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STOP to host 4th annual human trafficking conference

Dylan Dewit

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Carissa Phelps speaks to an audience at a 2014 STOP event. Phelps will be speaking and offering a free training on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Courtney Hudson

STOP, a Chico State organization committed to informing the community about human trafficking, will kick off its 4th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week conference Monday.

STOP President Courtney Hudson, a junior sociology major, has orchestrated the week-long event before.

The conference will include speeches from three survivors of sex trafficking, numerous accounts from law enforcement officials from state and local levels and a presentation from author Kelsey Timmerman. His books give insight on how slave labor connects to people’s daily lives through the clothing and food they purchase.

“Human Trafficking Awareness Week is extremely important,” Hudson said. “It definitely applies to our everyday lives.”

Hudson said that the events can help people realize that human trafficking is occurring closer to home than many think. She mentioned the bust of an alleged brothel in Chico in 2013 as an example.

“It’s important that people know about it,” she said. “People try to cope with the idea of human trafficking by acting like it’s only happening elsewhere because you don’t want to think either about your friends, your younger sister or, if you have kids, you don’t want to imagine them being in that situation. This event can help bring awareness.”

Monday’s events include a screening of the musical documentary “Call + Response” followed by a demonstration of slaveryfootprint.org, a website designed to calculate the amount of slave labor used to produce consumer goods.

“It puts into perspective how maybe just wearing a different shirt that’s fair trade can actually make an impact on other people in the world,” Hudson said.

Tuesday will offer perspectives from several law enforcement officers from the FBI to Chico State’s University Police. The officials will share their experiences with human trafficking and hold a panel discussion with the audience.

“It’s really interesting to be able to ask officials high and low in government about the same topic,” Hudson said. “People really like that day.”

Wednesday will include an exciting addition to STOP’s annual events: a training session provided by non-profit CEO, author of “Runaway Girl” and sex trafficking survivor, Carissa Phelps. Phelps will also speak about her experiences with human trafficking.

Shamere McKenzie and Keisha Head will talk about being trafficked in the U.S. during college.

“She’s the most amazing speaker I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hudson said, noting McKenzie’s unfortunately unique and personal insight into the world of sex trafficking.

McKenzie is now CEO of non-profit organization Sun Gate Foundation and will be providing services to trafficking victims.

Friday, journalist and keynote speaker Kelsey Timmerman will share his experiences traveling through global clothing and food economies.

All events will be held in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday’s events begin 6:30 p.m., while Wednesday’s training session starts 6 p.m.

Hudson hopes the week will influence people to think more conscientiously about human trafficking.

“I’ve now dedicated my life to something that is bigger than myself,” she said. “I can only hope that this week will spark that same activism in other people through our conference.”

Dylan de Wit can be reached at [email protected] or @DylanTdeWit on Twitter.

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STOP to host 4th annual human trafficking conference