Human Trafficking Awareness Night, a free event presented by the Social Justice Club, Sociology and Criminal Justice departments and Student Life, is on Thursday.

The evening is intended to raise awareness of human trafficking “in our local community,” Rebekah Charleston, a senior criminal justice major, wrote in an e-mail. The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Martin Hall.

“January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month as declared by President Barack Obama, which is the reason for having the event now,” Charleston wrote.

Every year an estimated 17,500 people are brought to the U.S. and made victims of human trafficking, according to humantraffickinged.com.

Human trafficking is defined as “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor),” according to merriam-webster.com

The keynote speakers include Traffick911 director of programs Lindsey Speed; criminal defense attorney Tim Powers; LaTasha Jackson-McDougle of Tarrant County’s Community Supervision and Corrections Department; Charleston White, former pimp and founder of Hyped about Hype; and Shirley Moxley, a trauma specialist.

This is the second year Texas Wesleyan has hosted this event, according to Dr. Eddy Lynton, assistant professor of criminal justice and sociology. 

“There are drug dealers who are leaving drug trade because,” Lynton said. “The penalties are less sever in human trafficking and the victims can be exploited over and over, as horrible as that sounds.”

Many professors are offering extra credit for attending the event because they want their students to understand the pervasiveness of the problem of human trafficking, Lynton said.

“I am appalled by the prevalence of human trafficking, lack of awareness and cost in human lives, this is happening in people’s backyards,” Lynton said.

Alexandra Dennis, a sophomore criminal justice major, is planning to attend the event to gain more information about human trafficking.

“I want to learn ways to prevent human trafficking,” Dennis wrote in an email. “I am firmly against any aspect of human trafficking. I’ve only taken a few CRJ classes because I am only a sophomore, so I don’t know much about the components of human trafficking.”