As an International Studies major at Towson University, Aimee Ernstberger was aware that sex trafficking took place in other countries. What she didn’t know was how prevalent this issue is right in her own country; her own city. This all changed when Alicia McDowell, Executive Director of Araminta Freedom Initiative, came to speak to her anthropology class back in 2012.
Araminta is an organization in Maryland that seeks to engage in prevention, intervention and survivor services that bring healing and wholeness to trafficked individuals. They accomplish this through education and equipping others to recognize ways that the culture distorts human dignity and worth.
“This was one of the most eye-opening classes,” Aimee said.
McDowell’s presentation affected Aimee deeply and she immediately began thinking of ways that she could be involved on a local level.
“I wanted to understand what creates an environment in which sex trafficking occurs,” Aimee said. “And I wanted to educate more people about the issue.”
As a busy college student with a challenging course load, it wasn’t until 2014 that she took her first steps of getting involved. Aimee attended Araminta’s four week training program that equipped her to be a certified volunteer with the organization.
“Araminta does a great job reaching out to the community and educating others about the issue,” Aimee said. “Although they are faith-based, they welcome and work with everyone.”
Currently, she serves on the Education Team, which reaches out to businesses, schools, and events in the hopes of bringing awareness to more people.
While Aimee understands firsthand that most college students face time limitations in volunteering, she also believes that many are simply unaware that sex trafficking is even an issue in our country.
“It’s not something people normally talk about, especially locally,” Aimee said. “Also, many college students feel like they can’t comprehend the issue and as a result, they feel like they can’t do anything to make a difference.”
Sadly, there is often a stigma associated with individuals that are trafficked. For instance, when people learn about adult victims, they assume that they could just leave the situation if they wanted to. Or worse, they assume that they made the choice to be involved in the first place and that it’s their fault. However, in many cases, these adults were trafficked as children and have suffered years of psychological abuse.
“It can happen to anyone,” Aimee said. “It’s completely unfair to be victim blaming.”
Reading The Slave Across the Street, by Theresa Flores was especially helpful to Aimee in her quest to understand the psychological abuse that trafficked men and women endure. Even after they are rescued, survivors can suffer consequences for years. In order to have compassion for others, it is vital that we try to understand the complexities of the issue without judgements.
Although she is currently working as a data analyst for the U.S. Attorney’s office, Aimee is hoping to move outside the United States to teach English as a second language. Regardless of where she lives, her passion to educate others about human trafficking will go with her.
To request a presentation in one of your classes or at an event, contact Araminta Freedom.