A group of four Missouri State University communication students in collaboration with Stand Against Trafficking hosted an educational event called “Stop Traffick!” on Nov. 18 in Duane G. Meyer Library to raise awareness about human trafficking both locally and nationally.
The students hosted the event as a project for Taleyna Morris’s small group communication class. The “Do Good” project is a semesterly assignment Morris gives to motivate students to get more involved in the Springfield community.
Each group picks a different local non-profit organization to work with. Their projects can be fundraising campaigns, donation drives or educational events.
Stand Against Trafficking, as said on their website, is an organization in Greene County that focuses on educating those in the community about what human trafficking is, how to recognize signs of a trafficking victim and the resources available for trafficking victims.
The group said they found the topic of human trafficking relevant to MSU students because of the university’s proximity to Interstate Highway 49 and the vulnerability for students that comes with living on and around a campus. Traffickers have greater accessibility to individuals that live near interstates and college campuses, due to the easy travel across major cities in a short period of time.
“Cohesively, we think it’s really important to educate ourselves as the next generation of adults that trafficking often happens to marginalized and vulnerable groups of people — men and women,” Mary “Ellie” Maji, a member of the group and senior communication major, said.
The event began with a 23-minute documentary titled “Chosen,” presented by Stand Against Trafficking. It follows the true stories of two young women who faced human trafficking, one of which was a college-aged part-time waitress who met her trafficker while working.
The documentary hit home for Hannah Jones, a member of the group and senior communication major.
“I, like many other college-aged young women, wait as a part-time job.” Jones said. “I think the documentary is relatable in a way that makes human trafficking personal for our attendees.”
Following the event, Dawn Day, chair of Stand Against Trafficking, gave a supplemental presentation to the documentary. The presentation discussed how the documentary related to MSU students and ways of becoming more aware about trafficking in Springfield’s community, such as the more subtle forms of trafficking. Grooming is an example of this and is a preparatory process of gaining someone’s trust to exploit them.
The group said they were grateful for Dawn’s involvement, positivity, and initiative in being part of their team.
“We are very thankful for Dawn’s generosity and commitment to our event, because it truly could not have happened without her,” Maji said.
Dawn was part of a discussion panel that followed the presentation where she discussed her time working as an emergency trauma center nurse at Mercy Hospital, as it related to trafficking.
Also included on the discussion panel was Missouri State Highway Patrolmen, Lt. Daniel Banasik, and Rachael Herrington assistant professor of psychology and co-founder of Stand Against Trafficking. Banasik discussed the legal signs and consequences of human trafficking. Herrington discussed the psychological signs and consequences of it.
Maji hopes students gain a greater awareness from this event to the trafficking that happens around them.
“It takes a community effort to create and maintain a lasting solution to a problem as insidious and encompassing as human trafficking,” Maji said. “This starts with education and connection.”
Jones hopes the event will make people be more confident in their assumptions that something isn’t right and have the courage to intervene or reach out.
“I think we’ve all seen situations that look suspicious — whether in our own friend groups or downtown at night, but we brush them off, because we don’t want to come off as paranoid or overbearing,” Jones said. “We don’t want to be the boy-who-cried-wolf. I hope that at the very least, people will stop and pay attention to those situations, even if it’s for two more seconds.”
Overall, the group hopes this event engaged students at MSU on a personal level. They are excited to hear the outcomes for other groups and the impact the projects have cumulatively had on the Springfield community.