The 2018 Human Trafficking Conference was held in the Manhattan Conference Center Wednesday.

The conference, which started Tuesday, provided two days of training and discussion on human trafficking. It started with a speech from U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. The keynote speaker was Peter Qualliotine, director of Men’s Accountability in King County, Washington.

More than 200 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, health care and other professionals registered to attend the conference co-sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Kansas Attorney General’s office, the Riley County Attorney’s office and other criminal justice and law enforcement organizations.

Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson spoke at the conference. He said that human trafficking has been left to operate in the dark for too long.

“As we become more and more aware of it, hopefully we’ll keep using more and more resources — both in terms of professional dedication to [the issue]as well as financial resources — because it takes a lot to recover victims and to restore their lives to them, the lives that they’re entitled to,” Wilkerson said.

Manhattan City Mayor Linda Morse and Commissioner Usha Reddi both attended the conference as well.

K-State English instructor and Crisis Center hotline advocate Courtney Ress also attended the conference. She said the conference gave her a lot to think about regarding how gender affects people’s perceptions in human trafficking cases.

“Social constructions of gender seem very important as we’re approaching [questions of]what are the perceptions of victims, what are the perceptions of buyers, how do we socially engage with these ideas, how do we then treat victims, how do we then prosecute buyers?” Ress said.

Wilkerson commended the professionals in attendance, saying that the only way to adequately fight human trafficking is through inter-field cooperation.

“[It takes] law enforcement, it takes prosecutors sitting down with the Crisis Center, with other victim advocates, with mental health professionals, medical professionals, to work with victims to hold offenders accountable,” he said.

Ress also said she was very happy to hear about Wilkerson’s approach to human trafficking issues.

“He has totally been compassionate,” she said. “It seems that he’s really been working hard to ensure that we are approaching survivors as survivors and not as criminals.”

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