The 2019 Focal Case:
Efforts to Counter Human Trafficking in Colorado and Pueblo
Colorado’s counter-human trafficking efforts will be the focal case for the Aspen Engaged in 2019 as the conference centers on how communication scholars and scholarship might help in building bridges in polarized times. A team of four Coloradans whose professional duties center on countering human trafficking at state and local levels will provide an overview of their multisector, collaborative efforts and some of the challenges therein. Conference attendees will be invited to interact with the case presenters and each other regarding theories and methods that can help illuminate both the successes and setbacks encountered by counter-trafficking practitioners, and practices that foster connection, understanding, and mutual respect in such work—as these are applicable to other complex societal problems as well. Scholars and practitioners will co-examine the communicative roots of polarization regarding HT, and bridge-building in some counter-HT initiatives in CO. Doing so will spark conference participants to further envision how scholarship may productively disrupt polarized positions and groups.
In 2020, the Aspen Engaged conference will be held in Pueblo, CO, as counter-HT leaders from Pueblo interact with conference attendees to co-develop analyses of pioneering counter-HT initiatives in that city which are bridging polarizing debates and common gaps in coordination between state agencies and local actors.
In the U.S., human trafficking is defined by federal law (and most states’ law) as labor or sex induced by force, fraud, or coercion, and the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. The victims of this crime include US citizens as well as foreign nationals, males and females, adults and children. Multiple facets of the crime (i.e. causes, impacts, public perceptions, and responses to it by governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations) are entwined with disparities between—and discourses about— race/ethnicty, gender, and class. Public discussions of HT are often polarizing as they intersect with discussions about other hot button issues including immigration, economic opportunities (or the lack thereof), sexual mores, consent/agency, school curricula, law enforcement priorities, harassment, and discrimination.
Colorado is a national leader in initiatives to coordinate statewide and city-level efforts to end human trafficking across the state, provide legally-mandated services to survivors, and prosecute perpetrators. These efforts have been mapped, catalyzed, and tracked statewide by the nongovernmental Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in 2012 and again in 2018, and by the Colorado Human Trafficking Council, the creation of which was mandated by the CO legislature in 2014.
Keynote Case Presenters