Women approached on Commons in what some fear is a human trafficking scheme

The situation is reminiscent of one reported in Lexington last month in which human trafficking claims were not substantiated

Snowy weather visits Vanderbilt on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Updated Jan. 30 at 1:15 p.m.

The Hustler has received reports that multiple Vanderbilt women have been stopped on campus in a manner similar to one reported in Lexington, Ky last month that many suspected involved human trafficking. These reports claim that a woman has engaged passing girls in conversation involving “God the mother” and then attempted to exchange contact information or lead them away from campus. The woman, who is white, is reportedly accompanied by an older black man.

Several students have told the Hustler that the suspected pair are starting conversations outside of Cohen Hall on the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons.

“Vanderbilt Police are actively investigating reports of suspicious individuals on campus near the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and around Rand Dining Hall yesterday,” said VUPD Assistant Chief Rick Burr. “At this time there is no indication that the individuals are associated with any criminal activity. We want to remind students that they should call contact police immediately if they are concerned for their safety.”

One student was walking to Commons wearing headphones when a blonde woman approached her. Thinking she wanted directions, the student took her headphones out, and the woman told her she was a theology student and that she and her partner are going around and preaching about the Holy Mother, and asked the student if she believed in God. When the student responded that she did, the woman said that she and her partner were preaching about the fact that the Holy Father is actually the Holy Mother. The student told the woman that she was late for class, and the woman told her that if someone else tells her about the Holy Mother to make sure to have a conversation with them.  

“To be honest, I didn’t think much of it at the moment, I just thought it was weird. But both her and her partner were dressed in fancy clothes so it gave the illusion that they were legit,” the student said. “I did think she was kind of aggressive about her ‘preaching,’ and that honestly freaked me out a little in the moment. Looking back, it’s scary to think that these people could be human traffickers kidnapping college students. Your parents are not here to protect you or tell you what’s dangerous, so you have to trust your instincts when dealing with situations that could potentially put you at risk.”

When contacted, Vanderbilt University Police had no specifics to add about the situation.

“Common sense would tell you what to do,” a representative said. “[Students] should call us if they see anything like that.”

Reports of women being approached in a similar manner Lexington last month led to a police investigation, which resulted in the Lexington Police saying that the claims that the church members could not be linked to human trafficking.

“We have investigated this complaint and have found nothing to substantiate that this group is or has been involved in any criminal activity,” Lexington Police Public Information Officer Jervis Middleton told WKYT News.

Several students also reported that they were approached in a similar manner on main campus last semester. One student said that she was approached twice: once at night, near Neely Auditorium, and once during the day near Rand Hall. In the latter incident, the student said two women encouraged her to attend a bible study, also making claims about “God the mother.”

January is UNICEF’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This week, Vanderbilt’s UNICEF is hosting End Human Trafficking Week to promote awareness of the issue, beginning with the display of facts on signs scattered around Library Lawn today.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline is (888) 373-7888.

Editor’s Note: The Hustler is reaching out to campus resources and students who have been approached to get more information for this story.

17 COMMENTS

  1. There were students, including my daughter, at UC Irvine that were approach by a group of women asking if they want to be baptized and the salvation on the same day. They also said that they will provide transportation for them. This should be passed on to warn parents that this is happening.

  2. This claim has already been proven false by various police departments. Please see link below. The World Mission Society Church of God has contributed to society in various ways from blood drives to community clean ups. It seems foolish to judge a church, or a group of people based on false information.

    The Church of God has received many awards recognizing their good deeds all over the world.

    http://thedmonline.com/local-religious-group-faces-false-accusations-due-viral-media-posts/

    http://award.watv.org/world/index.asp

  3. From my experience as a college student. One or two woman approached me and spoke to me about the Bible. The topic was about God the Mother, however what they showed me was insightful. They studied with me and showed me stuff I didn’t know before. Now for simply sharing about the Bible they are being accused of something else. I think it’s important to know the people and their organization before judging it. They are the church of God , a legitimate church accused of false accusations. I found a link !

    http://thedmonline.com/local-religious-group-faces-false-accusations-due-viral-media-posts

  4. From my experience as a college student. One or two woman approached me and spoke to me about the Bible. The topic was about God the Mother, however what they showed me was insightful. They studied with me and showed me stuff I didn’t know before. Now for simply sharing about the Bible they are being accused of something else. I think it’s important to know the people and their organization before judging it. They are the church of God , a legitimate church accused of false accusations. I found a link !

  5. For vanderbilt:

    The article says, “We have investigated this complaint and have found nothing to substantiate that this group is or has been involved in any criminal activity,” Lexington Police Public Information Officer Jervis Middleton told WKYT News”

    This is just a religious group sharing their beliefs . These accusations are false. When you actually research the church you can see they do a lot for society. And they happen to believe in a God the Father and a God the Mother . Here is a website about them .

    http://english.watv.org

  6. These people are active on college campuses in Massachusetts, too. At my school in Worcester, Massachusetts, several female students have been approached by people preaching about “God the Mother”; if the student attempts to disengage, they become aggressive towards her. On more than a few occasions, it took the threat of calling campus police to scare them off. It was creepy enough when we thought they were just cultists, but god, if they’re sex traffickers that’s downright terrifying.

  7. This happened to me at my local mall and they did not have any social medias or even a website to make them seem legit. I asked how to contact them to find out about meetings and they only had a phone number I could use to if I wanted to meet up at someone’s house for a bible study. I don’t know if all or any are illegitimate but people could very easily use a religion as a cover.

    There could very well be a legit version of this religion and church but what I experienced did not seem real.

  8. I don’t know about human trafficking, but a pair matching this description stopped me at TCNJ pretending they need directions to the campus bookstore. They then proceeding to ask me questions like this and try to get me to go to an off-campus meeting. FYI: Lying and deceit are the tools of the devil!

  9. If it’s false then why is it happening in other schools? We have had more than several reports of this same thing happening on OSU campus in Ohio.

  10. I was approached by these bible study group as well.
    But they just simply shared verse from bible.
    If it is real, they should have taken me already.
    They received many rewards from nations such as here US and England as well.
    I do not think and believe this rumor is true

  11. The same thing is happening here in Miami,FL AT MIAMI DADE COMMUNITY COLLEGE. I’ve had three friends already approached talking about a bible study. They were insisting them to join so much that they were almost late to class. Each occurred in a different location on Campus. I find it odd that is happening a lot in campuses and they all speak about the same kind of study.

  12. I’m on the Texas Tech campus in Lubbock and I was approached by two women who talked about God the Mother. I didn’t know this at the time but at Tech, religious organizations and the like can only try to talk and recruit students to their organization in what we call the Free Speech Area. These women, who looked about my age or older, came to me outside this area after I had left class early, so there was hardly anyone around. They did try to exchange contact information with me as well. Now with the reports coming out about trafficking, I find this very suspicious.

    However, like me, they could have not known about that rule, and secondly, they did seem like legit believers in what they were telling me. They had highlighted scriptures and rehearsed lines explaining everything. Lastly, that church is real; they have a website and everything.

    There is probably nothing to worry about but please stay safe out there ladies and always follow your gut!

  13. I received a message from a friend on Facebook about this. It was a personal video done by a friend of my friend. The girl said in the video that she was approached by 2 people in the parking lot of Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, NC. She said they were very pushy and aggressive wanting to get her contact info and when she told them she was in a hurry doing errands and asked them for their contact info, a phone number and or business card, they said they didn’t have either. The girl doing the cell phone video said she had her small daughter with her and felt very uncomfortable by their behavior.

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