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Loyola hosts conference to prevent human trafficking at the New Orleans Super Bowl

October 12, 2012

The New Orleans Super Bowl comes with a dark draw. It’s a magnet for sex trafficking. That’s because at major sporting events, demand for commercial sex acts spikes. Traffickers will move people into the area—bringing with them children who have been induced or forced into the sex trade—to meet the increased demand. To prevent the problem and shed light on an issue that thrives in the shadows, Loyola University New Orleans is hosting a conference Oct. 24 and 27. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees must register online for the full conference day held Oct. 27.

“People aren’t aware of the issue because it’s so hidden,” said conference organizer Sue Weishar, Ph.D., of Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute. “Whether sex trafficking or labor trafficking, it is a despicable, horrific crime that cannot thrive in the light of day.”

Sister Jane Remson, O. Carm., another conference organizer, said the conference will raise awareness about the issue, an important step in helping to prevent it. “It’s a modern day form of slavery; it’s immoral. It’s all the negatives you can think of,” said Remson, director of New Orleans Chapter of Bread for the World, which is headquartered at Loyola’s Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice.

“I don’t think your average person on the street recognizes this. And you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know that it exists.”

The “Preventing Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl and Beyond” conference starts Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Miller Hall, room 114 on Loyola’s main campus. The keynote speaker is Holly Burkhalter of the International Justice Mission, a longtime human rights and government relations expert. The evening will also feature the documentary “Not My Life,” detailing the moving stories of human trafficking victims. Loyola assistant professor and noted human trafficking expert Laura Murphy, Ph.D., will introduce the film.

The full conference day, Oct. 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be held in the St. Charles Room in Loyola’s Danna Student Center. Speakers include U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten and Louisiana Rep. Neil Abramson, among other local and national human trafficking experts. Loyola College of Law professor Hiroko Kusuda will also speak on the immigration law aspect of assisting non-citizen victims of trafficking.

Deena Graves, conference speaker and founder of advocacy organization Traffick911 and the “I’m Not Buying It” campaign, said the issue of human trafficking isn’t just a problem when the Super Bowl comes to town. “This is a year-round problem,” Graves said. “This is an epidemic-proportion crime that happens every day. When the Super Bowl leaves, that problem is still going to be there.”

The problem involves children who are victims of human trafficking, she said. Recently, a 14-year-old girl was rescued in the Dallas area. In 30 days, she was bought and sold in six states.

“Trafficking affects this city each and every day, through sex trafficking of minors, but also in the construction industry and in the entertainment, food and hotel industries as well,” said Murphy from Loyola. For more on preventing trafficking in the New Orleans region, visit the New Orleans Human Trafficking Working Group website at www.nolahumantrafficking.org.

For more information, please contact Loyola’s Associate Director of Public Affairs Mikel Pak at 504-861-5448.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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