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Human Trafficking to Be Discussed at Forum

WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty University is sponsoring an informative program on human trafficking at 6 p.m. Friday.

The forum is free and open to the public, and will take place in the Boyle Conference Center, located in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex.

“We are planning discussion and education that describes just what are human trafficking crimes and who are the victims in this area. I’ve also invited employees of the new organization, Refuge for Women, to talk about their work,” said Dr. Darrick Brake, WLU professor of criminology and criminal justice.

January was first declared as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in 2010. Refuge for Women is a national organization that assists adult victims and has an office in Steubenville.

According to its website, human trafficking is a dark industry that abuses and exploits women of all ages. When a woman is rescued from a trafficker, she is left with many years of past trauma and oftentimes, substance abuse issues.

Refuge for Women is a non-profit, faith-based organization providing specialized long-term care for women who have escaped human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Theresa Golden, director for the Steubenville site and April Stellfox, a fulltime employee there, also will be on hand to explain what they have to offer.

With multiple locations across the U.S., Refuge for Women offers up to 12 months of safe housing, at no charge to the resident, with around the clock care as clients progress through evidence-based, trauma-informed programming. The staff is trained to help residents work through the program to reclaim their identities and reach their goals to overcome addictions, heal from trauma and develop life skills leading to healthy, balanced living and financial independence.

“I reached out to this new group to present about a month ago, after learning about Refuge for Women and their fantastic work. It was by accident that I heard about April, through my church (West Liberty Federated Church),” Brake explained.

Refuge for Women also has some internship and volunteer opportunities available that will be perfect for students, according to Brake.

Brake studied and researched child sex trafficking while he was a graduate student at Western Michigan University in 2007. He now teaches both graduate and undergraduate students, many whom are criminal justice majors. He is committed to educating the community about human trafficking crime.

Criminal justice is a program within the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in WLU’s College of Liberal Arts. Besides an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, WLU has a Master of Science in Criminology degree. For more information, please contact Brake at darrick.brake@westliberty.edu.

For more information on Refuge for Women, visit rfwohiovalley.org.

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