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Sounds unheard: Human trafficking awareness

Starting Nov. 12 and running through Nov. 14, students enrolled in the Freedom to Serve Class are bringing to life “Sounds Unheard: A Human Trafficking Awareness Event.” This is the first human trafficking awareness event of its kind on the Florida Gulf Coast University campus.

Beginning as a simple thirty second elevator pitch class assignment, students developed the three day event with minimal help from their professor Jessica Rhea, the director of Service Learning. Students partnered with people, classes and organizations that aim to prevent human trafficking in Southwest Florida, including FGCU professors, FGCU’s Foundations of Civic Engagement Class, the Human Trafficking Partnership (HTAP,) and Beauty from Ashes.

According to the Merriam- Webster dictionary, human trafficking is organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited.When a person has been trapped in human trafficking, the person remains silent about what has happened to them. They remain silent because of threats not to tell and/or what they have done as a result of the trafficking is not socially acceptable. Sarah Duis, a junior majoring in exercise science, had an integral role in “Sounds Unheard.” She made an excellent point about silence in human trafficking, “Break the biggest little secret, tell someone.”

Day one of “Sounds Unheard,” titled the “Biggest Little Secret,” will be located on the library lawn. Signs reading “Quiet, it’s a secret,” will be posted, a silent dance floor activity will be set up, and volunteers and students will walk around the lawn with duct tape over their mouth’s to symbolize the theme of silence. A tent will be set up as the main attraction on the library lawn. In the tent, students will interact with and answer questions of the people of HTAP. Depending on the answers the students provide, HTAP will either allow the student to progress to the next stage in the tent or will be cleared to leave. If a student makes it through all the steps, a piece of tape will be placed over the student’s mouth to represent the student being trapped in human trafficking and the silence they must endure as a result.

Day two, titled, “Emersion; You’ve Been Trapped,” will take place in the Cohen Center ballroom. Spokesperson of the Lee County Human Trafficking Division, Lieutenant Brad Hamilton, will deliver a speech on human trafficking in Lee County.

Day three, titled, “Emerging from Ashes,” will also take place in the Cohen Center ballroom. Julie Shematz, founder of Beauty from Ashes, will speak about her experience with human trafficking.

Mikey Tolvo, a freshman majoring in management with a concentration in sports, said “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to get involved in my first year at FGCU. By being a part of an event like “Sounds Unheard,” I feel like I’m making a difference.”

Students putting on the event hope to raise awareness of human trafficking in the world and in the Southwest Florida community. Out of the entire state of Florida, human trafficking is the most prevalent in SWFL. Manipulation is the primary way people are trapped into trafficking. Raising awareness of human trafficking is one way of preventing it from happening.

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