Speaking to a packed house at Marymount University, Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of Polaris Project
and one of the nation’s leading experts on combating human trafficking, outlined the growing problem of modern slavery. He was on campus to give the university’s 2013 GEICO Ethics Lecture and was also presented with the Marymount University Ethics Award by Marymount President Matthew D. Shank.
Myles has been fighting against human trafficking for the past decade and played a key role in building Polaris Project’s national programs that have focused on policy advocacy, training, and services for victims. He also helped create and launch the national human-trafficking hotline, which Polaris manages. The hotline has so far fielded more than 60,000 calls and helped identify nearly 9,000 survivors of trafficking.
While legal slavery was abolished in America at the end of the Civil War, coercion and control of human beings continues; it’s just not as visible. Explaining that modern slavery is the “loss of freedom to control one’s own destiny,” Myles pointed out that victims include children and adults forced into the sex trade, as well laborers coerced into working against their will on farms and in factories, homes, and restaurants. Coercion can take many forms, including psychological and financial, as well as force.
The problem is huge, and it’s present in our communities. Myles explained, “Less than 1% of victims are being identified today.” He added, “You can play a role in helping to identify survivors of modern-day slavery. We need eyes and ears in the community. The police depend on society to notify them.”
Myles also urged the audience to think about products they buy and to ask, “Why are they so cheap?” He said, “Slavery is in the supply chain. Our lifestyle may be propped up on slave labor. All of us can play a role through our buying power.”
Asking that the audience not be overwhelmed by the size of the problem, Myles pointed out that there have been successes in recent years. When Polaris started, there were no specific laws against human trafficking; today 49 of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have such laws in place. And the last state will shortly. The national human-trafficking hotline was created by Congress, and more non-profits are combating the issue.
Yet, there is so much more to do in the fight for people’s dignity and equality. Joining Bradley Myles in this effort are Sister Kathleen Kanet, RSHM, and Sr. Virginia Dorgan, RSHM, of the Network for Peace through Dialogue
. They were also at Marymount to help raise awareness of modern slavery and explained that human trafficking is big business, generating $32 billion a year and affecting more than 12 million people. The Sisters called on the Marymount community to spread the word and help find solutions.
At Marymount, faculty and students are researching the issue. In fact, Dr. Angel Daniels, assistant professor of Psychology, has graduate forensic psychology students assisting with her ongoing research on human trafficking in the US and abroad. She asked how students and professors could learn to be effective abolitionists.
Myles said that more customer research is needed. For example: What concerns might people have about calling the hotline with a tip? Are they worried about being a witness? In addition, there is currently no scientific description of a “trafficked-person syndrome,” as there is for battered-woman syndrome and Stockholm syndrome. He posed the question, “What happens when a person is bought and sold as an object?”
Raising awareness is key to bringing modern slavery into the light, where it can be eradicated, and survivors can reclaim their lives.NATIONAL HOTLINE FOR VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The hotline provides a lifeline for victims – a point of contact for rescue. RESOURCESPolaris Project
National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Network for Peace through Dialogue
1 – Bradley Myles
2 – Karin Tovar, who is pursuing a master’s in clinical mental health counseling, asks a question about therapy programs for survivors of trafficking.
3 – (left to right) Bradley Myles; Ramandeep Gulati ʼ14, a nursing major; Dr. Matthew D. Shank, president of Marymount; Bob Brown ʼ15, a Communications major; Yvonne Kabia ʼ13, a nursing major; and Matthew Powell ʼ15, a criminal justice major
4 – President Shank presents Bradley Myles with the Marymount University Ethics Award.
5 – Sr. Virginia Dorgan, RSHM, explains the extent of the human trafficking problem, as Sr. Kathleen Kanet, RSHM, looks on. Both are with the Network for Peace through Dialogue.