Opening up a conversation: education about sex-trafficking

Aiya Hunter, Staff Writer

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. St. Louis is a core city in human trafficking in North America because of its major highways and center location. Opening up a conversation is a simple way to educate people on any uncomfortable topic; sex trafficking. The Covering House is a non-profit organization in St. Louis that provides services to survivors of sex-trafficking, raising awareness in communities, and reducing risk of under aged students. Jessica Wilkins, a representative of The Covering House, came to GCAA to talk to students about the definition of sex trafficking, case studies, national/agency statistics, red flags, and additional resources.

Middle school and high school students were called to the Sun Theater throughout the morning to learn about the reality of sex-trafficking in St. Louis, through a presentation by Jessica Wilkins. Wilkins is a manager of community training and prevention at The Covering House.

“The biggest thing that I want to do is just bring awareness and knowledge. Well, bring knowledge first and foremost because some people still just don’t know what it is, but just awareness. Awareness that it’s here. How prevalent it is in St. Louis and what kind of things can be done to protect,” Jessica Wilkins said.

When Wilkins presented she asked students what comes to mind when they think of sex-trafficking. Some students said: a white van, being kidnapped, or abducted. Wilkins wants people to know that there is no actual way to tell because sex-trafficking or exploitation can take many different forms.

“Just again reiterating that it doesn’t look like what people think it looks like all the time and that’s the hardest thing because honestly you’ll never know. You’ll never be able to look at somebody and know that they were a victim, or know that they were a trafficker, or know that they were a John purchasing sex. You just gotta- you have to do your own research. You have to just bring yourself to your own level of awareness and try and speak out when you do see stuff that’s wrong. I know we have this idea of not snitching and stuff like that, but this is something that’s too major and can impact people in so many different aspects of their life that something has just got to be said,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins plan is to continue doing presentations at schools, organizations and communities. The Covering House wants to spread awareness through education to continue the fight against domestic sex-trafficking. To learn more about what can be done against sex-trafficking visit their website.