Disciplines Join Together to Educate and Advocate for End of Human Trafficking

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Human trafficking, the illegal trade of human beings for sexual or labor exploitation, is often overlooked and underestimated. However, according to the International Organization for Migration, cases of child and adult human trafficking continue to rise globally. To combat this public health issue and human rights abuse, the College of Nursing, School of Law and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences came together to create a multidisciplinary Human Trafficking course open to graduate students and undergraduate students with permission.

They hope to end human trafficking by educating healthcare providers in both hospital and community settings, as well as assist school nurses and educators to see their roles in prevention and identification of victims. The course was devel­oped by Professor Linda Copel, PhD, RN (College of Nursing), along with Professor Michele Pistone (School of Law) and Billie Murray, PhD (Dept. of Communication, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). One purpose of the course was to educate nurses and inform a local legislative representative about the health issues of victims, the laws related to human trafficking and the best practices used to respond to the diverse needs of victims.

As part of the course, students attended a human traf­ficking lecture focused on the streets of Philadelphia with Special Agents Rosemarie Vesci and Michael Goodhue from the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Penn­sylvania, Michelle Morgan, JD, ’97 VLS, adjunct professor of Law at Villanova.

“When I first started working this I didn’t really understand what they meant by ‘juvenile prostitution,’” Vesci says. “To me this was something that happened in Thailand, not in the United States.”

“Their idea of being taken care of is staying in a trashy hotel room and eating fast food occasionally,” Goodhue says. “But for a lot of these girls, the alternative is staying with [family] that abuses or molests them and not eating at all.”

In turn, the interdisciplinary course participants spread the wisdom gained from the curriculum to the University and local community. Students spoke on campus about human trafficking in a panel discussion on trafficking people with disabilities and the role of school nurses in preventing domestic minor sex trafficking.

The course – which will be offered again in fall 2013 – helped raise awareness of this critical issue for future Villanova nurses and other interested students from different academic disciplines who will be able to go into the community and make a difference in lives impacted by trafficking.