Fighting human trafficking with feminism

GVSU Women's Center to host 'Fireside Chat'

By Celia Harmelink | 3/13/17 12:26am

GVL / Luke Holmes - Professor Danielle Leek speaks to a group about women's history inside the Women's Center on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
by Luke Holmes and Luke Holmes / The Lanthorn

To give students a look into a feminist, human-rights-based approach to combating human trafficking, the Grand Valley State University Women’s Center will host another installment of its Fireside Chat series. 

Tonisha Jones, assistant professor in the School of Criminal Justice, will present her views to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking and feminism’s place within the American criminal justice system.

The event will take place in the Women’s Center, located inside the Kirkhof Center, Wednesday, March 15, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Anyone is welcome to come and participate in the discussion.

“Never has this issue been discussed more, perhaps not human trafficking specifically, but criminal justice issues at large,” said Jessica Jennrich, the director of the Women’s Center, via email. “Gathering to discuss these are so important, and thinking about them from different perspectives can help us move away from thinking in stark terms and instead inspire listeners to think differently about such a complicated problem.”

Jennrich has been associated with the Women’s Center for almost four years. She believes chats like this one bring together staff and students and provide them with an environment to openly discuss new research and display new academic findings.

“We've certainly seen criminal justice issues featured prominently in the news such as police brutality,” Jennrich said. “Feminism can help us, as a society, think about these (issues) as gender justice issues and as human rights issues that have far-reaching implications, which are important for us as a society to address.”

Anti-trafficking efforts have increased knowledge of human trafficking issues, which has resulted in a larger presence of educated individuals, but the American criminal justice system is still struggling to adequately protect victims, diminish trafficking and prosecute offenders. Jones will argue in the Fireside Chat that the answer to this issue lies in a feminist, human-rights-based approach. She believes this is necessary in order to stop human trafficking.

Marissa Kinney, a GVSU student who has worked in the Women’s Center for more than a year and a half, thinks it is beneficial for students to attend events at the Women’s Center.

“It would depend on the event, but I feel like they're more beneficial because they open doors for discussion about things that sometimes people don't really want to talk about,” she said.

Kinney said events at the Women’s Center draw in anywhere from four people to 30. For students to feel prepared, they should come ready to listen and learn more about the topic of preventing trafficking and saving victims through feminism. Jennrich advises student to come with “just themselves, some paper to take notes and an open mind.”

To learn more about this event, visit, or stop at the Women’s Center for more details. 

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