John Rafferty '12
Fighting Global Injustice
As a Lieutenant in the Navy, John Rafferty ’12 witnessed the casual horror of human trafficking first hand. Stationed in Japan and sailing throughout Southeast Asia, it was John’s responsibility as the ship’s Legal Officer, to brief crewmembers on local laws of various ports as well as those of the United States—including provisions outlawing commercial sexual exploitation. “Prostitution was definitely out,” he said. “But, in practice everyone turns a blind eye when they get off the boat. There is a real problem when the prostitutes are not free to quit or are minors who can’t make informed choices.”
Later stationed in Bahrain, John observed another form of human trafficking involving the exploitation of foreign laborers. Thousands of people from India and Bangladesh were lured into the country on the promise of securing work in construction or roadwork. “Their employers meet them at the airport, confiscate their travel documents, and treat them like cattle,” he said. The workers languish in debt bondage, unable to earn enough money to buy their freedom, while being forced to work to pay expenses, all the while, living in abysmal conditions. “I became incensed enough about the problem that I wanted to combat it by becoming an attorney who could be a voice for those who had none.”
Today, John is a 2L at VLS and already working to change what he saw overseas. During his summer with the Polaris Project, John has been assisting the Pentagon's efforts to revise the human trafficking training the American military annually requires. “It’s a creative way to keep myself involved in the anti-trafficking movement as a law student,” John said. The Polaris Project is a Washington D.C. NGO that staffs the National Human Trafficking hotline and is committed to a world without slavery.