The Academy, directed by St. Thomas Law professor Dr. Roza Pati, welcomed 54 participants from around the country. These participants represented various professional groups including social service providers, child protective investigators, psychologists, government representatives, attorneys, law enforcement, teachers, academics, human rights advocates, entrepreneurs, students, and faith-based organizations. The Academy was especially pleased to welcome several recipients of the 2018 Survivor Scholarship, generously funded by the Thomas E. Lemons Foundation.
Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, former President of St. Thomas University, paid tribute to Mr. John J. Brunetti for his support to St. Thomas University over the years and his most recent contribution to the Human Trafficking Academy, which now bears his name.
In her opening remarks, St. Thomas Law’s Acting Dean Tamara Lawson, noted that the Academy is one of the most important events held at St. Thomas Law. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and I believe that is why you all are here today, to address injustice…especially for those who cannot speak up for themselves," she stated.
The Academy consisted of 15 training courses taught by top-experts in the field, drawing from their own professional and personal experiences. The week of concentrated courses covered a range of topics arranged thematically by day.
Day 1 covered sex trafficking with courses on child sex trafficking, a profile of sex traffickers, and a profile of the buyers of sex;
Day 2 turned greater focus to the survivors of trafficking, with sessions about populations facing a higher risk of exposure to trafficking, a powerful course from a trafficking survivor’s perspective on the debate between the language of ‘Victim’ or ‘Survivor’, as well as a trauma-informed screening and interviewing course;
Day 3 was focused entirely on labor trafficking, with courses about domestic servitude, trafficking in the agricultural sector, and trafficking in the hospitality industry;
Day 4 shed light on the different contributors to the fight against trafficking and the importance of forming partnerships, including courses on the Florida Safe Harbor Act, government & NGO partnerships, and the response of Miami’s G.R.A.C.E. Court to child trafficking cases;
Finally, Day 5 focused on the causes and effects of vicarious trauma, featuring a course about coping with trauma exposure, a second session about understanding the ethical implications of dealing with vicarious trauma and burnout, and closing with course about building self-care and happiness.
The esteemed course instructors hailed from across the world and various disciplines:
Founder and Executive Director of Ark of Freedom Alliance
Dr. Mohamed Mattar
Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Law Clinic at Qatar University College of Law
Retired Detective, Fairfax County Police Department
Executive Director & Trainer, Just Ask Prevention Project
Tessa Juste, J.D., LL.M.
Graduate Fellow, Human Trafficking Academy
Marina Rakopyan, LL.M.
Research Assistant, Human Trafficking Academy
J.S.D. candidate, St. Thomas University School of Law
Survivor Leader and Speaker
Brenda Mezick, Esq.
Chief, Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office
Retired Special Agent, Department of Homeland Security
Barbara Martinez, Esq.
Chief, Special Prosecutions Section
Human Trafficking and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, U.S. Attorney’s Office
President, i-5 Freedom Network
Ph.D. Student & Instructor, Oregon State University
Ana Vallejo, Esq.
Co-Director of VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc.
The Honorable Maria Sampedro-Iglesia
Associate Administrative Judge, Unified Children’s Court & Human Trafficking Division, G.R.A.C.E. Court
Clinical Director, Trauma Resolution Center
Dr. Ana Christina Nuñez
Researcher, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
Dr. Jodi Grace
Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Thomas University
The Academy also had the privilege of welcoming a special luncheon guest speaker, Maria Kaldani, who serves as the Scientific Supervisor at The HOME Project in Athens, Greece. Ms. Kaldani shared with participants the powerful work that her organization is doing to meet the needs of child refugees who have migrated to Greece. The HOME Project provides long-term housing, immigration assistance, psychological support, educational skills, and whatever else the children may need to adjust to the circumstances with which they are faced. In her presentation, Ms. Kaldani outlined the overlap between issues of trafficking and the migrant crisis in Europe, and shared how it has affected some of the children who have come to be cared for by The Home Project. Father Paul VI Karenga, current J.S.D. candidate of the Intercultural Human Rights Program concluded the Academy with a closing prayer.
This intensive week of training was organized to empower anti-trafficking professionals and advocates with the tools and knowledge to work as effectively and compassionately as possible against the scourge of human trafficking. The feedback of participants indicates that the 2018 Human Trafficking Academy succeeded in this aim.
“An incredible week full of education, inspiration, fantastic speakers and building a network of connections across the community. I’m so thankful I was able to attend.”
- Lucas Samuel Hall, Ark of Freedom Alliance
“As a survivor, I’m sure one can imagine that this course is a lot for me all at once. I would like to thank the Academy for providing a trauma-informed education. I felt that his atmosphere and approach were sensitive and understanding. What a great variety of instructors and attendees! Even as someone who has experienced some of these crimes firsthand, I learned new things and was exposed to new ideas and information. Thank you!”
“I believe this academy opened my eyes to this level of crime that damages victims more often than not. It has changed my thinking and encouraged me to get involved in the solutions.”
“Outstanding program. Thank you for all of the content and community engagement.”