Modern-day slavery isn’t working on cotton plantations against your will. For many young women, slavery is being raped, perhaps by 30 men a day every day of the week and being forced to have sex for money.
A "Breaking the Shackles" hosted a human trafficking simulation event at the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, January 26, 2018. Students sat in this room in Tate before they were guided on a three-room tour, each showcasing a different phase of the trafficking cycle. (Photo/McGee Nall, www.mcgeenall.com)
University Union partnered with Breaking the Shackles, Free the Girls and International Justice Mission for Human Trafficking Awareness Month to create a simulation for students to understand what it would be like to be a modern-day slave, or a victim of sex trafficking.
This year’s simulation, “Slavery Still Exists,” took place on Jan. 26 in the Tate Student Center. The event was introduced to the student community for the first time last year.
The simulation was based on Karla’s story. Karla, a 12-year-old girl from Mexico, ran away from home and started dating a 22-year-old man. He eventually forced her into sex trafficking, a life that she could not escape for four years.
Participants were taken through five rooms on the first floor of the Tate Student Center. The first room was for background information and to discuss a disclaimer that outlined that there may be triggering and disturbing events in the next rooms. Participants had to sign a waiver agreeing to participate. They could exit the simulation at any point.
The second room was set up as a dimly lit coffee shop. Karla, a minor, met her 22-year-old boyfriend at the coffee shop where he greeted her with flowers. She tells him how she’s having trouble at home and she’s concerned about her future. He lovingly offers his home to her. She responds with doubts, which he then responds back in an aggressive tone.
“Your parents don’t give a crap about you, Karla,” he said to her. He slammed his fists on the table and said, “Do you think any of them could love you the way I do?”
Karla and her boyfriend were portrayed by student actors, but the story they told was true. It was a young child’s reality. Over the next four years, she was raped 43,200 times.
The third room was also dimly lit. This time, sex trafficking is happening at a party. A drunk woman who is with her boyfriend at a party is persuaded, but mostly forced, to have sex for money. Her boyfriend suggests that she should hook up with another man at the party because they’re tight on money. She’s concerned but doesn’t feel comfortable saying no. To reassure her, her boyfriend says, “If you love me, you’ll do this.”
The man she’s supposed to have sex with roughly handles her and pushes her onto a bed. She screamed, “Just please don’t hurt me.”
A "Breaking the Shackles" hosted a human trafficking simulation event at the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, January 26, 2018. In the third room, actors LLA Anderson and Michael Sostre portrayed parents who speak with an actor playing a New York Times Reporter, who helps them figure out their daughter has been taken for sex trafficking. (Photo/McGee Nall, www.mcgeenall.com)
The fourth room was dark. Students saw a New York Times reporter interviewing the parents of a 15-year-old runaway girl, Emily.
At this time in her life, she had run away four times already, so the police were not paying much attention to the case. The parents were concerned their daughter had become a victim of human trafficking.
The reporter broke the fourth wall and said to the audience: “1.6 million children run away each year. [Many] of them are forced into sex.”
“Where would you go?” he said. “In Emily’s case, where did she go?”
The final room was for debriefing. Participants were asked to write down one word on a sticky note that comes to mind when thinking about what they had experienced. Some of the words that circulated included “disturbing,” “upsetting” and “reality.”
“It was very disturbing. I did know that sex trafficking was an issue, [but] I didn’t know how it was done,” said Justine Fitz, sophomore supply chain management major from Cumming. “I hadn’t known how big the issue was.”
A "Breaking the Shackles" hosted a human trafficking simulation event at the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, January 26, 2018. After the guided tour, students were asked to write down a word that summarized their experience. (Photo/McGee Nall, www.mcgeenall.com)
Others were also taken aback by this simulation.
“It’s definitely an eye-opening simulation. It can happen in everyday places like a coffee shop,” said Drew Tindol, a junior entertainment and media studies major from Lawrenceville. “You wanted to look away but you couldn’t.”