What began as a college student’s class project has now grown to become a traveling exhibit to raise awareness of human trafficking, which is both a global epidemic and a reality in Iowa.
“Journey to Freedom: A Walk through Human Trafficking” was displayed in the Roshek Building in Dubuque, Iowa, in September. The audience, a mixture of women religious, college students and parishioners from the Dubuque area, had the opportunity to view photos, written words, and displays of those trafficked. Viewers found the exhibit to be informative, sobering and very disturbing!
The exhibit was on display until Oct. 5, making it possible for others to become aware of human trafficking. It was sponsored by the Coalition of Women Religious and Associates against Human Trafficking in the Tri-State Area. BVM, Dominican, Franciscan and Presentation sisters and lay associates make up this coalition.
“As educators, we appreciate the use of varied media to speak the truth,” says Dorothy Gaffney, BVM. Kate Keating, BVM (St. Wilma) adds, “I have hope that this display opens many eyes to the reality of human trafficking.” Both sisters are members of the coalition.
In other parts of the country, BVMs are working to promote awareness of human trafficking and ways to prevent it. Educator Marilyn Wilson, BVM was part of team which gave a presentation at Santa Clara University in California recently. Many of the students were unaware that trafficking was a local reality and were energized to become involved. In addition, the upcoming Super Bowl will be held in Santa Clara in February 2016, providing even more opportunities to advocate for this crucial human rights issue.
Human trafficking is not only a violation of human rights of the most vulnerable population; it is also a major health problem resulting in STDs, and an increase in cervical cancer in many women who are victims. HIV continues to grow in adolescents and young adults.
Human trafficking is also a national security issue, as gang members and ISIS use profits from human trafficking to fund their activities.
Prevention of trafficking begins with families caring for each other and building self-esteem and unconditional love for children. Schools can use available age appropriate curriculum which teaches safe touch and helps students know where to report problems. Concerned citizens can support laws which protect vulnerable victims but help bring the buyer, seller and pimps to justice.