I’m a senior at UCF studying Marketing, but know I am forever called to work within the field of anti-Human Trafficking. I became aware of human trafficking about 3 years ago while attending a conference in Atlanta called “Passion.” Upon hearing about it, my heart broke in a way I never saw coming, and ever since I have traveled internationally and found local organizations to learn and be proactive as much as I can - including partnering with local sports organizations to use the power of sports to shine light on this issue. “There’s something about Sport.” Which is where Shut Out Trafficking comes in…It was truly an answer to my prayers.
In September I came across an article posted by UCF titled, “UCF is Nation’s Fastest Growing Sugar Baby School.” I remember just sitting there in silence. I live right next to campus, I walk across campus every day. So many thoughts were going through my head, but I had this burning desire to bring light to this issue. This hit home. In the meantime, Connie Ricks with Florida Baptist Convention of Florida challenged groups on 5 different campuses to set up a “Brothel Walk through” scenario on campus to help spread information about an international organization we have personally partnered with. I met Sara Lynn with IJM on campus to try to set it up. In the process, I ran into Professor Bukstein - my prior Sports Business Management professor. I told him about the roadblocks we’d been hitting and he looked at me and said, “Didn’t you know we are already doing a whole week of awareness called “Shut Out Trafficking”? Here is the contact, I want you to try and partner with us.” From there, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Baptist Collegiate missions, UNICEF at UCF, and International Justice Mission all decided to merge and partner with Shut Out Trafficking and UCF Athletics.
Monday was an informational session, where student athletes and coaches assembled to learn more. It was really interactive, and Coaches started asking what they could look for, and if it happened on campus. Emily Pasnak-Lapchick spoke about how UCF has high rates of escorting and then a young lady in the back bravely stood up and expressed how she was a student at UCF, and was trafficked her first 3 years at school. This helped set the groundwork for the whole week.
Tuesday and Friday we tabled at sporting events including Women’s volleyball, Men and Women’s basketball and Men’s football, and in front of the SGA Student Union. Students and adults were able to walk up to our tables and get fair trade chocolates and other resources about human trafficking. Someone even got Blake Bortles to take a picture with a Shut Out Trafficking sign!
Wednesday we hosted a film screening of Not My Life followed by a panel of survivors and Florida Abolitionist Tomas Lares. Each survivor was from Central Florida, and everyone was shocked by their stories and just how prevalent it is right in our own backyard.
Thursday we set up the Human Trafficking Exhibit where students were able to walk through it and see what a Brothel in East Asia typically looks like, but also hear statistics about human trafficking here in Orlando. On any given day between 20-30,000 students walk through the Student Union. We had thousands stop by to learn more about it, and since the exhibit we’ve received emails asking to come speak and teach students more about this issue. We mostly had young men stop by, who were completely stunned that porn is a driver of sex trafficking. We had artwork set up where students could grab a sign and post a picture using #ShutOutHT. It was so cool to hear the conversations that took place and to see all kinds of people “UKnight” under one cause.
Shut Out Trafficking inspired me to stop and really evaluate if this is an issue I believe in enough to dedicate my life to fighting, and be willing to die for it. I never considered the danger involved. So many people say they are against it, but few really do something about it, but I believe fully in taking risks and living in faith, and Shut Out Trafficking helped me take that step of faith and I'm not willing to look back.
This was the final school to host Shut Out Trafficking in the fall, but come spring there's more work to be done at the following universities: University of Denver, Chicago State, UCLA, University of Nebraska, and Alabama. Stay tuned for more updates!
If you're interested in learning more about Shut Out Trafficking, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.