Survivor's talk headlines human trafficking conference

Survivor's talk headlines human trafficking conference

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications is hosting its annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking Oct. 6-8 at Embassy Suites, 1040 P St.

The conference, which is in its eighth year, is inspired by the human trafficking work by Sriyani Tidball, assistant professor of practice. It features researchers from non-government organizations, academia and governmental organizations.

Along with sessions for researchers and professionals, the conference includes two free, open-to-the-public events, a panel discussion and lecture, on Oct. 6.

The College of Law will host a panel discussion on "The Role of Law in Using the Four P's to Combat Human Trafficking: Prevention, Prosecution, Protection, Partnership," at noon Oct. 6 in the McCollum Hall auditorium. The panel will include Anna Williams Shavers, professor of law, University of Nebraska; Glen Parks, assistant attorney general and human trafficking task force coordinator for the State of Nebraska; Louise Shelley, professor of policy, government and international affairs, and founder/director of the terrorism, transnational crime and corruption center at George Mason University; and Leah Jonet Albright-Byrd, survivor of trafficking and human rights educator.

Albright-Byrd will also lead a talk at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Nebraska Union auditorium. The talk, "Helping Trafficked Survivors Discover Their True Identity," will include information on how Albright-Byrd survived being trafficked and founded Bridget's Dream, an organization that provides services to women who have been sexually exploited.

Albright-Byrd ran away from home at 14 and met a man who offered love and protection if she sold her body and gave him the money. For the next 10 years, she was forced to work for a series of pimps around Reno, Nevada.

While she was being trafficked, Albright-Byrd met and recruited Bridget Gray, a 15-year-old girl, into the world of prostitution. While Albright-Byrd was able to eventually escape prostitution, Gray never successfully left it behind. In 2006, at 22, Gray was killed by a customer at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas.

Albright-Byrd directed grief and anger she felt over Bridget's death into the creation of "Bridget's Dream — One Died so Millions Can Live." The non-profit is a survivor-led organization that provides crisis care and family support in the Sacramento, California, and Reno area.

Albright-Byrd also delivers talks about sex trafficking to educate the public.

"I'm part of a cultural shift," Albright-Byrd said. "Our understanding of human trafficking is where we were with domestic violence 10 years ago. Ten years ago, there was a total lack of understanding about what domestic violence did to women.

"Now, when I get the call from a Reno detective at 12:30 a.m., and there's a girl crying, it's reassuring to know that she is being treated with dignity."

The conference will also include a keynote address by Shelley and the inaugural presentation of the Prem S. Paul Award for Research in Anti-Human Trafficking.

For more information about the annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking and a complete list of speakers, [click here](go to http://humantrafficking.unl.edu).

The conference is a collaboration between faculty from Nebraska's colleges of journalism and mass communications; business administration; arts and sciences; education and human sciences; and law. Other support is provided by the University of Nebraska at Omaha's College of Public Affairs and Community Service and School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; and Nebraska's Vice Chancellor's Office for Research and Development and Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.