In the real world Liam Neeson isn’t going to save you, but by being educated and aware you could save yourself and others.
Boise State is stepping up to recognize the threat of human trafficking. The campus read this year, “Half the Sky,” focused on how women are treated around the world and Boise State invited speakers to discuss personal experiences. One of those speakers was Patrick Atkinson, who visited campus March 12.
Atkinson is the founder of Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP). His organization strives to “break the chains of modern day slavery.”
ITEMP was founded in 2001 shortly after Atkinson witnessed a horrific event.
“I was in a village where there was a mass kidnapping in Malawi, Africa,” Atkinson said. “I came out of that thinking the whole world would be shocked that there had been a mass kidnapping, and I found out that largely people didn’t know about it, and even more sad, they didn’t care.”
Previous to ITEMP, Atkinson founded The God’s Child Project. He worked with children in war-torn countries to prevent them from being swept up in the dangerous world of trafficking and slavery. ITEMP expanded to all those at risk-including those in the United States.
Every year more adolescents run away, slither into the pipeline and fade into the streets. For those runaways life on the street changes them as they are inducted to prostitution or sex slavery. But runaways aren’t just the focus of human trafficking, sometimes individuals really are ‘taken.’
When that happens ITEMP steps in. Atkinson spoke about his experience working in the USA during his speech.
“The average age a woman is inducted into prostitution is 13,” he said, addressing his audience. “In America there are 100,000 children inducted in sex trafficking.”
Atkinson told heart wrenching stories about the cases he witnessed firsthand.
“There were two kids on the streets of Columbia, six and nine years old; they’d lived on the streets as long as they could remember, and I asked them if they could have anything in the world what would they want, thinking they would say ‘money,’ ‘riches,’ ‘a big house,’ and without hesitating they said ‘a mother,’” Atkinson said.
The two boys had been selling their bodies to tourists.
Instances like this made Atkinson’s life a hard one, but a good one. He has dedicated his life to human trafficking prevention.
“(Human trafficking) is an issue that is relevant just about everywhere,” said Mark Buchanan, professor in the College of Business and Economics. “What is our personal responsibility to this? This does impact our community, and perhaps we should do something about it.”
Some students who visited the event Wednesday night went for class credit or because they felt the topic was important.
“(Human trafficking) is a global problem but it’s really unheard of,” said Brianne Hansen, senior
Her friend Juliana McKay, a senior history major, agreed.
“We’re fascinated by the lack of women’s rights around the world,” McKay said.
Other students were drawn to the event after the campus read.
“I’m a little speechless,” Deanne Imhoff, sophomore art education major said after the event. “It still blows my mind that this happens.”
For more information about ITEMP, The God’s Child Project, Patrick Atkinson or human trafficking visit ITEMP.org.