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University Hosts Human Trafficking Awareness Week

Caldwell, N.J., Feb. 18, 2020 – Twenty-five million people are reportedly trafficked per year and 75% of victims are women and children. To raise awareness of these atrocities, Caldwell University hosted Human Trafficking Awareness Week Feb. 2-5. 

Activities included the screening of a documentary, speaker presentations, discussions and an art contest for which students were invited to submit visual art, poetry, creative writing and other works. Winners were selected by those who received the most likes on Instagram. 

Gabriella Tomon, a psychology major, took first prize for her drawing “Illusive Reality,” a mix of abstract and surrealism. “The purpose of the piece is to portray the feeling of denying reality which many victims may feel, and was done through the body language (reality) and the wall (illusion). Also, the money coming out of their bodies and tiny bar codes symbolize a multitude of things but is ultimately left up to the imagination,” said Tomon.

Students Tiniyha Antonio, a criminal justice major; Ellen Pietsch, an art and pre-education major, and Michelle Williamson, a graduate student in the mental health counseling and art therapy program, were awarded honorable mentions.  

Pietsch said her piece, “The Mannequin,” uses symbolism “to covey the tough reality of sex trafficking.” She said the exposed mannequin body in the painting represents the feelings of those who endure sex trafficking. “Their identity is stripped away within the cruelty of their lifestyle. This is represented by the headless figure. The sunflowers represent the manipulation that victims usually fall into.” 

Speakers included FBI Victim Specialist Keyla Muñoz, who presented “An Introduction to Human Trafficking,” and Christine Millien, a staff member in the Educational Opportunity Fund Office. Millien provided information on preventing online grooming of children and about online activities that parents need to be aware of. Millien is a member of the speakers bureau for the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking and is assistant director of the coalition’s winter internship program. While she was an undergraduate at Caldwell she interned with the coalition. 

Abdul Staten, director of student advocacy and prevention awareness, said the week was the idea of Caldwell student and peer education intern Jala Stowe. “It was because of her vision and determination that we implemented a week’s worth of events.” Staten said it was important to  highlight the causes, signs and scope of human trafficking because the issues fall under the umbrella of sexual violence and because victims experience forms of trauma similar to what survivors of sexual assault suffer. It is important, he said, that “we name and stand against the tactics of perpetrators—grooming, sexual exploitation of children and physical abuse, which allows human trafficking to exist right before our eyes.”  

The programs were sponsored by the Student Advocacy and Prevention Awareness and Campus Ministry offices. 

Overall Winner
Gabriella Tomon
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Ellen Pietsch
Tiniyha Antonio
Michelle Williamson