On February 23rd, SXU hosted the Squeaky Weal Lecture series 2017. Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM, was the keynote speaker with her presentation entitled ‘Ending Human Trafficking.’ The event began at 6:30pm in the Butler Reception Room. It was free and open to everyone.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, thousands of people (men, women, and children) become victims of human trafficking. The purpose of this ‘serious and grave crime’ includes the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, slavery, removal of organs, forced labor, and other exploitative practices.
Organizations, such as the U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking [USCSAHT], do their best to raise awareness about this abuse, rescue the victims, and overall, hopefully, end this crime. Sister Jeanne is on the Board of the Directors of USCSAHT.
The event started with introducing Sister Jeanne and a presentation about human trafficking and the USCSAHT. It was followed by a Q&A session and the documentary What I’ve been Through is Not Who I Am. Refreshments were also offered for the attendees.
According to the presentation, there are two types of human trafficking: sex and labor trafficking. It is illegal in all countries. Additionally, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries worldwide.
Moreover, facts about human trafficking were also discussed, such as 98% of the victims are women and girls; and an estimate of 27 million people are held in slavery, 1.2 million of which are children. Most of the victims are 18 to 24 years old.
In addition, Sister Jeanne emphasized that the internet is one of the major sources where predators hunt for victims. “Be really careful with what you put on social media because that’s where predators go,” said Sister Jeanne.
In an interview with the Xavierite, Sister Jeanne explained why she is so passionate about ending this issue. “My primary thing is it victimizes people and it targets women and children . . . it’s a long term thing, working with women, but, [you] begin to see them as more and more victimized, objectified and treated as a commodity, and that is morally wrong. If you look at the Catholic social teaching, or the scriptures, or anything, it will tell you we should treat each other with respect and dignity, and that is not happening,” said Sister Jeanne. “It’s just violent, and it’s wrong. It has lifelong implications, even when we can get them out, it takes a long time for them to heal and to be well . . . They are amazingly strong people when they survive.”
She added that it’s important to raise awareness on ending human trafficking. “When I speak with students, in particular, our goal is to know what it is, know what to do in order to avoid [it], know what your risks are and then how to avoid getting lured into it . . . It’s to know, and when you know, you have power. And you can stand up for yourself and say ‘no, I don’t want to get trapped,’” said Sister Jeanne, “the knowledge and the awareness spreads and maybe more people will be prevented in getting into it or [be] helped getting out of it.”
According to Sister Jeanne, the first thing to do if something looks or feels suspicious is to report it to either to law enforcement or FBI. Also, to tell an adult of trust. “Tell somebody who can then deal with it, whether that’s the security guard at the mall, a parent, a teacher or a counselor, an adult that you can trust both in a sense if you are a victim or if you suspect somebody is the victim. If it doesn’t feel right, report it.”
Sister Jeanne concluded that being a voice for others, engaging in advocacy, building awareness, and partnering with people or organizations are great ways people can help end human trafficking.
Several attendees expressed their opinion to the Xavierite about the lecture.
“Sister Jeanne brought up a good point, something that can bring a lot of controversy, but it is in our neighborhood and it is time for us to talk about this problem. Like she said, ‘knowledge is power,’ and hopefully we [will] all come together and work together so that the community can spread the word of knowledge so that the next generation can feel safe in our neighborhood once again,” said, SXU student, Mauricio Diaz.
“I liked the lecture . . . the video was very informative . . . overall, it was a good talk and discussion. I believe that, in Chicago, we as a people are so unaware of [these things] like human trafficking and we become so accustomed to our own lives, and so caught up that we don’t realize others are in danger and other women, especially, are being held in sex labor, so it’s hard,” said Hannah, Mother McAuley High School student.
“I enjoyed the discussion because I felt [Sister Jeanne] informed a lot of information I didn’t know before. She gave a lot of evidence, even though she isn’t from the Chicago area. You can see how she [has] worked a lot with other people in communities. She definitely made us more intelligent on this topic“, said Candace, Mother McAuley High School student.
The hotlines to call regarding human trafficking are:
National Human Trafficking, 1-888-373-7888;
National Domestic Violence, 1-800-799-7233;
911 or local law enforcement.
Senior News Editor