That, said organizers, is one of the reasons the Women4Women’s Student Group will be host to a human trafficking conference Sept. 7 at the Red Barn.

The conference aims to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking, especially to college students, they said. 

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or force labor.

It’s a large issue, said Gabrielle Maxedon, the group’s president. You feel like ‘What can I do?’ We want to talk about things you can do in your daily life to prevent trafficking.

Doors for the free event open at 4:30 p.m. The conference is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Speakers include:

  • Robin Valenzuela, a former intern for the Polaris project, an international anti-trafficking organization. She is a graduate student at UofL and a court advocate for the Center for Women and Families. She will discuss the basics of human trafficking, her experience working for the Polaris Project and human trafficking in Louisville.
  • Rus Funk, author and founder of Men’s Work. Also a faculty member at the Kent School of Social Work, he will discuss the demand of sex trafficking and how society plays a role in that demand.
  • Theresa Flores, a sex trafficking survivor, is an author, social worker and founder of Gracehaven, a shelter for human trafficking victims. Flores, who has been a guest on MSNBS and NBC’s Today Show, will offer survivor testimony.

Maxedon said she was inspired to start the conference after taking a course at UofL in which the issue was discussed.

To find out that human trafficking happens in this city just down the street from UofL is shocking, she said. College students are at risk for trafficking. People need to be educated.

On Sept. 8, the group will have a conference debriefing, and it will show films on the subject Sept. 9 and 10.

This is the first major event the Women4Women Student Group has been host to at UofL.

The campus group formed about three years ago and has about 100 registered members. The group is advised by Valerie Casey of the Women’s Center. In addition to the conference, the group has previously had finance forums, health and self defense classes and leadership activities.

Schedule of all events