“You Don’t Own Me: Perspectives on Human Trafficking” will be the topic of discussion at Western Michigan University Cooley Law Schools’ Grand Rapids campus on Wednesday, July 19. The free event is open to the public and will feature a diverse panel of community leaders who will discuss the issue of human trafficking and its impact on west Michigan communities.
Panelists include Carmen L Kucinich, victim specialist, FBI; Andy Soper, owner, Five Arrows Consulting; Christopher Johnson, Jr., CEO and co-founder, Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity; Jodi Dibble, police officer, city of Muskegon Police Department.
Carmen Kucinich is a master’s level licensed professional counselor with the state of Michigan. Kucinich has been a victim specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2005 and has worked with crime victims for over 18 years. Prior to the FBI, she was a caseworker with the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Agency. She then worked for Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center as a forensic interviewer and therapist for sexually abused children and children who witnessed domestic violence.
Kucinich has testified as an expert witness in the areas of the Native American culture, forensic interviewing and children’s counseling. She is active in working on the FBI’s West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force, formed in 2014, and is one of the original members of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force since 2007. Kucinich has also had the opportunity to provide interviews with local media stations, and participated in the premiere episode of the “Mutually Inclusive” television program.
Having worked with severely traumatized youth for 10 years in residential and community forums, Andy Soper founded the Manasseh Project in 2011 and opened the first human trafficking victims’ shelter in Michigan for minors. After years of advocating for victims and working with professionals to improve treatment and legislation, Soper also helped to open HQ – Grand Rapids’ Runaway and Homeless Youth Drop-In Center in 2014. He is now the owner of Five Arrows Consulting.
Christopher Johnson, Jr. and his wife Rhonda were exposed to the injustice, enormity and brutality of human trafficking during a 2011 mission trip with NorthRidge Church to Mumbai, India. They felt called by God to join the anti-human trafficking movement, and together, they co-founded the Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity. The organization is committed to advancing the cause of justice and securing human and civil rights for all who are denied human dignity, especially those victimized by modern day slavery.
Johnson started his legal career in 1981 with a New York law firm. In 1988, he accepted the role as General Motors’ sole attorney handling computer law matters, as well as one of GM’s purchasing lawyers. He rose through the ranks and ultimately became the GM North America vice president and general counsel. After his 2008 retirement from GM, Johnson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he served as a law professor and director/founder of the LL.M. program in Corporate Law and Finance until 2013 when he moved to adjunct status to focus his efforts on human trafficking issues.
Jodi Dibble has worked for the city of Muskegon Police Department as a police officer for 22 years. Dibble became involved in advocating against human trafficking when she learned that her niece (now her adopted daughter) was sex-trafficked at the age of 10. After attending a human trafficking conference hosted by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, she became empowered to raise awareness of the issue.
Dibble is now the vice president of the board and training coordinator for the Hope Project, an outreach program to educate and inform the community about the issue of human trafficking. Dibble is also the chair of the Lakeshore Human Trafficking Task Force. She was the investigating officer on the first prosecuted case of human trafficking in Muskegon County, and also developed the Sex Offender Registry Violation Program at the Muskegon Police Department.