ECU to host discussion on sex trafficking prevention

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GREENVILLE — ENC Stop Human Trafficking and TEAM, an all-male student group on the campus of East Carolina University, are working together to start the conversation about what role men play in reducing violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking.

“Real Men Rise Up: Fighting a Culture of Complicity” will be presented at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Mendenhall on the campus of ECU.

The event will feature expert panelists in the field of sex trafficking, victim advocacy and law enforcement to take a deep dive in the local issues surrounding the normalization of violence against women and sex trafficking, and how men can be the ones who shift the culture out of complicity and into compassion and protection.

Pam Strickland, founder of ENC Stop Human Trafficking, will address sex trafficking and the commodification of women in modern culture, which lends itself to the normalization of violence and sex trafficking.

Chief Deputy John Guard of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office’s major crimes division will discuss his expertise in the domestic violence case investigation and response.

LaDwina Barlowe, victim advocate with the REAL Crisis Center, will address the effect assault and violence have on the community and victims.

“It is especially important to have an event like this in today’s society where rape culture is so prevalent,” said Ekemini Etukudoh, community service chair with TEAM.“It is our time now to take the initiative and take action on this issue.”

Etukudoh said TEAM members are focused on advocacy and shifting the culture, which is why they sought a collaboration with ENC Stop Human Trafficking.

Melinda Sampson, community outreach coordinator for ENC Stop Human Trafficking, said that affecting cultural change is the best way to reduce the demand for sex trafficking and violence against women.

“We need to look at how to reduce demand,” Sampson said.

“The predominant buyers of sex are men, so why not take the message to men? Sex trafficking and intimate partner violence is often looked at as a women’s issue, but the truth is, it is a man’s issue. We must come together and reject the idea that it is acceptable to buy and assault women. Our next generation of boys and girls are depending on us to make this world a safer place for everyone. The only way to do that is acknowledge that we live in a culture of complicity and victim-blaming and actively work to change it.”