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Austrian Students from the Law School at the University of Graz Visit Montclair to Learn About Human Trafficking

Posted in: Global Center for Human Trafficking

students standing for photo with statue of Red Hawk at Montclair State University
Graz students in New Jersey

Dr. Peterka-Benton was invited to teach one class section to the Austrian students on Human Trafficking prior to their arrival in the United States and also planned the activities and field trips during their three-day visit with the support of the Global Center on Human Trafficking.

“These sorts of interactions are very important for fostering a global perspective on justice,” Peterka-Benton said.

The group began their program with a powerful panel discussion with three human trafficking lived experience experts. Gina Cavallo, a well-known local New Jersey survivor advocate and anti-trafficking consultant, Christabelle Robinson, Program Coordinator and lived-experience expert at the Global Center on Human Trafficking and Treia Boozier, a survivor advocate and Montclair student shared their vital knowledge about the human trafficking experience and the importance of survivor leadership in anti-trafficking initiatives.

“Survivor leaders, advocates, and professionals with lived experiences offer a close and insightful perspective on the impacts of human trafficking, shedding light on an issue frequently shrouded in mystery and plagued by misinformation perpetuated by mainstream media,” said Robinson.

group photo after presentation by Newark Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Additionally, the group was able to hear a presentation by retired Chief of Police David Ryan, Co-Founder of the Westchester County NY Anti-Trafficking Task Force and Director of the Westchester County Domestic Violence High Risk Team on the role law enforcement plays in human trafficking investigations. The role of law enforcement in anti-trafficking efforts was further highlighted during a presentation by Kayla Munoz, a victim specialist in the Newark Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was open to the entire campus community receiving robust attendance from many different majors and areas.

As part of the program, Montclair welcomed Theresa Hilton, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, which also oversees the new Human Trafficking Attorney Unit that will focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting these types of human trafficking crimes in New Jersey. Her presentation and conversations centered around her leadership role with the Human Trafficking Unit.

While the program focused primarily on human trafficking, the Austrians were also curious to experience the U.S. Justice System more broadly, which they were able to do during a visit of Northern State Prison in Newark. The highlight of this visit was a mix-and-mingle with inmates, most of them under life sentences, sharing their stories and answering questions. It was very impactful for the Austrian students and their faculty to see a correctional approach that is very different from their own experiences.

group of people standing outside next to sign for NJ Dept. of Corrections

The group also visited the US District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark and was welcomed by the Honorable Patty Shwartz, Court of Appeals Judge for the Third Circuit, and the Honorable Julien X. Neals, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey and their staff. Both judges took extensive time out of their day to speak to the students about the federal court system and human trafficking cases in particular. In addition to the individual sessions with both judges, we were also invited to sit in on a sentencing hearing, which was quite an experience for our Austrian visitors.

students posing for photo in Jury box US District Court of Newark NJ with Hon. Jude Patty Shwartz

The program was extremely well-received by our colleagues from Austria and their students.

“Transnational cooperation in academia and university education is essential for fostering cross-cultural understanding, advancing knowledge, and addressing global challenges, like Human Trafficking. Thanks to this program our students were able to gain incredibly valuable experience and a unique insight into the U.S. Justice System,” said Dr. Sebastian Goelly and Dr. Nina Kaiser (University of Graz).

Efforts will continue to develop this exchange into an annual program to strengthen the partnership and exchange between our two institutions. For more information about the program, please reach out to peterkabentd@montclair.edu.