New course tackles sex trafficking and encourages students to get involved

Lisbette Castillo/Contributing Writer

FIU is introducing a course this fall that will shed light on and teach students about the issue of sex trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Due to its popularity with the students, the course, which has been taught twice as Special Topics (WST4930), is now in the process of becoming a permanent course titled “Sex Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery.”

Professor Sandy Skelaney, founder of Kristi House’s Project GOLD and a pioneer in the development of Miami’s community response to the sex trafficking of children, designed and taught the course under the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

“I’m very excited about the course. I love it because I have been working in this field for 15 years now, which means I bring real world experience to the theory; and I also get a fresh perspective on the topic from the passionate young people who take my class,” said Skelaney.

Skelaney, who was awarded  “Humanitarian of the Year” from the National Association of Social Workers in 2016, has worked with hundreds of victims of sex trafficking, particularly children, and has worked nationally on the issue. As a consultant, educator and public speaker, she has dedicated her career to bringing awareness to women’s human rights and combatting gender-based violence, especially sex trafficking.

“It’s the best of both worlds. I have a lot of direct field experience working with this issue,” said Skelaney. “Because of that, I am passionate about people understanding the complexity of the issue beyond book knowledge and what we consume in the media.”

The course brings together the academic, theoretical issues involved with sex trafficking and practical solutions-focused ideas and strategies.

“There is a lot of applied learning in the course,” said Skelaney. “In class we look at current hot topics and policy initiatives and discuss their pros and cons, and we debate issues such as the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution and whether it is inherently exploitative or a positive expression of sexual agency.”

The coursework consists of short policy papers where students learn to influence people’s opinions and come up with recommendations and ideas on how to tackle this issue. They also design a startup program addressing one aspect of sex trafficking, for which they write a grant proposal and pitch their ideas to the class.

“I have terrific proposals from my students,” said Skelaney. “I would personally like to see people provide start-up support and funding for some of these projects to actually get off the ground.”

Skelaney said her students’ policy papers were “equally inspiring.” One of her students wrote to McCann Erickson, an advertising agency, addressing the sensationalism of their recent sex trafficking PSA.

Another asked FIU to draw attention to “Tuition Tuesday,” a weekly event where the popular strip club, King of Diamonds, has been known bring busses to campus to pick up girls to “earn money for college” by dancing.

“I love seeing the students become more empowered and able to use their passion and what they’re learning to do good things for the world,” said Skelaney.

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies recently received a $307,000 grant from the Ware Foundation for the Initiative for Gender Violence Prevention. The initiative was in the works for three years and the effort has paid off.

Yesim Darici, director of Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and a physics professor at FIU, said that this generous gift will propel the University into the national and global spotlight in the area of sex trafficking and domestic violence prevention. The addition of the course is an important part of the work of the initiative as it moves forward.

“This is the right time and the right place to make a positive impact in the prevention of gender-based violence,” said Darici.


Image retrieved from Flickr:

Be the first to comment on "New course tackles sex trafficking and encourages students to get involved"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.