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Professor, students embark on research effort to aid anti-human trafficking efforts in New Orleans

June 21, 2013

Laura Murphy, Ph.D.

New Orleans has long been suspected as a hub for human trafficking, but no current research sheds light on the real size of the problem. Without that, efforts to address both sex and labor trafficking are often scattered, underfunded and disorganized. That’s according to Loyola University New Orleans professor Laura Murphy, Ph.D., who, armed with a new $3,000 fellowship, is on a mission to combat human trafficking in the city.

“In New Orleans, we have very little statistical evidence of what is happening in terms of human trafficking,” Murphy said. “Human trafficking victims are a hidden population. No census can adequately capture a population that is being employed and transported illegally and might also be performing illegal work. These are not folks who come out everyday and say, ‘count me.’”

Murphy’s community engagement fellowship, provided by Loyola’s Office of Service Learning, will help lay the groundwork for filling that void. Murphy and undergraduate student researchers including junior Saramaile Tate and alumnus Brian Ea ‘12, are collecting evidence of human trafficking in the Crescent City, culminating in a white paper detailing a collection of anecdotal information and cases from the last 10 years.

“This type of engaged scholarship is not only about the community or community issues, but is conducted with and for the community; that is, in collaborative partnership with community-based organizations who have meaningful roles in the knowledge-production work and also a stake in the results of the research,” said Kelly Brotzman, director of the Office of Service Learning.

For example, that evidence will arm law enforcement officials, faith-based support groups and other community organizations as they work to combat human trafficking in the city. The project funded by the community engagement fellowship will also help jumpstart the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola—a collaborative research effort between students and faculty to provide relevant and timely research that will support the work to combat forced labor happening in the region.

“Nobody really comprehends the big picture. Loyola can contribute a thoughtful, data-driven approach that the movement really needs,” Murphy said.

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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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