Indiana State University Newsroom

Professor researches human trafficking in Thailand, Cambodia

January 9, 2013

Though Catherine Tucker spent two weeks of December in Thailand and Cambodia, she didn't spend it on the beach or seeing famous ruins. The Indiana State University assistant professor and coordinator of the clinical mental health counseling program traveled with Destiny Rescue to learn about human trafficking.

Destiny Rescue is an international non-profit organization that helps children leave the sex trade. It also provide counseling and training for new employment in sewing shops, jewelry making, coffee houses or hair salons. Destiny Rescue provides housing and income so the children are less likely to be forced back into the sex industry.

"It's a natural extension of my clinical and research work with children who have experienced trauma," Tucker said about her work in combating human trafficking.

While in Cambodia, Tucker, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, consulted with staff members regarding some children's mental health issues.

"I was reminded again that human beings are extremely resilient, even in the most dire circumstances," Tucker said. "Children can make immense progress very quickly when given the smallest opportunity. Also, I am reminded how critical it is for every child to have at least one adult who cares deeply about him or her and is genuinely invested in his or her well being. That is often all it takes to raise a child out of despair."

More than 2 million children are forced into the sex trade every year, according to a 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report. The same report stated that the trafficking of children has risen 7 percent since 2003. The largest number of trafficking comes from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe and the majority of women and children end up in Western Europe and North America.

"We do not have the luxury of ignoring what happens ‘over there' to ‘other people.' We live in a global age," Tucker said. "When slave labor is as commonplace as it is in much of the developing world, it has an impact on our economy. Having such a large percentage of the world's children growing up illiterate and unhealthy means a huge loss of human potential."

In May, Tucker plans to return to Thailand and Cambodia with a group of Indiana State students, who will also be researching and learning about human trafficking. Tucker said she hopes the trip helps students develop an enduring curiosity about the world and its people.

"I also hope they come away understanding that changing big problems isn't a job for someone else; it's something each individual must do," she said. "If every person lived his or her life as if they could impact the evils and wrongs of the world instead of waiting for someone else to do it, imagine the impact that would have. Human trafficking is a global problem, but everyone can do something."

Photos: Chun, a staff member in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, and Catherine Tucker. Courtesy Photo by Marah Grant student in the training hair salon holds an ISU bag. Several ISU students, faculty and staff donated salon supplies. Courtesy Photo by Marah Grant at a prevention program in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. Courtesy Photo by Marah Grant

Contact: Catherine Tucker, Indiana State University, director of the clinical mental health counseling program, at 812-237-2889 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or