Corban junior Hillary Roeder led a group of students to the Oregon State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 11, where they joined a local church in a prayer vigil to raise awareness about human trafficking.
The group, along with members of the church Soma, stood on the Capitol steps for close to an hour, holding candles and praying for the victims of human trafficking throughout the world.
Roeder first heard about the vigil through her internship at the Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service center, where the issue of human trafficking began to interest her. After learning more, she made a Facebook page to invite friends and acquaintances to the event. This garnered support among the Corban community. She hopes it will be one of many events concerning human trafficking vigilance.
“The biggest thing is that people are not aware,” said Roeder. “January is human trafficking awareness month, and the goal is to create awareness of it on campus.”
According to some estimates, Portland is the second worst city in America for the exploitation of people. The confluence of two rivers, as well as the high number of children living on the streets, contribute to sex trafficking being such a large problem this, Oregon’s largest, city. Organizations such as Shared Hope International and the Polaris Project work to raise awareness and funds to provide a safe place for victims after they are rescued.
Roeder made the distinction that human trafficking is different from sex trafficking because it involves a wider scope of slavery than just sex trafficking, including forced labor. Although most Americans have some awareness of the issue, Roeder says that the level of knowledge about human trafficking is where domestic violence awareness was 40 years ago.
Senior Ashley Cowan was among the students who accompanied Roeder to the Salem Capitol building, and the vigil made her realize the importance of fighting against human trafficking.
“We don’t think about it, and if we do, we think that it’s only in other countries,” Cowan said.
During the downtown vigil, passersby stopped to ask about it, and Roeder hopes that a seed was planted in them to learn more about the issue of human trafficking. A local police officer also stopped and prayed with the group of students.
“No one’s gonna argue that human trafficking is not wrong,” said freshman Tamara Evans, who accompanied the group. “It’s so close to home, and doing the vigil was a wake-up call that people are still hurting.”