Exploring Social Justice for Vulnerable Populations

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Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery.

While the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States in 1865, more than 40 million people around the world continue to be held against their will as victims of human trafficking, according to the International Labour Organization.

To address this ongoing issue, Duquesne University invites current students, faculty, and staff, as well as alumni and the public, to attend its ninth annual McGinley-Rice Symposium on Social Justice for Vulnerable Populations.

The symposium is a national forum that focuses on critical issues in healthcare practice and policy through the lens of social justice. Previous years’ subjects include addiction, disability, violence, mental illness, children, veterans, immigrants and the elderly. This year’s event looks into the face of the person who has been trafficked and views the world through his or her eyes.

The Statistics

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery where force, coercion or fraud is used to obtain labor, marriage or commercial sex acts.

“Here in this country, people are being bought, sold and smuggled like modern-day slaves, often beaten, starved and forced to work as prostitutes or to take jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant or factory workers with little or no pay,” according to the FBI.

The International Labour Organization estimates that human trafficking and forced labor are a $150 billion worldwide industry. This profitable form of transnational crime is second only to drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime, as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers and/or fear of law enforcement,” the department says.

According to PolarisProject.org:

  • 81 percent of human trafficking victims are subjected to forced labor
  • 25 percent are children
  • 75 percent are women and girls
  • 99 percent of victims trapped in the commercial sex trade are women and children

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that of the nearly 25,000 runaways in 2017, one in seven was likely a victim of child sex trafficking.

“Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.”

Keynote Speakers

To discuss the faces of human trafficking, Duquesne has brought in five pertinent keynote speakers:

  • Mary Burke, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. She is the founder of the Project to End Human Trafficking, an all-volunteer, nonprofit group that works to raise awareness about enslavement and economic exploitation. She’s also a member of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Trafficking of Women and Girls.
  • Gary Caldwell is the associate producer of the film “From Liberty to Captivity,” which explores Pennsylvania’s growing sex trafficking industry and reveals the realities and complexities of these crimes. In 2014, he lobbied alongside the International Justice Mission on Capitol Hill for ongoing rescues and convictions in cyber child sex trafficking and child slave labor.
  • Brother Michael Gosch, CSV, is the co-founder and co-director of the Viator House of Hospitality, a residence for immigrant youth — many of whom are survivors of human trafficking — seeking asylum in the U.S.
  • Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., FSAHM, is the director of adolescent and young adult medicine and professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Her research has included examining sex trafficking among adolescents in Asia.
  • Kaitlyn Weismann is a staff operations specialist for the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division, for which she’s been monitoring human trafficking threats since 2015. Her main focus is proactively identifying potential trafficking victims and subjects. She is a member of the Western Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Coalition, which helps victims access the services they need.


The McGinley-Rice Symposium is held on the Duquesne University campus in Pittsburgh in the Charles J. Dougherty Ballroom on the fifth floor of the Power Center.

Registration is free for current Duquesne students, faculty and staff. Alumni can attend for $75 for one day or $150 for both days. General admission is $150 for Thursday, $75 for Friday or $200 for both days. Fees include meals, CEUs (if applicable), parking and the program book. The deadline to register is Oct. 19.

About Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing

Students enrolled in Duquesne’s online MSN in forensic nursing will be exposed to one of the few programs in the country that offer in-depth study in all areas of forensic practice. The MSN core program includes courses in advanced nursing practice, policy development, and healthcare ethics, with forensic coursework in the legal system, criminal law, and leadership.

Earning a graduate degree in the field allows nurses to continue working in their current positions and prepare to advance their careers with a focus in forensics. The new skills and knowledge they gain can prepare them for greater earning potential and nursing leadership roles.


International Labour Organization, Forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking
FBI, What We Investigate: Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, What Is Human Trafficking?
Polaris Project, The Facts
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Child Sex Trafficking