02/13/12 Raising Awareness About Human Trafficking


Family Service of RI and Roger Williams University have teamed up to provide training for professionals who encounter victims of human trafficking.

“We’re working to raise awareness that human trafficking is a problem in Rhode Island and that those caring for its victims need to better understand the issues,” said Susan Erstling, Ph.D., who leads Family Service of RI’s trauma and loss center.  “This is a new effort that’s part of the State Victim Assistance Academy we’ve been holding over the past several years with our partners at Roger Williams University.”

“Human trafficking is an underreported crime,” said Robert McKenna, assistant dean of the School of Justice Studies and director of the Justice Systems Training Institute at RWU. “Upon completion of this program, victim service providers will be more equipped to deliver appropriate services and a higher level of care to the victims.” He will moderate the event.

Human trafficking, under federal law, is taking place “if a person was induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present.”  (From Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

Up-to-date Rhode Island human trafficking statistics are unavailable, although panelists participating in the training work firsthand with victims and perpetrators.   According to the Polaris Project, a Washington D.C.-based anti-human trafficking organization, the number of U.S. victims of human trafficking is unknown, although cases have been reported in every state.

The training, which is open to victims’ services professionals and volunteers, will take place on Friday, March 30 at the University’s Baypoint Inn and Conference Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Speakers include:

--Lt. Michael Correia, of the Providence Police Department, who will discuss human trafficking from a law enforcement perspective;

--Sarah DeCataldo, of Day One, and Courtney Cotsonas Litowitz, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who will give their perspective as victim service providers; and

--Bethany Macktaz, who will share her experience as a former prosecutor with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.

More information is available by contacting Meghan Martinez at 401.331.1350 x3200 or emailing martinezme1@familyserviceri.org.


About Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University located in Bristol, R.I. is a leading independent, coeducational university with programs in the liberal arts and the professions, where students become community- and globally-minded citizens. With 42 academic majors, an array of co-curricular activities and study abroad opportunities on six continents, RWU is an open community dedicated to the success of students, commitment to a set of core values and providing a world-class education above all else. In the last decade, the University has achieved unprecedented successes including recognition as one of the best colleges in the nation by Forbes, a College of Distinction by Student Horizons, Inc. and as both a best college in the Northeast and one of the nation’s greenest universities by The Princeton Review. www.rwu.edu.

About Family Service of RI

Family Service of RI is a statewide non-profit human service and education organization.  It is a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network; the co-recipient, along with the Providence Police Department, of a 2010 MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award; as well as the recipient of other recognition for its work with crime victims.  Along with the Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy, Family Service of Rhode Island programs include a victims’ assistance partnership with the State Police; victim impact classes for the state Department of Corrections; partnerships to follow up domestic violence and other crimes and traumatic events with the Providence and East Providence police; and a psychological first aid team, responding 24/7 to community emergencies. Family Service of Rhode Island is the After Hours Emergency Response provider for the state Department of Elderly Affairs.


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