“BVM And OSF Sisters Attend Human Trafficking Conference”

The following article was written by Nancy Miller, OSF, Social Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Charity, BVM and Sisters of St. Francis via bvmsisters.org, on November 10, 2022.

“The Sisters of Charity, BVM in accordance with our mission and core values of freedom, education, charity, and justice, have

taken a congregational stance on human trafficking: We oppose the trafficking of human persons, a form of modern day slavery, for any purpose whatsoever. We stand in solidarity with all who work to eliminate this tragic evil.

In support of this stance, BVMs Irene Lukefahr, Diane Rapozo, and Gwen Farry joined Franciscan sisters Nancy Miller and Mary Lechtenberg, and University of Dubuque Professor Kim Hilby as the members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery who attended the in-person conference sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) in St. Louis, Oct. 26–28.

Mary Lechtenberg, OSF (l.), Irene Lukefahr, BVM; Dr. Kim Hilby, Diane Rapozo, BVM; Nancy Miller, OSF; and Gwen Farry, BVM attend the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) in St. Louis.

Mary Lechtenberg, OSF (l.), Irene Lukefahr, BVM; Dr. Kim Hilby, Diane Rapozo, BVM; Nancy Miller, OSF; and Gwen Farry, BVM attend the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) in St. Louis.

USCSAHT is a national faith-based network that offers educational resources, survivor services and support, and the best practices in advocacy to eliminate human trafficking. The conference presenters were knowledgeable in various aspects of global and domestic labor and sex trafficking. They offered numerous suggestions for actions and viable options for future speakers. Both congregations have membership in the USCSAHT which is a powerful resource and collaborates to address and eradicate human trafficking.

Gwen shares, ‘As a member of the Advocacy Committee of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking, I was especially interested in the session on Corporate Advocacy, namely Cyber Safety and the Dirty Dozen. Each year a list of the corporations that enable sexual exploitation is published. These Corporations should be held accountable. Those that have taken steps to eliminate opportunities for exploitation should be celebrated.’

Irene was particularly moved by the last break-out session she attended, ‘Providing Direct Service to Survivors of Human Trafficking’ with speaker, Kris Wade. The power of words was discussed, such as using ‘survivors’ instead of ‘victims,’ using the term ‘being prostituted’ rather than calling someone a ‘prostitute,’ and avoiding the use of the words ‘sex work/er’ because what the survivors endure is not a ‘job’ but torture and abuse.

Irene adds that she found Wade’s comment, ‘If you don’t have a strong stomach or can’t tolerate another’s pain, find another way of helping with the human trafficking issue,’ very freeing and affirming of what the coalition has been doing by providing vital trafficking community education rather than responding directly to survivors.”

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