Eastern Michigan University’s Mentorship Access Guidance in College and Unmasked: Looking Beneath the Surface programs held a video and discussion night on Thursday in Marshall.
Members from both programs discussed human trafficking, prostitution, homelessness and foster care with the 14 attendees. They showed video clips on the subjects, followed by a question and answer session.
MAGIC is a support program that helps increase the graduation rates of students who have experienced foster care or homelessness by removing barriers that might interfere with their academic success and independence. Unmasked is a student led movement to end and prevent modern day slavery.
Joi Rencher, MAGIC coordinator and head independent living skills coach, was inspired to work with college students after working with young people who became homeless after foster care. She said she feels that it’s important that all students are aware of the issue of human trafficking and encourages students to educate others.
“Anybody can be vulnerable to it,” she said. “It’s something that’s new as far as being recognized as a crime. Hopefully it will help students learn to recognize signs. Have an open discussion about youth and foster care and how it relates to human trafficking. Administrators and students on campus should educate themselves on the needs of students at the university who might be in this situation.”
Sarah Eicher, the treasurer of Unmasked, shared a video from journalist Nicholas Kristoff and Diane Sawyer’s Nightline special which focuses on prostitution and human trafficking. The video showed how pimps look for young women and where they hide.
She also touched on the reasons young people would be pressured to get involved in human trafficking. She said children who feel unloved at home feel the need to feel so elsewhere. They never had a warm family unit and will be motivated to stay because the traffickers will give that to them.
The discussion ended with Brittany Bartowiak, State of Opportunity outreach producer and EMU graduate, showing a video clip.
The clip showed a child being picked up by a female trafficker in the Netflix show, “Orange is the New Black.” The clip was meant to highlight the different techniques that traffickers use to get their victims to feel comfortable being approached.
Officer Cathy Wilman from EMU’s Department of Public Safety said she was really pleased with the discussion and feels that everyone can benefit from it.
“I was really happy to see people discuss how foster care and vulnerabilities that lead to the people being trafficked,” she said. “At the end, they gave simple things that you can do to combat human trafficking. I like to connect to people who have a different background but same passion. I think it’s something that affects all aspects of society and something that everyone can do to combat it.”
Teresa Reimer, a nurse practitioner from Rindler and Reddy, attended with Wilman. She enjoyed learning new information and loved seeing the examples.
“They kept it interesting with multimedia and discussions,” she said. “I appreciated observing the personal stories of people being affected. I saw how people overcame difficult situations and can help others. The best way to address these issues is through personal connections so the more people who are aware of these issues, the more people we can help.”