VT Professor Hopes to Help Battle Sex Trafficking with New App

You_Have_A_Voice_logo-smAccording to the Polaris Project, one of the leading organizations in the battle against human trafficking, cases occur in every one of the nation’s fifty states. Even tiny Vermont, not typically thought of as a front-line location for human trafficking, has seen trafficking cases involving the sex trade, farming, and restaurants.

Dustin Duncan, an assistant professor of information security at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, is hoping to play a role in the battle against trafficking. He is working on a new app called “You Have a Voice,” which he thinks can assist sex trafficking investigators (often local law enforcement) with communicating with potential victims and determining the conditions under which they are working.

The app builds on a anti-trafficking tool called “Out of the Shadows” developed by the Vera Institute. It is a 30-question, multi-choice survey designed to screen potential victims of human trafficking and determine what services or protection they might need. Potential victims can provide answers to the questions orally or they can enter them directly into the app.

One of the serious challenges faced by human trafficking investigators is coping with the myriad languages spoken by potential victims. Duncan has designed his app to address that problem by translating the “Out of the Shadows” questions into the most common languages used by human trafficking victims: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin. Duncan eventually plans to add in the next five most common language.

The “You Have a Voice” app promotion is currently in beta testing. Duncan will be presenting the app to the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators at a training conference in Clearwater, FL on May 27-29. The presentation will give Duncan an opportunity to get feedback from people who engage daily in the battle against human trafficking.

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