not have homes to return to or a place for help and support. Albert explained the community has a responsibility to help.
“Our job is to reach out and show respect and compassion,” Albert said.
Albert listed phone numbers in Dutchess County to provide resources for adults and children seeking support in human trafficking situations. The phone numbers are also located on Give Way to Freedom’s website.
After the presentation, the audience assembled bags with small water bottles, clothing, toiletries, and feminine products. The donations were quickly packed into bags with the help of the attendees.
Erin Eldridge ‘21 noticed the profound community involvement to help victims of human trafficking. “I liked the presentation, but this event stands out because everyone is collaborating to help the cause by making these care packages,” said Eldridge.
As she watched students create care kits, Cirovic said the result was the most rewarding aspect of this project.
“I was always interested in crime and nonprofits. Through social media, I got interested in human trafficking. I did research and realized how underrepresented the victims are, which really bothered me,” said Cirovic, a political science major with a minor in criminal justice. “I was super happy when I found Courtney and was able to get in contact.”
Cirovic has been interning with Albert and collaborating to create this event since November 2018.Through her internship, Cirovic has seen how complex the human trafficking industry can be.
“It’s much more complicated than what you could ever imagine,” she said. “Like most people, I thought the victims of sex trafficking were in chains and bondages, but that is definitely not the case. It could literally happen to anyone.”
Inspired by the work she has been able to do with Give Way to Freedom, Cirovic hopes to work globally and travel on a task force, preventing crimes such as human trafficking.
Students like Eldridge felt the event cleared misconceptions about human trafficking and they learned how to detect signs of the crime. Eldridge said it is crucial to bring awareness to college campuses because it helps students reflect if they know anyone involved as the victim or even the perpetrator.
“It’s important to always be on the lookout, and I liked learning how to spot potentially dangerous situations and identify possible victims,” Eldridge said. “There are different behaviors and jobs that can actually be really suspicious.”