Lamont Hiebert, an advocate against sex trafficking, told students Thursday evening that child slavery and sex trafficking occurs not only in Africa but also in Connecticut.
Hiebert, co-founder of Love146, a non-profit that seeks to prevent sex trafficking and child slavery, led a presentation in William L. Harkness Hall for seven students about his organization’s work in a Sex Week 2012 event. He said educating the general public about trafficking is essential in the fight to eradicate it.
“We need to change the mindset that slavery is not abolished,” he said, adding that there are an estimated 27 million victims of domestic servitude or commercial sex throughout the world.
In America, he said, some victims of trafficking have been transported from Haiti to Connecticut, or from Asia to New York. Two children are sold into human trafficking every minute, Hiebert said, often after being threatened or misled with fictitious job offers. The Central Intelligence Agency expects the monetary gains from human trafficking to surpass the profits made from drug and arms cartels in the next 10 years, he added.
Hiebert said gender and race discrimination often inhibits awareness and policing of sexual trafficking.
“We live in a culture of exploitation,” he said. “If you can rescue a child, that is amazing, but if you can prevent an occurrence, that is even better.”
The efforts of Hiebert’s organization, Love146, have included education programs about sex trafficking and violence for high school students in Connecticut, the launching of a magazine in Eastern Europe that addresses sex trafficking and the construction of wells in Africa to ensure children do not have to travel far from home for subsistence, risking abduction by traffickers.
Once abducted, escaping is often incredibly difficult for victims, he said, though Love146 has seen many instances when victims has been rescued. He added that many trafficking cartels “break in” young women with pornography before introducing them into forced prostitution.
“The problem with going to a sex show or buying sex — including porn — [is that] it’s impossible to tell who’s a victim or who’s there on their own,” he said.
Paul Holmes ’13, co-director of Sex Week, said Hiebert was invited to speak because “ultimately you need to show the stakes of not talking about sex.”
The talk ran 30 minutes past its scheduled end time, as audience members discussed with Hiebert their thoughts and questions about the sex trafficking culture. Catherine Osborn ’12, who attended the event, said she found it helpful to hear about ways to address sex trafficking, adding that distinguishing between prostitution and trafficking can at times be difficult.
Founded in 2002, Love146 is headquartered in Connecticut and has bases throughout the Middle East, East Asia and Eastern Europe.