MU School of Social Work assistant professor highlights how universities could help human trafficking problem

Kathleen Preble elaborates on human trafficking in the state and worldwide problems in addressing the situation.

Human trafficking persists throughout the U.S., according to Kathleen Preble. Students piled into the Women’s Center on Oct. 9 to listen to her lecture.

Preble, an assistant professor at the MU School of Social Work, shed light on the issue and highlighted the need for universities to step up to prevent trafficking. Her lecture was inspired by a paper she published on the same topic in Sept. 2018.

Human trafficking has two main categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines trafficking as “obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

According to Preble’s lecture, statistics from Missouri in 2017 show that out of the victims surveyed, 83% experienced sex trafficking, 5% labor trafficking and 12% experienced both types. The highest group experiencing human trafficking were individuals between the ages of 15 to 25.

Yet, new information and data keep being discovered in this constantly evolving study of trafficking.

“We have a long way to go in [understanding] trafficking,” Preble said.

Preble reveals that statistics concerning human trafficking are often misleading because they are not always verified by evidence. Data always depends on the methods used to collect it and statistics are often underrepresented or generalized.

However, researchers do know that many problems occur for victims when they lack services to help them recover from abuse.

“There may be hundreds of miles between a survivor and services they need,” Preble said.

Preble said that institutions of higher education need to be held responsible for the prevention of human trafficking, the protection of victims or possible victims and the prosecution of perpetrators. Young adults are often trafficked through interpersonal violence within relationships, making it difficult for victims to leave their situations. IHEs could support these individuals through safe environments, financial stability and service to their surrounding communities.

However, colleges and universities do not have many policies or legislation to guide them through the process of helping trafficking survivors. Preble recommends clear and consistent definitions of terminology, up-to-date Title IX administration, established policies for off-campus incidents and training for all students and faculty.

Part of the problem is a lack of consistent professional training. Many institutions offer their services across the state and country, but there is no official standard for training. This results in a lack of professional high-quality training and services.

According to Preble’s lecture, estimates on victims of human trafficking vary from 12.3 to 27 million worldwide and the practice generates anywhere from $15 billion to $150 billion for traffickers.

Edited by Ben Scott |

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