Students targeted for sex work

December 8, 2016

“I was kidnapped and gang raped,” said Kate Transchel, a human trafficking survivor and Chico State Russian history professor. “There are a lot of women on this campus that have had similar kinds of experiences. It’s hidden in plain sight.”

Transchel is also the advisor of Stop Trafficking of Persons.

STOP is the main organization in Chico dedicated to spreading the awareness of human trafficking in the community.

Human Trafficking is defined by the Polaris Project as a form of modern slavery, in which all trafficking victims share one common experience: the loss of freedom.

“I think a lot of people are aware of the issue,” said STOP President Michaela Rhine. “It’s the lack of talking about it and recognizing that it needs to be talked about.”

There have been cases both public and private that occur in Chico. There are even victims on the Chico State campus, according to Rhine.

“I myself am a survivor of sexual abuse,” Transchel said. “I want to take the stigma out of that. It is something that happens to us and people need to be aware, not be ashamed.”

One of the biggest obstacles of the issue is the lack of awareness regarding sex trafficking and people not realizing they’re being trafficked.

Transchel said some people don’t realize they are victims.

“They think they are stupid, maybe they have been raped, maybe they are domestic violence victims, but not too many people think they are victims of human trafficking,” she said.

Those that traffic look for specific signs. The average age is anywhere from 12 to 14, and are generally women and those who show signs of vulnerability, which is as simple as not making eye contact with the trafficker.

There are also different forms of trafficking. It can be anything from debt bondage, work labor, domestic labor and other services against the victim’s will. It’s not necessarily places to stay away from but people to be aware of, according to Transchel.

However, it is hard to point out people who traffic because they can be a friend or a boyfriend.

These instances occur under our noses every day. There are 13 erotic massage parlors in Chico where Asian women are forced into prostitution against their will, Transchel said.

Students who are away from home the first time and who are drinking massive amounts of alcohol are prime. They get swept up into something before they realize it and they get trapped”

— Kathy Transchel

“Chico PD and the FBI are very aware of them,” Transchel said.

However, since these women won’t admit they are being trafficked or in danger, law enforcement can’t do anything about it. Most of these victims have been threatened along with their friends or family members.

Young college students are also targets of this crime.

“Students who are away from home the first time and who are drinking massive amounts of alcohol are prime. They get swept up into something before they realize it and they get trapped,” Transchel said. “Here on campus, I would say there is a surprising number of women who are trafficked. We have confirmed reports from a number of sources that students have been given pills that they think are Adderall, when in fact they are actually fentanyl.”

According to, fentanyl is “one of the strongest opiate drugs on the market.”

Human trafficking is a life changing event, according to Rhine.

“If someone is saved once, if someone hears the information or even if someone comes up and says they are a victim, then that is enough,” Rhine said. “If you can save one, you know you’re doing the right thing.”

Paying attention to your surroundings and to the signs can not only save your life but the lives of others around you, Transchel said.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked or you have suspicion of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-373-7888.

Kyla Linville can be reached at [email protected] or @kyla_linville on Twitter.



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