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JSC Student Sees Hard Work Pay Off in Legislation

JSC Student Sees Anti-Trafficking Efforts Signed into Law

April 27, 2010

Courtney Gabaree of Jeffersonville, a senior at Johnson State College who played a key role in founding the Coalition of Vermonters Against Slavery Today (COVAST) and the passage of state legislation aimed at combating human trafficking, joined Gov. Jim Douglas on April 27, 2010, as he signed the legislation into law.

Gabaree testified before the Vermont legislature in February to urge lawmakers to pass the bill, noting that Vermont is one of only five states in the U.S. and the only state in the Northeast without a law banning human trafficking – the modern-day slave trade – and the economic exploitation of individuals through violence and coercion.

During her time at JSC, Gabaree, 22, has founded an organization and coordinated numerous events aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking, children’s rights, and domestic and sexual abuse. A longtime volunteer at the Clarina Howard Nichols Center in Morrisville, she also received the prestigious 2009 Madeleine M. Kunin award, a statewide honor bestowed on a student who demonstrates “outstanding public service and leadership.” Additionally, Gabaree was awarded the 2010 Governor’s award for Outstanding Community Service.

S. 272, “an act related to human trafficking” will establish a task force and an advisory board for law enforcement to recommend ways to protect the rights of victims and prosecute those involved in human trafficking and the exploitation of people for profit.

Liz Tedrick-Moutz, COVAST founder and future member of the Vermont human trafficking task force, told that “we still have a long way to go, but S. 272 is the first step in creating an effective, collaborative effort to combat a very inter-related and under-reported crime. Understanding how human trafficking uniquely exists within our state will help develop more effective ways to respond and teach others.”

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which men, women and children are bought, sold and used against their will. Recent examples in Vermont include the forced servitude of illegal Chinese immigrants in Burlington-area restaurants and massage parlors. One of the most notorious examples in Vermont was a sex-trafficking ring between Burlington and the Bronx uncovered 10 years ago that resulted in the death of Christal Jones, 16, of Burlington. Nine girls from Burlington, some as young as 13, were lured from their foster homes and shelters with the promise of a better life in the big city; instead they were forced to perform sexual acts to pay back the traffickers.