Human trafficking is faceless crime, speaker tells Indiana State students

October 25, 2013

After completing medical school, Kathleen Welch had no idea she would travel the world as an advocate of human trafficking.

The human rights advocate and global health consultant spoke at Indiana State University, Tuesday, about her career and her endeavors with helping human trafficking victims.

Her words resonated with students.

"I attended because I am interested in international pediatric work," said Megan Ramus, a senior biology major from Spencerville. "I want to help people who are oppressed and she [Welch] gave some good information on how people in the medical field can help."

An Indiana native, Welch moved to Asia to work with doctors and teach students about pediatrics. She now lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she provides street-side pediatric care.

"What comes to mind when you think of human trafficking?" Welch asked the room crowded with Indiana State students, staff and other interested attendees.

People referred to sex trafficking.

Welch replied that the sex trade is common, but many boys and men are trafficked for forced labor around the world. Many people of both genders can be at risk - the impoverished, migrants, minorities, disabled people, the homeless, runaways and refugees share a higher risk, she said.

"Human trafficking is a faceless crime," she added. "It takes away a person's face, and replaces it with a barcode."

Human trafficking accumulates a higher net worth than the National Football League and National Basketball Association combined, said Welch, who added that $32 billion is circulating in the human trafficking realm around the world.

Relentless, an initiative Welch started, "is a cutting edge project at the intersection of health and justice" The initiative provides care for trafficked people as well as raising awareness about human trafficking. "We must be relentless in justice, service, dedication, excellence and sharing," the website stated.

Welch emphasized that too much focus is given to prosecution and rescue.

"Catching the perpetrators and prosecuting them is good, but we need to focus more on prevention, so it doesn't happen in the first place," she said. "There isn't much of an effort towards preventing trafficking."

There are many different forms of human trafficking, Welch said. Some are involuntary domestic service, forced labor, debt bondage, forced child labor, sex trafficking and child soldiers. There are three common components making it trafficking: confinement, depriving personal agency and for financial profit or another personal gain.

"I learned a lot," said Sarah Hanlon of Greencastle junior majoring in social work. "I wasn't aware of all the risk factors. It is always important to be educated on what's going on in the world - good or bad."

Welch finds her passion in educating, training and helping people globally. She advised members of the Terre Haute community to be specific in their presentations to raise awareness about human trafficking. Instead of trying to sum up trafficking over a short course of time, cover fewer points more thoroughly, so people understand more clearly, she said.

She added that if someone wants to donate money to an organization, be sure to do diligent research since some can be misleading. Some organizations she recommends are Relentless, Urban Light, Night Light International and Village Focus International.

"I really love coming to universities to give these presentations," Welch said. "Inspiring people that they can do something about trafficking, or just inspiring them to make a difference and chase their passion, no matter how untraditional it is; is a good feeling."

Writer: Dustyn Fatheree, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or dfathereee@sycamores.indstate.edu