Human trafficking isn’t something that happens “somewhere else.” In fact, Florida ranks third nationally in the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline.
To raise awareness of the issue, Jacksonville University has teamed with ArtWorks For Freedom Jax and other groups for a series of events and exhibits across the area, including showing the human trafficking film “Not My Life” Thursday, Feb. 13, at JU. The event will include a brief dance performance titled “These We Don’t See” by members of Jacksonville’s Chelsea James School of Performing Arts.
The exhibit “Borderless Captivity,” with artwork by Washington, D.C., photographer Kay Chernush, is also set for Jan. 23-Feb. 28 in Davis Student Commons. Chernush will be in Davis Student Commons at 1 p.m. Feb. 4 for a “meet the artist” event.
Telisia Espinosa of Tampa, a survivor of human trafficking and now an activist, will speak at 7 p.m. before “Not My Life” in Gooding Auditorium. Espinosa came from a broken home, was sexually abused in childhood and lived with a mother who struggled with crack cocaine abuse. She will discuss how she wound up a stripper and then got swept up in sex trafficking across a dozen states before breaking away from the life.
JU Sociology Prof. Nathan Rousseau and local attorney Crystal Freed, both members of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, are helping organize the awareness campaign, which is sponsored by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Florida Coastal School of Law Foundation. Organizing partner is The Freed Firm.
“People have a false sense of how slavery has evolved,” Rousseau said. “It’s changed, but it’s very much alive. Millions of people are stuck in it. It’s often young kids and women kidnapped and brought to other places and forced to engage in practices against their will and with no pay, sometimes until they are dead. The nature of slavery has changed, but it is still slavery.”
About 2.5 million people are in forced labor at any given time as a result of trafficking, and more than 9 out of 10 suffer physical or sexual violence, according to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Annual global profits made from the forced labor are about $32 billion – with up to $12 billion of that in the U.S. alone.
“I’d like to have our students more aware of the topic of slavery itself, because our rank as a high-risk state means they may know someone who is a victim,” Rousseau said. “This issue brings to light for me more than any other how barbaric humanity still is. It’s a symptom of how little we have progressed despite all our technology and knowledge.”
For more information about Telisia Espinosa and her efforts to combat human trafficking, email Telisia@beavoice.us or call (813) 802-8736.
To follow the awareness campaign, visit http://artworksforfreedom.org and use Facebook/Twitter hashtag #AWFFJAX. For more information on the JU events, contact JU Prof. Nathan Rousseau at email@example.com or (904) 256-7223.