Student research investigates human trafficking scourge


As a sociology major, senior Candi Witzigreuter decided to research the topic of human trafficking as her senior honors project. It is a topic that was especially timely in Indianapolis this year, as such trafficking is said to spike in Super Bowl host cities during the big event. At the start of her junior year, Witzigreuter traveled to Schiller International University in Heidelberg, Germany, where she spent a semester abroad. During her time in Germany, she surveyed students on campus to test their levels of sexism. She asked them questions such as “Do you think women’s groups have valid issues?” and “Do you think sexism exists on TV?” She also listed 32 crimes on a sheet and had people rank them from the most minor to the most serious.

Witzigreuter’s hypothesis was that people with more sexist attitudes would find human trafficking less offensive, but she was wrong. After surveying students in Germany, and then surveying students on campus at UIndy, she found out that everyone—with sexist tendencies or not—found human trafficking to be a serious crime.

“This led me to ask the question, ‘If everyone thinks it’s so serious, then why does this crime still exist unchecked in so many countries?’” she says.

Using the information gleaned, Witzigreuter wrote a paper, “Trafficking: A Women’s Issue?” to address the issues of where human trafficking is taking place and what is being done to stop it. “Many people think that it isn’t happening in places such as the United States, but it is,” she explains. “People often deny that it is happening in their city and think that it only happens in poorer countries, but it happens to men, women, and children every day for labor or for sexual purposes.”

Witzigreuter presented her work at two conferences, including the National Collegiate Honors Conference, where she won an award in the social sciences category. She hopes to continue to explore the issue of human rights as she continues her studies in sociology in graduate school.

“I hope that people who saw my project or presentation will become more interested in this important topic,” she says. “Many people asked what they can do to help this cause, and it’s all about spreading the word and educating people about this serious crime.”