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Center for Student Involvement raises awareness of human trafficking

The End It event helped raise awareness on campus for human trafficking and featured informational displays and a photo opportunity. | Ian Everett/The Cougar

The Center for Student Involvement hosted its second annual End It event Feb. 21 in Shasta’s Lounge at Student Center South. The event featured a walking gallery with facts about human trafficking, a photo opportunity and booths for anti-trafficking organizations to discuss their projects with students.

CSI hosted the event in conjunction with the Women and Gender Resource Center and the student-run Modern Abolitionist Coalition, or MAC. The aim of the event was to increase awareness among UH students about the problem of human trafficking.

“Houston is a top city in the U.S. for human trafficking,” said marketing senior and founder of MAC Anna Purcell.

Purcell started the coalition in 2016 when she developed an interest in spreading awareness for the issue.

“The first thing we do is awareness events, like the End It Movement, where we hit the surface level,” Purcell said. “The second is our education meetings where we dive deeper into the topic. We talk about the psychological issues and how different professions or careers can recognize human trafficking in their line of work. The third thing we do is point to other organizations for people to volunteer at.”

The WGRC was also present at the event. Its representatives outlined the Sexual Misconduct Support Services that students can call upon if they feel they are impacted by sexual abuse.

“If you think you’ve been impacted by sex trafficking, (the SMSS) is a great one-stop shop to go to. We help with navigating the process on campus, navigating the resources, and we offer support. We do crisis intervention,” said SMSS Program Manager Ashley Griffin.

Griffin feels most students aren’t aware that this is a local problem, not just an international one.

“College is a very vulnerable population,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to be aware if you don’t know about it.”

Redeemed Ministries, a non-profit residential program for human trafficking victims, was also there to raise awareness of the potential danger to university students.

“One of our survivors was trafficked while she was at the University of Texas. Her trafficker worked at the financial aid office there. She completed her degree while she was being trafficked,” said Redeemed Director of Operations Desirie Dougall.

The Landing, a drop-in center on Bissonnet Street, also wanted to reach out to students and raise awareness for their mission.

“The director of The Landing asked law enforcement where they could help on the issue of human trafficking and found they wanted a place where someone could go for respite,” said Connie Spence, a representative for The Landing.

The drop-in center offers food, clothes and other resources to victims to help them exit the life of human trafficking. It operates in the Bissonnet area near Beltway 8, a known human trafficking hot spot.

Brittney Lanaux, a public administration graduate student and graduate assistant at CSI, wanted to show students how to attack the problem and educate them on how they can get involved.

“We want to engage students with the community and provide opportunities for community service,” Lanaux said.

For more information on Sexual Misconduct Support Services, email Ashley Griffin at [email protected].

The Modern Abolitionist Coalition is seeking officers for next semester and can be reached at [email protected].

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