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January 14, 2018

UM guest lecturer tells horrors of sex slave trade

(Amanda Joinson / Collegian)

(Amanda Joinson / Collegian)

On Sept. 30 the University of Massachusetts hosted Rob Morris, guest lecturer and leading member of Love146, a human rights advocacy group against the illegal practice of the sex slave trade.

Officially co-founded as a part of “Justice for Children International” by Rob Morris and three friends, the concept of Love146 began two years ago. Love146 is an organization devoted to hindering the sex slave trade and to healing rescued child-slaves and nurturing them for healthy lives.

According to Morris, the sex slave trade is the second most lucrative illegal business today, with an estimated 27 million enslaved people worldwide. This is more than twice as many enslaved people than when slavery was legal in the 19th century. Sex slavery is the abduction, coercion, or force of people to unwillingly participate in illegal prostitution and sexual exploitation. Many organizations and charities contribute to the abolition of sex slavery, the end of the exploitation of women and children, and the restoration of surviving victims. Love 146 is an organization active in these goals.

“Our organization has a very bold mission statement,” said Morris, “the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation and nothing less.”

In 2002, Morris travelled to Southeast Asia with three friends to try and combat sex slavery, and to configure an organization to help former slaves recover from their abused history. The name Love146 derives from an experience Morris had while undercover at a sex slave brothel. He said that he had witnessed nameless, numbered children in red dresses being sold, auctioned and negotiated over, while children, wearing matching red dresses, sat watching cartoons on a small television.

 “If anyone should have a sparkle in their eye, it’s a kid,” Morris said, but one little girl stood out amongst the others. She looked passed the television and stared at Morris with a strength and a fight in her eyes that inspired the name of his organization. Her number was 146.

Love146 concentrates on two areas of ending sex slavery: aftercare and prevention. Dr. Gundelina Velazco is the director of the aftercare program of Love146. She has developed the idea of “safehomes,” which exist throughout the world, that create a physically and psychologically safe environment to both protect the children and encourage growth, love and healing. When Morris asked Velazco, one time, what a “safehome” was, she said that it was just that, a safe home.

The aftercare program is intended to help rescued children realize their potential, and acquire the skills necessary to live as that person, while surrounded by safety and care.

Love146 works closely with many other organizations in the prevention of sex slavery and human trafficking. All across Asia – India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines – Love146 is spreading awareness and knowledge of the sexual exploitations of children in these countries. Through networking, training and education, Love146 is able to produce a heightened awareness of the crimes occurring in the country, and in that, working towards an end to it.

“We choose to define love as defending and protecting,” Morris said of the organization.

Love146 expands prevention into the U.S., also, through speaking commitments, organizations, donations, various projects and acknowledging the country’s own struggles with the issue.

“This is not just an issue that happens in Southeast Asia,” Morris said.

By working on a global level, reaching out to members of every social background, advocacy against slavery becomes more present, and the end comes ever closer.

UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked annually, while other estimations evaluate the sex slave trade market value at $32 billion.

The vision of Love146 is to eliminate the sex slave trade in its entirety, one child at a time, if that’s what it takes, according to Morris.

“It’s perspective,” Morris said of efficient ways to end modern slavery. “It’s audacity … it’s going to take repentance.”

Jil Pasiecnik can be reached at jmpasiec@student.umass.edu

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