By Jessica Bogie
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – On Nov. 10, 2011, Camden County College welcomed the long-awaited honors in action conference on the scourge of human trafficking in the digital age, hosted by Phi Theta Kappa’s Alpha Nu Mu chapter.
The event was mainly organized by the chapter’s co-presidents, Marcus Biddle and Wendy Gallagher. The evening conference at 7 p.m. welcomed guest speakers Kim Sykes from the Coalition against Trafficking in Women and Kaitlyn Keisel-Stagnone and Cristal Solorio from the Polaris Project.
Sykes from CATW stated that the top six sex trafficking websites online bring in $33.5 million annually, and on one of the sex sites, called Backpage.com, more than 1,000 minors are being advertised for rent. Sykes stated that, “If we want the trafficking to end then men have to take back their sexuality from the pornographers.”
Keisel-Stagnone from the Polaris Project shared that traffickers will often use sites like Facebook, Craigslist and Backpage.com to start relationships with vulnerable girls. “According to FBI records in 2008, 2,800 underaged girls were posted on Craigslist offering sex for money,” stated Stagnone.
Solorio, also from the Polaris Project, showed a 10-minute video clip of the sex trafficking taking place in Washington, D.C. The video depicted the physical and verbal abuse from the pimp to his prostitutes. The pimps were caught on camera beating, cursing and physically dominating their prostitutes. “The video is raw, violent and controlling. It’s the reality of pimping in the sex trafficking business,” said Solorio.
The two women from the Polaris Project also told the story of a girl named Vanessa who at 13 was lured into the sex trafficking business through Facebook. Vanessa spent five years in captivity being forced to have sexual intercourse with 21 men a day. When the Polaris Project found Vanessa, she was overworked and malnourished. Since then, however, Vanessa received her GED and is attending college. “Our goal is to look beyond the labels that prostitutes receive and give them the opportunity at a better life,” said Solorio.
At the conclusion of the conference, one viewer and visiting student from Atlantic Cape Community College, Kyle Newcomb, said, “If they really want to fix sex trafficking in America, then illegal immigration needs to end, since that is where some of these traffickers are coming from, and our education system needs to start teaching kids as early as sixth grade about sex trafficking awareness and the dangers of social networking websites.”