Join the fight for human rights

Is enough being done to combat this growing global problem?

We as a Newport News community are starting to become more aware of sex trafficking within our area. We hear on the news about people’s cars being marked with socks outside of the Walmart on Jefferson. These socks are considered a marker for sex traffickers to incapacitate unassuming people using some sort of chloroform substance and sell them for a profit. But what precautions have been taken as a university? Have you done anything differently as an individual to keep yourself safe? I always carry around pepper spray to make myself feel safer when going out alone. This is a dangerous and real thing not just in our community but in our world today that remains overlooked.

This past Friday, Feb. 14 was Shine a Light on Slavery Day. The purpose of this day is to inform people in the world about one of the most significant human rights issues of our generation. Celebrities and people of influence such as country singer Carrie Underwood and Pop Rock Band OneRepublic marked their hands with red X’s symbolizing the exposure of the problem of slavery. One of the biggest organizations involved in the fight is the END IT Movement which partners with many others such as International Justice Mission (IJM) and World Vision. We even have an IJM chapter on our campus that participated in the movement. 

As people who live in a now free country, we don’t realize that slavery even still exists in our lifetime. Surprisingly, the END IT Movements website says that there are more people trapped in slavery today than ever before in human history:  over 40 million people. More people now than those involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade that took African people out of their native homes to be sold as slaves in countries all over the world. More than the concept of slavery that we all hear about in our American history classes. Even one person involved in slavery and sex trafficking is one too many. How can we as fellow humans just sit around and let it happen? Well, that is because not a lot of us are aware of the existence of slavery. 

These organizations such as IJM not only exist to tell the world about this problem but also to free people from slavery all over the world. They do this by supporting the local police in rescue operations as well as meeting the needs of victims after they are rescued. This could mean housing, food, medical care and so much more. IJM walks alongside survivors of human slavery until they are fully supported. CEO of International Justice Mission Gary Haugen says “nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.” 

Whether or not it is personal to you, make it personal. We as Americans forget about people who do not have it as good as us. Many of us, especially at our university, have lived relatively free lives. Think about the people in the world who do not have that option because they are owned by another person against their will. Slavery is still here, it is still real. We need to start doing something about it. 

We as a society can hopefully agree that slavery is horrible no matter the context. So why are we not more aware of these issues and how can we help change this? One of the reasons could be that many of us do not connect with this topic personally. I do not know about you, but no one I know has fallen victim to sex trafficking or slavery. This should not matter when innocent people are being enslaved every single day. Think about if it was your mom, your dad, your sibling or one of your best friends, then you would care a lot more. There are so many organizations working under our noses in plain sight to rescue these people from lives of servitude whether it be labor, sex or abuse focused. We can help improve this not only by donating to these organizations, but supporting and advertising their cause even if it means just posting on your social media or getting involved whether it looks like writing a red X on your hand or joining IJM. People in these countries do not support the impoverished people who are targeted because they do not have the skills or means to. We help by supporting, but we all know we might not have the means to. You can instead help by raising your voice to make light of this problem and making it known to the people around you. These organizations will stand and fight for the rights of these people until the number of men, women, and children suffering from enslavement is reduced from 40 million to zero. How will you stand with them to help change that number?

~Kaitlin Sanata, Staff Writer~

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