Tigers Take a Stand
Tigers Against Trafficking host third annual 5K to raise funds, awareness
By Cody WorshamPosted Apr 6, 2011
Natalie LaBorde was 9,000 miles away from home when she learned about the horrors of human trafficking. In 2008, she was taking a year’s hiatus between undergrad and law school studies at LSU. After attending several awareness events, LaBorde was shocked to learn how prevalent the issue human trafficking is across the world.
When she returned home, LaBorde and several friends began researching the issue of human trafficking, which is, according to the Tigers Against Trafficking website, “the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people for the purpose of labor and prostitution.”
They were shocked to find the practice was thriving – right here in Baton Rouge.
“Sexual trafficking is extremely prevalent in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area,” said Jonathan Cruise, secretary of Tigers Against Trafficking, the campus organization LaBorde started in 2009 after returning home from Sydney. “These cities have one of the largest percentages of sexually trafficked victims in the nation.”
Theresa Clement, a member of the Louisiana Human Trafficking Taskforce, told Dig for February 16th’s cover story, “Streewalkers Beware,” that Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas saw a huge spike in human trafficking cases during the post-Katrina rebuilding process.
“It started about seven months after Katrina,” said Clement. “In a sense, there had been human trafficking before, but when Katrina happened, so much trafficking occurred that it became a major issue.”
As LaBorde returned to LSU and saw firsthand the increased trafficking in post-Katrina Louisiana, she and a group of like-minded friends knew they must take action.
“We brainstormed about the different ways we could mobilize our campus to join in the efforts to eradicate modern day slavery,” she said. “So we thought, ‘Well, let’s start with a campus event – and why not a 5k?’”
Thus the Tigers Against Trafficking 5K Run/Walk was born, and was first held in March 2009. Over 360 students and members of the Baton Rouge community participated in the inaugural event, which included live music, free food, and a variety of informational booths about human trafficking.
The race helped TAT raise over $10,000 for The A21 Campaign, an anti-trafficking organization that works directly with girls rescued out of sex slavery.
According to Cruse, however, raising awareness for A21 is equally as important as raising the money.
“When people hear about sexual trafficking, their mind is blown,” he said. “When you tell someone that an estimated 27 million are being sexually exploited worldwide, with an average age of only 14, and that these girls are addicted to drugs and forced to service up to 40 to 110 customers a day, their jaws drop.”
“No one deserves the terrors and lifelong trauma these girls are forced to deal with,” he continued. “The only way to combat sexual trafficking in all areas of the world is if we do it as a united front.”
The group hopes to build on the success of past races, which Cruse attributes to the event’s positive atmosphere.
“Our previous 5Ks have been so successful because we are able to have so much else added to the event,” he said. “We have information booths, food, and a live band. Also, people who may just come to run in the event and do not really understand the issue end up learning and becoming interested in what we’re all about.”
The third annual TAT 5K Run/Walk takes place Sunday, April 10th, with $25 registration taking place until the event begins at 1:30 p.m.