News Release

David Bernard
Public Relations Associate, Public Relations
320 DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE 19720

Modern-Day Slavery is Real and Close to Home

Wilmington University hosts 2nd annual Human Trafficking Symposium on July 18

At age 14, Holly Austin Smith was lured into child prostitution from her South Jersey suburb. Now 39 and an advocate for the many other victims of human trafficking, she'll discuss her experiences, their aftermath, and her 2014 book Walking Prey: How America's Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery as the keynote speaker of Wilmington University's Human trafficking symposium on Tuesday, July 18.

The symposium is taking place at the University's New Castle campus, 320 N. DuPont Highway, in the Doberstein Admissions Center auditorium. Check in begins at 8:30 a.m. Delaware State Attorney General Matt Denn will address the assembly following a welcome and opening remarks at 9:00 a.m. Admission is $20. Attendees are asked to register through WilmU's online events calendar.

This second annual event aims to "open up people's eyes and minds that this is a major social problem, globally and locally," said Dr. Johanna Bishop, Director of Behavioral Science Programs in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

"The issue of human trafficking in society, and in Delaware, has not been solved yet. Most people don't even know it exists," she said. "But when you create awareness, that's the first step to solving the problem."

In addition to Smith's talk, the day's agenda will feature breakout sessions and panel discussions on the factors that may put children at risk of this modern-day slavery, how to recognize and respond to incidents of human trafficking, and the current thinking on treating victims' trauma.

University faculty, human services providers, and law enforcement personnel — including representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Maryland State Police — will also address how money laundering and social media fuel human trafficking, the black market for human organs, and the latest amendments to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking "involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act; or, commercial sex involving a person under 18 years of age." A Justice Department study found that more than 40% of the human trafficking incidents investigated in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010 involved child sex offenses.

"What we're offering, and what we really need educators and the community to know, is what human trafficking looks like among children," said Bishop. "Holly is a classic example. A normal American kid from a middle-class family, 14 years old, being trafficked by someone who said he was her boyfriend."

"People want to avert their eyes," she added. "But education brings people to the table, even though it's not an easy issue to face." 

To attend the symposium, please click here to register. For more information about Wilmington University's human trafficking symposium, contact Dr. Bishop via email to

About Wilmington University

Wilmington University is a private, nonprofit institution committed to providing flexible, career-oriented, traditional and online associate, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. Ranked as the second fastest growing nonprofit doctoral institution in America by The Almanac of The Chronicle of Higher Education (2004-2014), Wilmington University enables greater student success through affordable tuition, academic excellence and individualized attention. For more information, contact Wilmington University at 302-356-INFO (4636), via email at, or visit

Published: Monday, July 10, 2017 - New Castle, DE