A human trafficking awareness panel was held inside the forum building at the Bakersfield College campus on Jan. 30. The panel hoped to shed some light on what human trafficking is, and how it affects the community and everyday living.
Many showed up to observe the event and participate in a question and answer session held at the end of the documentary. When entering and signing in, organizers gave participants a note card to write down their questions. Responses were made anonymous to take the edge off for shyer individuals.
The panel consisted of three speakers from the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, and three others from Bakersfield College Campus Advocates.
At the beginning of the Q&A, many were hesitant to hand in their cards with their questions on it. Alyssa Olivera, a campus advocate and member of Alliance Against Family Violence, who would soon be reading the questions out loud, broke the silence with her own question.
“What is human trafficking?” Olivera asked the panel.
According to the United Nations, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means, such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion, for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
Soon after that question, individuals slowly joined in. As more individuals began to ask questions, questions, the panel became more involved with the crowd, especially Sandy Woo Project Lead of Dignity Health Human Trafficking and member of Alliance Against Family Violence. She explained how easy it is to lose a sense of boundaries and what consent means.
“Raise your hand if growing up you were told hug so-and-so to make them feel welcome. No, no. Go on. It’s ok. Hug them,” she said.
Many hands went up in response to the inquiry.
She continued, “If you didn’t want to hug somebody and you’re encouraged to do so what does that tell you as a child? It tells you that your boundaries are less important than making someone else comfortable.”
According to Dustin Contreras Co-Director of Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking and member of Alliance Against Family Violence, there is a way to combat human trafficking.
“Attend one of our human trafficking 101s, to educate yourself is another way, and make sure any information you’re getting or passing along is valid,” he said.