Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln might lead you to believe that slavery ended with the 13th Amendment.
A seminar in Morristown on Saturday will dispel that notion.
“Here in the states we like to think that we abolished slavery. But it’s happening right here in our backyard,” said Ryan Smith, the Presbyterian representative to the United Nations.
He is among the speakers scheduled to talk about human trafficking, from 9 am to noon on Dec. 1 in the Presbyterian Parish House at 65 South St. What Can You Do about the Problem of Human Trafficking? is free and all are invited.
At any given time 2.5 million people around the world are in forced labor, including sexual exploitation, according to the United Nations. Global annual profits are estimated at $31.6 billion. Prosecutions are rare: For every 800 people trafficked in 2006, only one person was convicted.
Local groups are trying to raise awareness in advance of the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey. By some estimates, more than 10,000 sex workers were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, has introduced a bill that would impose $25,000 fines, on top of jail terms, for anyone convicted of crimes linked to human trafficking. The fines would create an assistance fund for survivors of human trafficking. A representative of the assemblywoman is scheduled to speak on Saturday, along with Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi.
Some 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking were reported in New Jersey between 2005 and last March, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.
The seminar has special meaning for Cynthia Alloway, associate pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. As a forensic nurse, she served for three years as coordinator of the Morris prosecutor’s Sexual Assault Response Team, where she collected evidence from victims of sexual abuse.
“The most vulnerable people in our country are taken advantage of the most–teenaged runaways, immigrants, and those in need of assistance,” Cynthia said.
“Here in the U.S. the most easily trafficked people are those brought in from other countries and tricked into thinking they are getting a good job here,” she said. “Then their documentation is taken away and they are told they have to pay back the person who transported them here to get their documents back. So they are made to ‘work off’ their debt that never seems to end. In this process they are made to fear the police and government authority.”
Saturday’s speakers will share advice on how to notice signs of human trafficking, and how to respond. The website SlaveryFootprint.org also shows how savvy consumer choices can reduce support for trafficking practices.