- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 13 April 2017
- Written by NICOLE INGRAFFIA | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The University hosted Newark’s International Women’s History Month Film Festival on April 3 in Pollak Theatre.
The film Sold’s goal was to advocate prevalent issues that women face globally. It is based on true events that highlights the story of a young girl who was sold to be a sex slave. The movie was followed by a panel of local professionals to answer questions from the audience and provide their insight.
The audience was attentive to Sold when Lakshmi, 13, was sold by her stepfather to work for a brothel in India. Lakshmi left her home under the impression that she would be cleaning houses, but soon learns the truth.
Audience members twisted uncomfortably in their seats when the woman in charge of the brothel tied Lakshmi’s feet together on a bed and disappeared behind closed doors. Shortly after, a drunk man stumbled into the room with cruel seduction in his eyes. He slammed crumbled up paper currency on the nightstand. His grimy hands caressed her naïve face; Lakshmi flinched, as did the audience. Can you predict what happens next?
This scene, like many others in Sold, are as unimaginable as they are real. Human trafficking has been named the modern day slavery. Despite common beliefs, moving victims across borders is not a requirement.
The United States alone has about 700,000 people trafficked each year. It must be disclosed that other countries resort to human trafficking because of poverty. In America, it’s because of vulnerability.
Regardless of the reason, it happens everywhere. It is happening now. It is in our community.
The idea that human trafficking occurs in the state that people call their home was a shock to some in attendance, and especially Taylor Von Bartheld.
Von Bartheld, a sophomore communication student, believes that spreading awareness about the reality human trafficking is a key element to saving potential victims. “It is so important for young people and other community members to learn about this crime,” Von Bartheld said. “Human trafficking was not talked about on larger scales for a long time, so events like these are the first steps to stopping it.”
The movie concluded, but the presence of the issue remained strong as the professional panel took their seats on the stage.
Panelists included Wincy Terry and Susan Panzica, of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking; Dr. Guia Calicdan-Apostle, Vice President of Helping to Educate and Advocate Against Trafficking (HEAAT) Foundation; Keyla Munoz, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Detective Shawn Murphy, Special Victims Bureau of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
Francesca Marina, a junior political science student, raised her hand and asked the group for warning signs to spot a potential victim and insight on how to safely report an incident.
Detective Murphy pulled his microphone towards him and mentioned a handful of signs. “If a person is not speaking for herself, not making eye contact, appears to be malnourished or shows signs of physical abuse, don’t be too quick to assume, but don’t disregard it,” he cautioned. “If your gut is telling you to, call 911 from a safe distance.”
People may be in the presence of a trafficker or victim unknowingly because their conversation may not sound like sexual exploitation immediately. Munoz leaned into her microphone and added another resource to spot warning signs: Learning the terminology.
“A trafficker can be called ‘Daddy,’ ‘Pimp,’ or Business Manager,’” Munoz explained. “I was working with a victim who told me her daddy was coming to get her. Then I realized she didn’t mean her father.”
An article from CNN discussed the ways to spot trafficking victims in airports and elaborated on terminology being an indicator. “Traffickers or pimps feel they own their victims and a barcode tattoo, or a tattoo with ‘Daddy’ could be a red flag that the person is a victim.”
At the end of the day, noticing small details could be the difference between a life lost or a life saved.
While some progress has been made in terms of spreading awareness of human trafficking, the finish line is nowhere in sight.
What advances has Monmouth made as a community? Aside from hosting events with this topic, according to New Jersey’s Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the alliance urged municipalities to issue individual proclamations designating Jan. 11 of each year as “Human Trafficking Awareness Day;” Long Branch has signed this proclamation.
This begs the question, what can individuals do? Be aware of potential victims and remember red flags may suggest a person’s safety may be in jeopardy. More importantly, individuals should share this information with as many people as possible.
Edmund Burke explained it best when he said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
If you or someone you know have been exposed to harms from human traffickers, please contact New Jersey’s Coalition against human trafficking at (201) 903-2111. To learn more about ways to raise awareness or donate, please visit https://www.njhumantrafficking.org.