Event series explores horrors, realities of human trafficking

Courtesy Photo / Safely Home
Kimberly Somerville

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Safely Home Kimberly Somerville

Hannah Matro

Though human trafficking is not as widely publicized as other crimes in the U.S., a new group at Grand Valley State University is striving to increase awareness.

Safely Home, along with Sigma Pi, presented “Hidden Shackles: What you don’t know about human trafficking” last week. The three-day event exposed the unknown cruelties of the human trafficking tragedy through speakers, musicians and question and answer panels.

Each day the doors opened, music was played, and a video called ‘What is Safely Home’ was shown to the audience in the Pere Marquette Room of Kirkhof. Phil Haribson, from Hope for the Voiceless, a Zeeland, Mich., organization fighting the demand for domestic minor sex trafficking, spoke to the crowd about the horrors of this industry.

“Hearing Phil talk was just so powerful,” said Nick Wahl, a therapeutic recreation major at GVSU. “He had a lot of dynamic things to say that hit home, just because working with Safely Home has made such an impact on me.”

An exhibit demonstrating the experiences of human trafficking victims was set up in the back corner of the room, where a disheveled bed and saddening statistics in red pasted upon the windows helped place attendants in the shoes of victims.

“I’d never heard any of this before,” said GVSU student Tim Botting, who attended the event. “I knew it existed, but it’s not very well known. This event brought human trafficking to a lot of people’s attention.”

Musicians — including Beth Brown, Aaron Mace and Canyon Capital — wrapped up the night.

“Tonight was super informative,” Mace said. “I knew about the problem, but I was unaware of all the details about trafficking.”

On Tuesday, Becky McDonald from Women at Risk, a non-profit that that works with women worldwide, came to speak. Later, Andy Soper from the Manasseh Project, which aims to end child exploitation, came to educate the crowd as well.

On Wednesday, the documentary “Sex and Money,” which highlights the true prevalence of sex trafficking in the U.S., was shown.

Safely Home meets every other Wednesday at 9 p.m. in the student organization center. For more information, visit www.getthemhome.org or follow the club on Twitter @safelyhomegv.

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