Vulnerable Populations Symposium Explores Multibillion Dollar Industry of Human Trafficking

The ninth Annual McGinley-Rice Symposium on Justice for Vulnerable Populations will examine human trafficking, a $150 billion industry worldwide. Hosted by the Duquesne University School of Nursing, The Face of the Person Who Has Been Trafficked will be held this Thursday, Oct. 25, and Friday, Oct. 26, in the Power Center Ballroom.

According to Polaris, a leader in the global fight against human trafficking, there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally; 81 percent are trapped in forced labor, 25 percent are children and 75 percent are women and girls.

Some other stark facts include:

  • In 2016, one out of six endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely sex-trafficking victims.
  • In the last 10 years, more than 40,000 cases have been reported via the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the Polaris BeFree Textline.
  • In 2017, Pennsylvania had the ninth-highest reported cases of human trafficking in the United States.

"Human trafficking is an international, multibillion-dollar business. But, what a lot of people here in America don't realize is that it happens in the United States-there's almost like an ignorance or naivete," said symposium coordinator Sister Rosemary Donley, S.C., who is the Jacques Laval Endowed Chair for Justice for Vulnerable Populations in Duquesne's nursing school. "The victims of trafficking often end up in a very, very painful, traumatic lifestyle that makes them sick-both mentally and physically-and may get them addicted to drugs or alcohol, which is another way of keeping them in this form of bondage.

"The fortunate thing about it is, human trafficking is preventable," she said. "But before you can prevent it, you have to know how to recognize it. And it's there-we can't just look the other way."

Keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • Mary Burke, professor of psychology at Carlow University and founder of the Project to End Human Trafficking
  • Debbie Wright, producer, and Gary Caldwell, associate producer, of the new documentary on trafficking, From Liberty to Captivity
  • Brother Michael Gosch, C.S.V., co-founder and co-director of the Viator House of Hospitality, an Illinois-based residence for immigrant youth, many of whom have been trafficked and are seeking asylum in the United States.
  • Elizabeth Miller, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Kaitlyn Weismann, staff operations specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigations Pittsburgh Division, whose work supports trafficking investigations.

Topics at the symposium range from the World Wide Web and human trafficking to unaccompanied immigrant children and survivors of trafficking. A detailed agenda is available online.

A special screening of From Liberty to Captivity will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the Pappert Lecture Hall of the Bayer Learning Center. RSVP online to attend.

For more information on The Face of the Person Who Has Been Trafficked, including cost, continuing education and more, visit

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