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Erika Dixon ’15: Fighting modern-day slavery with education

Penn State Law student Erika DixonModern-day slavery still exists in the world today in the form of human trafficking. Occurring in every state of the U.S., as many as 17,500 people are trafficked to the United States each year.

Working at the Human Trafficking Division of the Governor’s Office this past summer, Erika Dixon learned just how big of a problem it really is. "Ignorance is part of the problem. People think that trafficking can’t happen in their community, but it does,” Dixon said. “It happens everywhere. To think it doesn’t would be naïve.”

“Education is the key to preventing trafficking and rescuing victims,” explained Dixon. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local partners to implement educational and training programs on the human trafficking and other violent crimes.

Dixon spent a lot of her time this summer helping to organize and coordinate a day-long anti-human trafficking seminar which will be held next month at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. She is excited about the top-notch faculty of speakers lined up for the event, which includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a trafficking survivor who will tell her story during the event.

The seminar will shed light on various issues surrounding human trafficking such as investigation techniques, identification of victims and traffickers, local and national priorities for supporting victims, and other best practices on combatting trafficking.

“Because traffickers are constantly on the move, they are hard to arrest. To further complicate the matter, often unidentified sex trafficking victims are routinely arrested for prostitution resulting in convictions that trap them in a life of misery,” Dixon said. “Increased awareness and training leads to more tips to law enforcement, which results in more victims being identified,” Dixon said.

Dixon’s internship is made possible through the Degenstein Foundation/Cherie M. Millage Fellowships Fundation at Penn State Law.

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