Human trafficking is a widespread issue that requires people to fight from where they are with what they have, Mandy Bristol-Leverett said on Dec. 12 in a lecture entitled "Abolishing Modern-Day Slavery." Bristol-Leverett is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
“What if I told you, ‘the number one weapon we have to fight human trafficking is you’?” Bristol-Leverett asked. Bristol-Leverett is also Founder and Executive Director of the Church and Community Abolition Network, and a sub-committee member of the Attorney General’s New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force.
Bristol-Leverett stated that there are many misconceptions about human trafficking.
“The majority of victims were born here,” she said. The State Department estimates this figure at 83 percent.
“You know, you see movies [like Taken], and it’s not like that. You don’t even have to cross state lines,” Bristol-Leverett said, sharing a story about a teenage girl who was sexually trafficked by men in her own neighborhood in New Jersey.
Bristol-Leverett shared that these revelations are often a call to action, as represented by a quote from a video entitled “Faces of Human Trafficking,” which she shared during the lecture.
One way to combat the issue, Bristol-Leverett said, is to know the signs and be ready to report. An awareness poster she presented had a list of hand-written nouns that represent a New Jersey minor’s possible avenues of entry into human trafficking.
“School, library, app, boyfriend, sleepover, foster parent, house of worship, coach,” were listed as potential dangers. Following the list was a message encouraging people to be aware.
She added that sex trafficking can also take the form of pornography, forced prostitution, forced stripping, or even an act of war.
“The majority of pornography available today is an abuse of people who aren’t free,” Bristol-Leverett said. “There are certain strip clubs in the U.S. that are known for being connected to trafficking,” she said, adding that she personally knew three people who disappeared after they began stripping.
She also added that there are other kinds of human trafficking besides sexual slavery, including forced begging, child soldiers, organ trafficking, and forced labor.
“If your coffee and chocolate don’t say fair trade on them, you’re most likely tasting slavery,” Bristol-Leverett said.
She informed the audience of the website slaveryfootprint.org, which, after a short survey, “tells [visitors] how many slaves you have working for you.” She clarified, however, that this information is “not supposed to condemn us, it’s supposed to challenge us to ‘vote with our dollars,’ ” and to pursue other ways of combatting human trafficking.
Frishta Abdul Wali ’19, a member of the Princeton Pre-Law Society with an interest in international law, said that she was touched by the lecture.
“I come from Afghanistan, and I know young girls who went through that, and to see a country like the U.S. be in the same position, it’s heartbreaking, because we have the resources and we have the intellectual people,” Abdul Wali said.
Katherine Trout ’19, co-President of Princeton Against Sex Trafficking, was also inspired by the evening’s talk.
“Because modern-day slavery is a continually evolving and developing criminal enterprise, it’s exciting to see how coalitions and organizations against human trafficking are adapting their methods to fight it,” Trout said.
SOAP, or Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, is an annual effort started by a survivor of human trafficking, under the leadership of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, to reach victims where many of them are by writing the national hotline number on bars of soap to reach them.
Bristol-Leverett spoke to roughly a dozen members of Pre-Law Society and Princeton Against Sex Trafficking in East Pyne 23.