College Student Initiatives on HT within San Diego
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Bi-Annual Meeting: College student Initiatives on Human Trafficking within San Diego
March 21, 2024

This event featured insightful presentations and discussions, prompted by a recent research study revealing that 27% of college students across San Diego campuses exchanged sexual activities for something of value. This exchange involved food, housing, tuition, or money to provide for someone else. In response to this finding, we assembled a coalition of student researchers and local college groups dedicated to combating human trafficking to share their research findings addressing the following topics:

  • SDSU research on sexual exploitation and overdose of college students.
    • Ashley Weitensteiner, graduate student at the Interdisciplinary Research program at UCSD and SDSU.
  • UCSD Tritons–Anti-Trafficking Student-Initiative
    • Sarah Baghdasarian, President of Tritons, undergraduate student.
    • Shivani Suthar, Vice-President of Tritons, undergraduate student.
    • Shannon Tran, UCSD alumna, EMT at Scripps La Jolla Emergency Department, and former leader of Tritons.
  • PLNU student research presentations on:
    • Sexting & behavioral implications for youth by Bella Rindone, undergraduate student.
    • Policy analysis on educational prevention training of youth in California by Abby Pyle, undergraduate student.
    • Comparative analysis of California and Florida’s policies around human trafficking by Hannah Ross, undergraduate student.

Speaker Bios

Hannah Ross is currently enrolled as a student at Point Loma Nazarene University, where she is working towards earning her degree in Criminal Justice. She is deeply committed to combating human trafficking, aspiring to utilize her education and expertise in Criminal Justice to make a significant global impact in protecting and empowering vulnerable individuals.

Synopsis: Hannah’s comparative policy analysis investigated the approaches of California and Florida’s justice systems in preventing revictimization among survivors of human trafficking. Gaps in the literature highlight deficiencies in preventative and restorative policies, specialized training, and accurate documentation of trafficking cases. The findings emphasized the efficacy of task forces in victim identification and the importance of victim-oriented policies to break the cycle of abuse.


Abby Pyle is currently a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Studying social work, she plans to work in anti-trafficking full time after graduation. She has been an intern with Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative, HT-RADAR, and is currently working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Jamie Gates.

Synopsis: Abby’s presentation aimed to evaluate human trafficking prevention efforts; specially centered around the California education system. Due to the implications of the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act of 2017 (HTPETA), this presentation focused on a public health prevention framework and its impact on curriculum effectiveness.



Bella Rindone is a 3rd year Child & Adolescent Development major at Point Loma Nazarene University. She has always had an interest in sociology-based research. She is beyond honored to be sharing some of her findings with the HT-RADAR audience. She believes research is a key component to making change happen for the better within society, especially when it comes to supporting our youth. She would love to connect with those who are open to collaboration in using research to help others.

Synopsis: Bella’s presentation focused on three developmentally appropriate trends that can also serve as risk factors. These often increase the vulnerability of adolescents who may be more susceptible to engaging in sexting. The goal was to present a foundation from which sexting can continue to be researched in order for adolescents to be heard, supported, and protected from further sexual exploitation.


Ashley Weitensteiner is a Ph.D. student in the joint Interdisciplinary Research in Substance Use program between the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University. Her research interests include exploring substance use outcomes among people who have been sexually exploited and substance use related disparities among unhoused sexual and gender diverse individuals. Additionally, Ashley has focused on examining the inequalities faced by marginalized populations in accessing the benefits of harm reduction drug policies.

Synopsis: Ashley’s presentation highlighted the notable increase in overdose cases within the college-age demographic, particularly among those vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Survivors of exploitation face a heightened risk of substance misuse. Surveys across 12 campuses found that survivors were three times more likely to report overdoses compared to non-exploited peers.


Shannon Tran is a UCSD alumni who studied Biology and Global Health and former founder and leader at Tritons. She is now an EMT working at Scripps La Jolla Emergency Department, using her experience in the ED to better understand how healthcare workers can better serve survivors of trafficking.

Synopsis: Shannon was a part of delivering a presentation on TAHT, highlighting the alarming facts that inspired her to establish the organization in 2020-21. The lack of initiatives addressing human trafficking statistics, particularly in San Diego, where the city of El Cajon is labeled as “the human trafficking hotspot,” was particularly striking. She emphasized that while the motivations of each member varied, a shared dedication to women’s rights ignited the organization and sustains its efforts.


Sarah Baghdasarian is a 4th year student at UCSD majoring in biology and minoring in psychology. Current president of the Tritons Against Human Trafficking organization at UCSD.

Synopsis: Sarah presented on the multifaceted aims and goals guiding the Tritons organization. Its primary objective is to enlighten the community about the issue of human trafficking and underscore its relevance. The overarching mission is to bolster endeavors aimed at eradicating all forms of human trafficking through the potent tools of education and advocacy.




Shivani Suthar is a student at UCSD majoring in Data Science, Cognitive Science with a Specialization in Machine Learning. Her minor is on Supply Chain Management. She is part of the Tritons Against Human Trafficking student-initiative.

Synopsis: Shivani joined virtually and shared her personal motivations that spurred her involvement with Tritons, elaborating on her role as Vice President.





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