On March 8-9, Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women & Justice (GCWJ) hosted the Ensure Justice “Cyber Exploitation” Conference to address the issue of internet and social media being used as tools for human sex trafficking.
Sandra Morgan, director of the GCWJ, said she was thrilled seeing the community and law enforcement come together to learn and share about the issues. Attendees learned about the online tactics used by predators, the indicators of human trafficking shown by victims and the strategies used to stop this modern-day form of slavery.
The conference’s speakers included: Ernie Allen, the president and CEO of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC); Dr. Laura Lederer, the president of Global Centurion and former senior advisor on human trafficking at the U.S. State Department; and Lisa Thompson, the director of the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking for the Salvation Army.
At the start of the conference, Allen said: “Our challenge is to mobilize our communities, become indignant about what is happening to women and children in California, in America, and around the world, and to turn our indignation into action.” The conference focused on bringing awareness to the reality of these heinous crimes and their occurrence in attendee’s communities, not just in foreign countries.
There is a need to “break the myth of human trafficking as people in handcuffs and chains,” Morgan said, when detailing the immediacy of the issue arising in homes across America. “It happens to average kids and kids in socioeconomically low situations.”
Describing the issue in terms that all parents could understand, Morgan said that cyber exploitation “is the new highway” that parents must warn their children not to run into, and the worst part is “now the street is in your house.”
The conference called for parents to engage with their children and teach them the importance of being careful online. “Facebook doesn’t have a stranger button,” Morgan said. Using the analogy of a mother asking her daughter daily if she has brushed her teeth, Morgan said repetition and engagement is needed to create safe internet and social media use in children as it continues to be more prevalent in society.
At the event, some free online videos from netsmartz.org, created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, were used to educate attendees on the issues of cyber exploitation. Morgan encourages everyone to make use of this free resource.
Morgan is already preparing for next year’s event taking place March 7-8, 2014. The topic will be “Why is She a Slave?” covering the gender issues that contribute to human sex trafficking.
To learn more about this year’s event and connect to speaker bios, click here.