Fellin Lecture Raises Awareness of Sex Trafficking | Benedictine College

Fellin Lecture Raises Awareness of Sex Trafficking

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nearly 400 students, faculty and Atchison community members filled the O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium on Sept. 28 to hear Kimberly Ritter’s call for action to stop sex trafficking, the subject of this year’s Fellin Lecture. Ritter, senior account manager at Nix Conference & Meeting Management and the leader of the company’s corporate social responsibility trafficking initiative, told the audience that this is not a problem limited to the third world or to “throw-away” children. This is happening in major cities and small towns across the United States.

“I did some research and saw that this was happening in my own back yard,” she said. “It was happening in my city, in my state, in the United States, across the globe! There are no boundaries to this.”

The catalyst that opened her eyes was a request from the Sisters of St. Joseph, one of her clients booking a conference. They had called for action against sex trafficking and they made Ritter realize it was a problem and it was happening in the very venues she was booking as a meeting organizer…hotels.

“We book a LOT of hotel rooms,” she said. “We know what these rooms look like. We can identify these locations and bring it to the attention of the hotel management and law enforcement.”

Nix Conference & Meeting Management and Ritter created the Exchange Initiative to educate, empower and engage individuals and organizations with real resources to help put an end to sex trafficking. Exchange Initiative is currently developing a Smartphone application which will invite travelers to capture hotel room images with their camera phones and upload those images to a database. The app will provide consistent protocol to improve the ability of investigators to match photos being searched online for missing children. 

Ritter is also pushing hotel chains to sign the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution And Trafficking) Code. The Code is an industry-driven corporate responsibility initiative that says the hotels will train their employees to recognize and report trafficking in their properties. Ritter and Nix Conference are trying to use economic muscle to influence the hotels. She said that companies and groups that book meetings, conferences, or even hotel rooms when their employees are travelling can push the agenda by only booking with hotels that have signed the Code.

Ritter said it was important to not only be aware of an issue, but also know how to take action. For instance, she suggested that individuals get out and start by simply talking about the subject to friends and family. She said you could then move on to working for legislative action, giving speeches and educating the community, and helping to raise funds.

For more information on the trafficking issue and how to help, go to:

Kansas City Alliance Against Human Trafficking

The Polaris Project

The A21 Campaign

The Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery present the Fellin Lecture each year with the sponsorship of the Fellin Endowment Fund in order to support the liberal arts orientation of Benedictine College.  Past lectures in the series have included “Soul Food: Kansas Nuns Teach Journalist to Sit Still, Be Quiet, and Find Home” by Judith Valente; “Responsibility of the Artist in View of 9/11” by Sister Diane Couture, SSJ; “Benedict, Francis and Thomas: Contributions to Environmental Ethics from a Catholic, Christian Perspective” by James Schaefer; “Dialogue of Hope: The Future of Catholic Relations with Muslims” by Sandra Keating; and “Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible” by Mary Irene Nowell, OSB.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.