Social Science Scholar: Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts in the U.S.

This summer, I traveled to Colorado and Minnesota to explore and contribute to anti-human trafficking efforts across the country. In Colorado, I interned at a research-based nonprofit called the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT). At LCHT, I participated in a ten-week human rights leadership development program, researched and wrote grants, and contributed to a literary review on national efforts to fight human trafficking. In Minnesota, I met with human trafficking service providers and policymakers to talk about their state’s innovative anti-trafficking approach. Both of these experiences have contributed to my technical understanding of human trafficking as well as illustrated best anti-trafficking practices to implement in Florida. 

During my time at LCHT, the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Heroes came to Denver. The TIP heroes are international human rights advocates chosen by the U.S. government for their innovative leadership in the anti-trafficking field. While they were in Denver, they came to LCHT to discuss how anti-trafficking efforts in our countries parallel. I got to speak to three of the heroes from Europe and Africa during a breakout session and loved learning about anti-trafficking efforts abroad. My group talked specifically about the connection between immigration and human trafficking which I found especially fascinating given my work with the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights (CAHR), a pro bono immigration and legal center in Tallahassee. 

I further expanded my research interests through my time speaking with anti-trafficking policymakers and service providers in Minnesota. Minnesota’s system, unlike Florida’s, utilizes a comprehensive public health approach to combat trafficking. To do so, their anti-trafficking efforts are run through the Minnesota Department of Health (DoH). While I was in Minneapolis, I had the opportunity to meet with four senior officials from the Department of Health. During our conversation, I learned about Minnesota’s efforts to combat both sex and labor trafficking through an interdisciplinary approach focused on both preventing trafficking and rehabilitating trafficking victims. Currently, I am incorporating my insights from Minnesota into my honors thesis focusing on anti-trafficking.

After graduation, I hope to pursue a joint degree in law and public health with a focus on human trafficking. My summer experiences expanded my knowledge, reinforced my passion, and sharpened my technical skills. The development work I did at LCHT can be applied to other areas within the nonprofit field because all nonprofits need funding for their work. In addition, the leadership development program at LCHT provided me with tools for self-care to prevent burnout in a field with such a high turnover. In addition, my research skills and findings from Minnesota will not only strengthen my honors thesis but also contribute to anti-trafficking recommendations in Florida. I am grateful to the Social Science Scholars program for the funding and inspiration to undertake my summer projects.

Leah is a junior from Winter Springs, Florida, studying international affairs and religion.  After graduation, Leah aspires to pursue a combined Master of Public Health and Juris Doctorate with the goal of working in international health law.

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