A new registered student organization is dedicated to educating its members and the UA community about the warning signs and dangers of human trafficking.
Human trafficking, a type of modern-day slavery, involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some form of labor or commercial sex acts, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Senior Chloe Junkerman founded the RSO Students Against Human Trafficking after taking a criminology course on human trafficking in spring 2021. By taking the class, she stumbled upon her life’s passion, Junkerman said.
Junkerman is majoring in criminology, interned in the human trafficking department of the UA Terrorism Research Center in spring 2021, and works with trafficking victims directly through the nonprofit support organization Hub of Hope.
Junkerman worked throughout November to register the group as an RSO that she hopes will provide students with important information on human trafficking.
“As a college student, I didn’t know anything about human trafficking before I took that class, and it’s not open to all students because it’s a criminology course,” Junkerman said.
There have been a total of 1,325 contacts with the National Human Trafficking Hotline regarding human trafficking in Arkansas since 2007, according to the Polaris Project. Of reports, 601 included a “high” level of indicators that someone had been trafficked, while 579 had a “moderate” level.
Most trafficking reported in Arkansas is labor trafficking, which made up 64% of worldwide trafficking in 2017, according to the International Labor Organization. While sex trafficking is often the most well-known form of exploitation, only 19% of global trafficking is sexual, and 16% is state-imposed labor.
Jordyn Moore, a freshman, joined the RSO to be more involved in the UA campus community and to gain knowledge for her future career, she said. Moore is majoring in psychology, and wants to work with people with post traumatic stress disorder.
“I think that learning more about (human trafficking) and what people go through would help me help other people,” Moore said.
Moore also hopes to learn more about trafficking and volunteer opportunities to help victims in Northwest Arkansas, she said.
“I’m wanting to make sure that the RSO I join I’m passionate about, and can learn a lot about it and try to make a difference. It’s a bigger picture kind of thing, and not just (being) involved around campus,” Moore said.
New RSO member Justin Dutrisac, a sophomore, is majoring in political science and plans on going to law school. Through Students Against Human Trafficking, Dutrisac hopes to raise awareness about forced labor within the U.S. prison system.
Although the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished chattel slavery, it includes an exception for prison labor. Those convicted of crimes can be forced to work within their carceral institutions for little or no pay.
“It’s just such an important issue that’s still ongoing,” Dutrisac said. “There’s still millions of people being trafficked every year. The problem’s not done yet. I think a lot of people think the human trafficking and slavery problem was finished in 1865, but that’s far from the case.”
Junkerman plans to continue working with trafficking victims as long as she can, she said. At Hub of Hope, she helps provide services including safe shelter, personal care items, legal aid and education to victims, and she hopes to continue working with the group while awaiting acceptance into the UA sociology graduate program.
“This year we’ve serviced 30 new clients, all from Northwest Arkansas,” Junkerman said. “All of our victims have been female sex trafficking victims.”
One issue Junkerman focuses on is that many victims do not come forward, so the true number of individuals being trafficked is unknown. People can help by knowing the warning signs and reporting suspicious activity, Junkerman said.
Some warning signs that a person might be a trafficking victim include the appearance of malnourishment, physical injuries, avoidance of eye contact, tattoos or branding on the neck and being unable to speak for oneself, according to the Polaris Project. If people suspect someone might be trafficked, they can report it to local authorities or call the Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.
“You probably won't automatically see anything come of it, but try to get as many details as you can without harming the victim,” Junkerman said. “You don’t want to try to separate the victim and their trafficker, because that very well may get you killed or the victim killed.”