Sex Trafficking in the St. Louis Region & Beyond: Funder Strategies & Responses

September 26, 2016

img_4204Sex Trafficking in the St. Louis Region & Beyond: Funder Strategies & Responses

Blog post by Hudson Kaplan-Allen, Gateway Center for Giving intern, about a recent GCG topical program.

Gateway Center for Giving Members and other philanthropic leaders recently convened to learn from three experts on human trafficking, which, according to the U.S. State Department is “one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world.”  Sex trafficking, in particular, was the topic of the morning’s discussion.  Amanda Colegrove, Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE), Kathy Doellefeld-Clancy, Executive Director of the Joseph H. & Florence A. Roblee Foundation, and Rhonda Brewer, Vice President of Sales at Maritz Travel all shared the steps they are taking to raise awareness and implement preventative measures against sex trafficking in the St. Louis region and beyond.

St. Louis has been listed as one of the top 20 trafficking jurisdictions in the United States. It is located in the center of the country, where many highways meet and, thus, it is a prime transit point for traffickers bringing their victims across the country.

Colegrove started the conversation with a definition of human trafficking.  On the most basic level it is the “exploitation of persons for commercial sex or forced labor” that “involves recruiting, transporting, harboring, receipt of and transferring of persons.”  Children are often the victims of sex trafficking. In particular, children who identify as LGBTQ or who have disabilities are generally more vulnerable and easier to separate from their families.  Organizations like CATE have taken steps to put an end to sex trafficking and create safe spaces for survivors by taking part in trainings and outreach as well as expanding the network of organizations involved in the cause.

Doellefeld-Clancy then spoke about the Roblee Foundation’s involvement. The Foundation decided that it wanted to devote its time and resources to an emerging issue and a cause where they could truly make an impact.  They started by educating their board on sex trafficking, reading the book Walking Prey by Holly Austin Smith, a sex trafficking survivor.  The Foundation wanted to pinpoint the best curriculum for training the region on the issue, and they identified CATE as a partner.  Subsequently, there has been increased interest among local organizations to partake in this training and participate in the fight against sex trafficking.

Lastly, Brewer told the audience about the focus that the company has taken on the issue of human trafficking.  Maritz recognizes that “the travel industry is unwittingly used by the chain of human trafficking” and by taking steps to put an end to trafficking, they have the power to help break that chain. Maritz has made a commitment to assist in the fight against human trafficking by agreeing to “The Code”– a promise they have made to “encourage the practice of responsible, sustainable tourism” along with a number of other tourism-related companies. In addition, Maritz has also partnered with ECPAT-USA, an organization devoted to ending the sexual exploitation of children, to raise awareness as well as provide training on the indicators and steps that can be taken by individuals when they see possible signs of trafficking.


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