News Story

ORU students address human trafficking in Branding and Promotions class 

ORU Branding classHuman trafficking is a booming business, second only to drug trafficking. While someone can sell a drug only once, a pimp can sell a child for a sex act over and over. There is an estimated 27 million sex slaves today worldwide, more than at any other time in history. The average age for a victim of sex trafficking is age 12 years, and they live an average of seven years after entering the industry. These children are being prostituted on the street, at truck stops and in motels and need to be rescued.

Oral Roberts University's Branding and Promotions classes are getting real-world experience and at the same time changing lives through a classroom assignment. The students have adopted a client with whom they may practice their newly-acquired skills. That client is Truckers Against Trafficking.

The goal of Truckers Against Trafficking is to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking in a threefold way. First, they work to place in the hands of every trucker in America a wallet card listing indicators of trafficking victims and a rescue telephone number; secondly, have the trucking-industry-specific training DVD made part of orientation for all truck stop and travel plaza employees, all students of private and public truck-driving schools and all truck drivers employed via major carriers or owner/operators; and thirdly, partner with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking.

To help support this worthy organization, students, under the direction of ORU Assistant Professor Chris Putman, are building a promotional package to raise awareness for TAT. Students with clipboards and surveys in hand will conduct research to gather insight on public awareness and opinion, write press releases to gain exposure, design ads and posters, plan guerrilla marketing, create an awareness night presentation and then compile their promotional recommendations into a plans book for the organization to utilize.  

Because online presence is key nowadays, the students are posting message updates, pictures and videos of their activities on the TAT Facebook site.  Another tactic the class is using to get the word out is to dramatically drive up the organization's Facebook fans.

"Growing up my parents owned a small motel in El Paso, Texas, where truckers composed a large percentage of our business," Truckers Against Trafficking Co-founder and National Coordinator Lyn Thompson said. "They were, by and large, good guys. As I reviewed how prevalent human trafficking is along our nation's highways and how members of the trucking industry are literally everywhere, it made sense to me that they could play a critical role in the fight against human trafficking. With a little help, they could be the abolitionist heroes of the 21st century. In 2009, as members of Chapter 61 Ministries, we started the Truckers Against Trafficking initiative to educate, equip, empower and mobilize the trucking industry in this fight. TAT has grown so fast and received such support that, in 2011, it became its own 501c3 ministry."      

Thompson and two of her daughters, TAT National Director Kendis Paris and TAT Social Media Coordinator Kylla Leeburg, are making a difference.  They recently have received permission to place trafficking materials in the 800 TA/Petro and Pilot/Flying J truck stops nationwide.

"What we are asking the trucking industry to do is to become aware of this issue and then act upon it," Paris said.  "These girls need an everyday hero.  They [truckers] need to pick up that phone, and make a call that hopefully leads to their rescue."

Through this outreach, this mother-and-daughter team has aired the story of the kidnap and rescue of two Ohio teens walking to Wendy's for a snack.  The two Toledo minors were kidnapped by a prostitution ring and began servicing men in truck stops right away.

"Here we are, I'm 15 years old and my cousin is 14, at a truck stop working, and we're forced to go from truck to truck asking the guy if they'd like to have sex with us, and we're young girls terrified out of our minds," rescued sex slave Shari said.  "It's awful to think that these truckers are okay with it, thinking this is someone's daughter."

But it was a trucker with his eyes and ears open that spotted the underage girls working a truck stop.  They are grateful he didn't brush it off.  He made that call.

"Thank God because this trucker made a call I have an opportunity to have life," Shari said.  "I can actually come back from this."

So how did the Oral Roberts University Branding & Promotions class become involved with such an unlikely organization?  Word of TAT fell on the ears of a university professor who is always on the lookout for a good cause.

"Each year I seek out a nonprofit organization my students can adopt as their client for the semester," Putman said.  "I noticed that many ORU students were incredibly passionate about the human trafficking problem.  When I secured Truckers Against Trafficking as this year's class client, I knew I found an organization my students could believe in and work for with conviction.  I enjoy having a real-world organization on which my students can practice their skills, help a credible organization and touch lives all while earning college credit."

To gain more information on or make a contribution to TAT, log on to http://truckersagainsttrafficking.com/