The University of Maryland chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi gained official recognition as a ‘Safe Haven’ at a ceremony on February 8, 2015, becoming the nation’s first fraternity trained to combat human trafficking through an “awareness is prevention” approach.
Education protects youth against traffickers because greater public awareness and understanding of the issue of sex and labor trafficking leads directly to greater alertness to signs of trafficking and tips to law enforcement, which in turn leads to action.
Because fraternities are sometimes stigmatized as places where men take advantage of women, Alpha Sigma Phi took a stand to counter this perception by pledging to respect and even protect the dignity of women and girls, particularly the most vulnerable.
At the College Park campus, Safe Haven Maryland coordinator Louise Dickson initially worked with four Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity brothers to educate them on the growing problem of trafficking in the United States, where increasingly sophisticated traffickers use social media to target at-risk youth.
The men then repeated the training for 12 additional fraternity brothers, who collectively agreed to commit the fraternity to educate their entire community on the issue of human trafficking, using the Safe Haven Study Series and other available resources.
Because of the commitment of Alpha Sigma Phi, and the social media buzz surrounding the ceremony, knowledge of GPF’s Safe Haven Campaign rapidly spread to other Greek organizations on campus, encouraging sororities such as Alpha Epsilon Phi to take steps toward becoming a Safe Haven as well.
Human Trafficking: What Counselors and Educators Should Know
At a University of Pennsylvania forum on March 25, 2015 entitled “Human Trafficking: What Counselors and Educators Should Know About It,” Safe Haven Campaign Director Gail Hambleton presented an overview on the growing problem of human trafficking in the U.S. and specifically Pennsylvania.
Mary Defusco, Director of Training and Recruitment for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, gave an inspiring presentation clarifying myths about prostitution and breaking through some of the false glamour of our current pop culture. Hugh Organ, Director of Covenant House, concluded with a stirring “on the ground” report of the crisis of under-age trafficking in Philadelphia. The forum was hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Applied Psychology and Human Development Division, Graduate School of Education (APHDD) Students attending were both shocked and engaged, and a dynamic discussion concluded with a commitment of the APHDD to become a Safe Haven.
Awareness of the Safe Haven Campaign has since spread to other Greek organizations on the College Park campus, and to other universities in Maryland.
Notably, the Student Government Association at Towson University also gained official recognition as a Safe Haven after completing training sessions with Dickson, becoming the first student government organization in the nation to receive this designation. The Towson Student Government now has the tools to educate the student body and explain the prevalence of human trafficking in the Baltimore area.
The reach of the campaign has also spread to colleges and universities in five other states, including Albright College in Pennsylvania, Georgetown University in Washington DC, Loyola University in Illinois, and the University of Colorado Springs in Colorado.
The Safe Haven Study Series training manual is available for purchase.
report from the University of Maryland Diamondback