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Human Trafficking Center

Perspectives on Human Trafficking Conference Recap


Feb 2015



by Ashley Greve, Associate Director of Advocacy 

In 2010, President Barack Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Each January since, those engaged in the fight against modern slavery have taken advantage of the additional attention bestowed upon the issue to raise awareness and engage a new cohort of potential activists.

For our part, the University of Denver spent months cultivating campus-wide support, reaching out to area organizations and nonprofits, and working alongside the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the National Consortium for Academics and Sport (NCAS). The result was a two-day conference entitled Perspectives on Human Trafficking. Funded by the Fetzer Institute, the conference was part of a broader effort called Shut Out Trafficking, which has been taking place at several universities across the U.S.

Based on attendance and feedback, DU’s first campus-wide collaborative effort in the anti-human trafficking movement can be called a great success! Comments from conference attendees noted learning about new (and underrepresented) perspectives on the issue, while several participants expressed that the topical information presented had more depth and variety than other conferences on human trafficking regularly held across Colorado.

What made the Perspectives on Human Trafficking Conference different? We believe it was the wide variety of issues and narratives presented by a diverse range of speakers, who included:

  • Dr. Yvonne Zimmerman, author of the book Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex, and Human Trafficking. Dr. Zimmerman presented an interesting narrative on liberal Christian theology and its approaches to anti-slavery work.
  • Amanda De Lisio, from the University of Toronto, gave an overview of her research into the ways that anti-trafficking policies in Brazil had unexpectedly adverse implications for sex workers.
  • Dr. Julie Laser from DU’s Graduate School of Social Work co-presented with her colleague Ida Seiferd on clinical approaches to working with victims and survivors.
  • Attorney, professor and author T. Markus Funke demonstrated ways that bills regulating business supply chains mitigate the risk of forced labor used by sub-suppliers.
  • Dr. AJ Alejano-Steele from Denver’s Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking presented the research behind Colorado’s Statewide Action Plan to combat trafficking and slavery.
  • Becky Owens Bullard, Project Manager for the Denver Anti-Trafficking Alliance, discussed the nexus between intimate partner violence and human trafficking, which has received relatively little attention in the broader anti-slavery movement.
  • Emily Pasnak-Lapchick spoke about UNICEF’s efforts made both internationally and within the U.S. to combat child trafficking and labor exploitation.
  • DU’s own Human Trafficking Center, which played a major part in planning and implementing the event, discussed the factors that make a verbal or visual representation of slavery helpful or exploitative. (See this blog post from January 2014 for an idea of what the discussion included.)

A full list of the speakers and topics covered at the conference can be found here.

Perhaps most importantly, DU was able to pool its resources, identify key actors engaged or interested in anti-trafficking work, and connect those actors to other like-minded individuals. By identifying and connecting both current and future activists, we hope that the movement will gain strength and momentum and that disjointed and duplicative efforts can be consolidated into important collaborations that efficiently manage resources and provide comprehensive solutions.

As the old adage goes, there lies strength in numbers. Having done our part to raise awareness of the issue for National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we hope that conference participants and others will continue to actively engage with the anti-human trafficking movement every month of the year. This is our primary goal in moving toward a sustainable, comprehensive set of programs and policies to Shut Out Trafficking.


Photo: Dr. Yvonne Zimmerman presents her the findings of her research to conference attendees.


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