FILE- Indian workers are seen silhouetted as they load rice sacks onto a truck at a grain market on the eve of World Food Day in Amritsar, India, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008. The U.N. agency Food and Agriculture Organization is reporting on Friday June 19, 2009, that over 1 billion people across the world are hungry, according to FAO, an historic high level of hunger that is the result of the financial downturn combined with persistently high food prices. The agency's Director-General Jacques Diouf has said "The silent hunger crisis, affecting one-sixth of all of humanity, poses a serious risk for world peace and security".(AP Photo/ Altaf Qadri, FILE)
Professors at the University of Nebraska Lincoln estimate there are 2,000 slaves in Nebraska.
Ron Hampton, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor, says he knows of a recent case involving a 12-year-old Central American girl sold to a Mexican slave trader after her family left her in her uncle's care. She landed in central Nebraska unable to speak English or trust anyone after she'd been raped and beaten in spirit along the way.
Hampton has heard countless stories of callous exploitation in his research of human trafficking.
The United Nations and other experts say an estimated 27 million people may be enslaved worldwide. The U.S. State Department estimates that includes as many as 200,000 in the United States.
Hampton believes he and other researchers are able to help raise awareness and fight the fast-growing global criminal industry that's operating even in Nebraska. But says they must first understand it.
UNL is set to host a three-day conference on human trafficking, titled "What We Know and What We Need to Know," beginning Thursday.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers say they want the university to become a hub for research on human trafficking.
Hampton says he hopes others can understand the impact of human trafficking and the need to stop it.