Presentation informs students about human sex trafficking


Sister Cecilia Liberatore speaks about local human trafficking on October 28, 2013. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Megan Brown

Students and community members learned about the terror of local human trafficking at the event “Human Trafficking: Overcoming Sexual Slavery in Cleveland,” hosted Monday by Kent State’s Catholic Student Association at the Michael Schwartz Center.

Sister Cecilia Liberatore spoke of “modern-day slavery” happening in the world and the Cleveland area. She belongs to the Sisters of Notre Dame located in Chardon, Ohio, and is a Kent State alumna.

“We wanted to collaborate (with) the Conference of Cleveland Diocese to End Human Trafficking and the Renee Jones Empowerment Center to end … what was happening around us,” said Liberatore. “I saw with my own eyes what was happening when I was with my dioceses in Rome in 2004. It was happening in India. It was happening in East Asia. It is happening here.”

A slideshow was shown during her presentation to help the audience learn about the situation. Human trafficking is the second largest illegal enterprise, coming in behind illegal drug trafficking.

Liberatore described the ways traffickers, or “pimps” attract their victims. Traffickers can promise victims fame, money, an acting career — anything to make the victim believe them. “Our country shows the entertainment and glamorization (of) ‘pimps,’ when it’s actually killing people — it’s deadly and destructive,” Liberatore said.

She also mentioned the story of Cleveland’s Ariel Castro. The term “human trafficking” was never used during the case because there was no evidence leading to his exchange of the women, but the incident raised awareness, especially in Ohio.

She also mentioned a story of a 19-year-old kidnapped in the neighborhood of her ministry. The girl was later found dead along with two other bodies. The predator was found two blocks from her house at his mother’s house.

“People are desperate,” Liberatore said. “These traffickers are universal.”

Liberatore said that in Ohio an estimated 1,000 American youths will be trafficked annually. “Human trafficking is moving from the streets to the Internet. Subgroups of the FBI are going undercover to catch sex traffickers,” Liberatore said. “The physical damage may heal, but this lives on for the rest of your life.”

“As Catholics, we believe in protecting the dignity of the human person, from conception to natural death,” said Kelsey Holcomb, senior biology major and publicity officer for the Catholic Student Association. “Through this event, we hope students learned not only what human trafficking is and what existing groups are doing to stop it, but what they as individuals can do about it.”

Kayla Titko, president of the Catholic Student Association and junior music education major, hopes attendees gained an understanding of the topic and the gravity of the human trafficking problem. “I hope they found it informative and helpful so that they can internalize this information and want to make a difference,” Titko said.

Contact Megan Brown at [email protected].