As the City of Phoenix dedicated the month of January to human trafficking awareness, a non-profit run by ASU graduates took action on campus.
Saturday marked the end of Human Trafficking Awareness Week at ASU, hosted by the All Walks Project. Throughout the week, the group hosted tabling events, speakers and fundraisers to promote awareness on the issue and to help students get involved.
The All Walks Project is a program based out of ASU that was co-founded by ASU graduates Jasmine Anglen, Jessica Hocken and Erin Schulte. The idea behind the project was born when Anglen attended a conference where a survivor of human trafficking spoke about her experiences.
“As a college millennial we think we are informed, but it was mind blowing,” she said. “I never thought human trafficking happened in the United States.”
Anglen said the issue of human trafficking is more prevalent than many would think. One of the aims of the All Walks Project is to help students who want to get involved find volunteer opportunities.
“In the last few months, we’ve tried to help people get volunteer opportunities at shelters so students can see the impact of what they are doing in their local communities,” she said.
Anglen said the All Walks Project began at ASU three years ago, and has since transformed into a national platform, forming an alliance against human trafficking at 16 universities across the country.
In its first year, Tempe Undergraduate Student Government predicted that the project brought in 20,000 ASU students combined in attendance at events and who either interacted with the group at tabling events on campus or volunteered, Anglen said.
“It has really taken off,” she said.
By its second year, the All Walks team partnered with the McCain Institute to spread the word and bring the program to the other major universities in Arizona. That year, the number of students combined that got involved with All Walks or interacted with the group was predicted to reach 50,000 students, Anglen said.
Social justice graduate Kim Hogan said it is important for students to be aware of this issue. Hogan works alongside ASU Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, researching human trafficking.
Roe-Sepowitz is one of the leading researchers in the nation on sex trafficking intervention and works to promote awareness year-round.
“A lot of traffickers are looking for young individuals," Hogan said. "Many of ASU’s students may be the perfect target, and traffickers will play into their vulnerabilities.”
Hogan said she urged students to always be cautious and vigilant, especially online.
“It’s still an emerging field of knowledge,” she said. “Traffickers do a lot on social media, it isn’t always a kidnapping situation.”
Hogan said awareness of the issue is growing.
“Every day we are building on human trafficking awareness in our community," she said. "Human Trafficking Awareness Month is everyone’s combined effort to do stuff towards that.”
Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring is the chair of the Human Trafficking Awareness Month task force and has worked to promote public safety policies during his time as a state senator.
"If you see something, say something," Waring said. “We are just not going to tolerate this activity in Phoenix.”
Waring said the city approved plans last year for the renovation of an apartment complex to house victims of human trafficking as a part of the Phoenix Starfish Project, a program to help those who have been affected.
“This is not a victimless crime,” Waring said.
Waring said being aware of such an ongoing problem in the United States is the first step to finding a solution.
“Don’t think it can’t happen to you if you aren’t being aware of your actions online, know that it is going on around you, we have to be observant," Waring said.
He said the City of Phoenix is a leader in the nation on fighting human trafficking, while a lot of other big cities have almost abandoned the effort entirely.
“We are trying to be a role model for others,” Waring said.
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