Law students bring awareness to human traficking

Alexis Cervantes, Contributing Writer

Future lawyers discussed stereotypes around human trafficking, underreporting problems and strategies to help those who became victims.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP), a student-led organization raising awareness about human trafficking in Connecticut, provided the training for students on Oct. 15, at Quinnipiac University’s Buckman Theater. Its purpose was to help the community dismiss previous misconceptions about trafficking and understand ways to address it.

Brittany Bogle, Gabrielle Anastasio, Kaylyn Fagan, Marina Siegel and Maggie Richardson (left to right) hosted a panel to discuss human trafficking. (Alexis Cervantes/Chronicle)

Brittany Bogle, a second-year law student, began by discussing common stereotypes when it comes to victims of trafficking. She said people often associate women as the main victims, but trafficking can happen to anyone. 

“There’s not just one single profile for someone who’s being trafficked,” Bogle said. 

The reason for this common misunderstanding is because not all trafficking crimes are reported, Bogle said.

Statistics from the Department of Children and Families show that women are trafficked at higher rates, but the numbers are skewed due to the unreported cases that occur every year among men. They are less likely to report their circumstances to authorities because of preconceived stereotypes for men, Bogle said. 

Despite the discrepancies in reported cases, the basis of human trafficking falls under the same categories for everyone. For a person to be trafficked, there needs to be one out of three factors present: the use of force, fraud or coercion. 

Maggie Richardson, a first-year law student, said these can manifest as the use of violence, lies or threats. She said this leads to traffickers normally targeting people’s soft spots.

“For example, they’ll often take advantage of people who don’t have citizenship,” said Gabrielle Anastasio, a second-year law student. 

This is how traffickers execute their intentions. They coerce people into trafficking rings with the promise of eventually obtaining citizenship. It’s a benefit to the traffickers since undocumented people are less likely to report any crimes against them for fear of repercussions, per Richardson. 

“What traffickers tend to take advantage of are vulnerabilities,” Richardson said. 

In order to help those that have fallen victim to trafficking, the HTPP informed students of potential signs to look out for. These include people suddenly having more money, obtaining valuable possessions and being more secretive with those they know and many more. 

If these signs are displayed by someone, the HTPP advises to not directly intervene but to report it. Directly approaching the victim may do more harm, because they may not be aware of their circumstances.

“Some people who are trafficked don’t realize that they are being trafficked in the moment,” Marina Siegel, training co-chair of HTPP, said. 

Personally interfering could also lead to unwanted consequences for those wanting to help.

“Report it, leave it to the professionals,” Richardson said. “You could be put in danger and targeted too.”

When approaching victims of trafficking, Bogle said body language is just as important to make sure the victims feel comfortable and to avoid singling them out. 

“Think before you speak and think before you act,” Bogle said. “Be very mindful of your body language.”

When a victim is telling their story and confiding in someone that displays distraught behaviors, it can lead to the victim feeling as though what happened to them is their fault Bogle said. 

With a basic understanding of the purpose and signs of human trafficking, Kaylyn Fagan, executive chairwoman of HTPP, says that talking with others about their knowledge of the subject is useful in increasing awareness.

Fagan encouraged students that attended to use the information presented to continue spreading awareness about human trafficking.