Conference to focus on fighting sexual exploitation

The Internet has helped sex trafficking to flourish, but it has also provided a new batch of tools to fight the scourge, according to a Vanguard University professor.

Sandy Morgan, director of the Costa Mesa university's Global Center for women and Justice, invites police and the public to learn about those tools at the annual Ensure Justice Conference this weekend.

"Yes, cyberexploitation happens, and it's something we need to be better at preventing ... in the community," Morgan said. "At the same time, the Internet offers a lot of resources we didn't have before."

For the first time since the conference started in 2006, more than 50 law enforcement officers will learn about tactics criminals use to lure victims, online investigative techniques and the broader picture of trafficking, in an eight-hour session Friday.

"I have a great respect for how hard law enforcement works on this," Morgan said.

But most of the two-day conference will focus on the general public's role, with speakers including Ernie Allen, president of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, and Laura Lederer, former State Department advisor on human trafficking.

Workshops, discussion panels and working groups will brainstorm and share ways to stop sexual exploitation.

Responses to online threats need to be as reflexive as raising an arm to protect yourself from physical danger, Morgan said.

"We need to have the same kind of automatic responses to the risks on the Internet," she said. "Facebook doesn't have a 'stranger' button."

Most at risk, she said, are kids or adults without a strong family structure.

"The problem is that we also need to engage our community in protecting our youth and owning that these are our youth instead of blaming the victims because they made poor choices," she said.

As of Tuesday, Morgan said, there were about 100 seats left in the all-day Friday and Saturday conference.

Admission is $45 for students or $99 for the general public with the promotional code "global" at

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