Auburn Students Against Human Trafficking, or ASAHT, a new student organization focused on raising awareness and supporting survivors of trafficking, welcomed Survivor Leader and Atlanta Redemption Ink founder Jessica Lamb to campus to share her story and why students are uniquely positioned to help end commercial sexual exploitation.
Atlanta Redemption Ink, or ARI, is a survivor-led nonprofit organization comprised of a network of tattoo artists across the country who remove and cover brands, gang tattoos, self-harm and addiction scars. Lamb’s inspiration for ARI came from her own experience as a commercial sexual exploitation survivor and the negative experience she had when she asked a shop to cover her trafficking tattoo.
Lamb said anti-trafficking efforts take shape in different ways, and it’s never too soon for students to figure out how they can help.
“There’s always a place for someone to get involved and make a change. Everyone has something to contribute to make the world a better place,” Lamb said. “When you reach the younger generation, you have the ability to make change for the future. You’re never too young or old to get involved in some form or fashion to help in anti-trafficking efforts. These students will be the future leaders of our country – lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, law enforcement officers, and legislators. They are pivotal voices that can make social change. When we all work together, we can do more and expand efforts.”
In addition to transforming the physical marks of commercial sexual exploitation into symbols of recovery, ARI also connects survivors to trauma-informed counseling, high school education, and job readiness resources.
Founded this January, ASAHT’s mission is to engage students in the movement to eradicate human trafficking. Human Development and Family Science doctoral student Courtney Furlong co-founded ASAHT after returning to Auburn with almost two decades of anti-trafficking experience.
Furlong noted that historically, many social movements are sparked by college students, and hopes to eventually see ASAHT engage at the state and national levels.
“College students were the catalysts to the abolishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was college students who started the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The student voice matters, both on campus and beyond,” Furlong said. “Now is the time for Auburn students to channel their passion into true, major, systemic change at the state and national legislative levels. We can be a powerful voice for change, especially in the state of Alabama.” In addition to the ASAHT meeting this month, Lamb also presented in class during Global Consumer Culture (CADS 2000), Global Studies in Human Sciences (GSHS 2000), and Global Studies in Human Sciences lecture series (GSHS 3000).
“In the College of Human Sciences, our students are here because they all care about quality of life. Having someone with a background like Jessica’s speak on her experience is invaluable,” said Global Studies lecturer Abbi-Storm McCann. “It can be really easy to fall into our Auburn bubble and think hard issues like human trafficking aren’t happening around us, and Jessica helps bridge that disconnect. By connecting a human face to the issues, it creates a lasting impression on students and gives them a call to action.”
Neuroscience and microbiology junior Regan Moss co-founded ASAHT with Courtney Furlong after meeting in Human Development and Family Science assistant professor Lauren Ruhlmann’s RESTORE (Research and Education with Sex Trafficking Survivors on Resilience and Empowerment) lab.
Moss said leading the club has deepened her understanding of her pre-med courses and shown the need for more trauma-informed care, and vice versa, her major and Health Equity Certificate studies have illuminated the intersectionality of trafficking.
“The health equity courses in particular have been really instrumental because they detail intersecting matters, like racial and gender inequities, as well as their salience in foster care, domestic abuse rates, sexual interpersonal violence, and other issues relevant to human trafficking. It’s helped me to have a more critical lens when presenting or informing the club and making sure it’s holistic,” Moss said. “People need the correct information in order to operationalize it and make change in ways that are reflective of people’s lived experiences. ASAHT is designed to bridge the gap between all of Auburn’s passionate, caring people and outreach within the community in informed ways.”
Moss encourages students in any discipline to attend a meeting to learn more about ASAHT, which is actively seeking new members. For more information, visit aub.ie/auburnsaht.